Santiago de Cuba has to be deserved – it’s very far in the South East of the main island, and only highly motivated tourists make it all the way there. For me, it took a 13 hour bus ride… I was expecting to find a remote, quiet provincial town. I was so wrong. Santiago is the most vibrant and edgy Cuban city I’ve visited (far more so than Havana!)

Cathedral N.S. de la Ascunción on Parque Cespedes - Santiago de Cuba

Its main, pedestrian street is lively day and night.

Santiago de Cuba

Some of its shops even look somewhat modern.

Marilyn Cafeteria - Santiago de Cuba

People look cooler …

Street scene - Santiago de Cuba

… more vibrant …

Street scene - Santiago de Cuba

… tougher …

Street scene - Santiago de Cuba

… edgier …

Street scene - Santiago de Cuba
Street scene - Santiago de Cuba

… more daring …

Street scene - Santiago de Cuba

… bolder …

Street scene - Santiago de Cuba

… wilder, even …

Street scene - Santiago de Cuba

… more laid back …

Street scene - Santiago de Cuba

… more connected …

Street scene - Santiago de Cuba

… happier …

Street scene - Santiago de Cuba

… freer …

Street scene - Santiago de Cuba
Street scene - Santiago de Cuba

… even more direct …

… and overall, more chilled.

Street scene - Santiago de Cuba

Even the most unlikely pedestrians on the streets manage to somehow look cool!

Like in the rest of Cuba, the 1950s American cars give an amazing vibe to the city …

Santiago de Cuba

… and in Santiago, they seemed even bigger to me …

… their original engines are sometimes positively monstrous …

… but their age make them rather high maintenance …

… and sometimes, open heart surgery is required.

The (relative) freedom felt here seems to even translate into some liberty of expression, like for this cartoonist, who doesn’t hesitate to make pointed caricatures (the one he showed me of Trump was definitely NSFW…) and satirical drawings. I found the juxtaposition of his personal interpretation of Courbet’s “The Origin of the World” with the Che’s portrait (behind him) quite striking. I wish my Spanish had been better – I would have loved to have a deeper conversation with him.

Culture is visibly an important part of people’s lives in Santiago …

… even in the streets …

… although the most popular game clearly remains dominos.

The local Party office is quite decrepit …

… but the official propaganda, not particularly subtle …

Santiago de Cuba

… is rife across the city.

Incidentally, Santiago is the only place in Cuba where I actually witnessed a traffic jam!

In Santiago also, music is everywhere. In the streets …

… and even on the walls.

Dance seems to be an even more intrinsic part of life than in other parts of Cuba.

Sabor DKY / Sabor D'Calle - Santiago de Cuba

Committed and passionate salsa dancers from around the world come to Santiago to take lessons and improve, sometimes with professional dance companies like the amazing Sabor DKY / Sabor D’Calle, led by Yanek Revilla. Sabor DKY creates fantastic shows, both for the local and international scenes.

Sabor DKY / Sabor D'Calle
Sabor DKY / Sabor D’Calle – Santiago de Cuba
Sabor DKY / Sabor D'Calle - Santiago de Cuba
Sabor DKY / Sabor D'Calle - Santiago de Cuba

Then, tourists and Cubans meet in the famous, sometimes open air dance halls like La Claqueta.

La Claqueta - Santiago de Cuba

In Cuba, dancing is an integral part of life. It starts (very!) young, and can blend into play and sports …

For older kids, football/soccer has a special intensity, especially when it’s played bare feet …

Street scene - Santiago de Cuba

… but baseball is also very popular.

Street scene - Santiago de Cuba

Still, not everything is edgy in Santiago of course. Most beauty salons look positively “vintage”

Like in the rest of the country, most of the trade is carried out in the street …

Street scene - Santiago de Cuba
Street scene - Santiago de Cuba

… or on its edge.

Bread is very artisanal, and comes in one type and shape.
As far as ice cream is concerned, if you don’t like the flavor of the day… feel free to try your luck again another day!

Oh, and Santiago de Cuba also has some interesting architecture, like the Cathedral N.S. de la Ascunción on Parque Cespedes!

Cathedral N.S. de la Ascunción on Parque Cespedes - Santiago de Cuba

This concludes my series of articles on Cuba!

You liked reading this article? Please share it! Thank you! – and comments are always welcome!

And if you liked it, you will probably also enjoy my other articles on Cuba:

Since you read this all the way to the end… one last Cuban American car, for the road…

Santiago de Cuba

And as a parting thought…

Hasta la victoria Siempre

More to come, stay tuned!
Didier.