Santiago de Cuba is Cuba's second biggest city, found in the far south-east of the island, and has long been Havana's rival in literature, music and politics. It is also regarded as the 'Cradle of the Revolution', home to the revolutionary movement and site of the failed attack on the Moncada Barracks led by Fidel Castro in July 1953. It was from the balcony of the Santiago City Hall that Castro proclaimed the victory of the Cuban Revolution in 1959.
Unlike other Cuban towns, Santiago has a lively and cosmopolitan mix of Afro-Caribbean flavours, due to the influence of the French planters and Haitians who made the short journey and settled there in the last century. The narrow dusty streets and Spanish Colonial architecture of historical centre are full of the hustle and bustle of daily life, yet with an ambience of shabbiness and faded grandeur.
Music is an important part of Santiago's culutral life, and was the home of Compay Segundo who went on to form part of the Buena Vista Social Club. You can barely turn a corner in Santiago without hearing the rhythms or sensuous tones or one of the city's many bands or collectives.