Bayamo - Encyclopedia

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BAYAMO, an old inland city on the N. slope of the Sierra Maestra in Santiago province, Cuba. Pop. (1907) 4102. It lies on a plain by the Bayamo river, in a fertile country, but isolated from sea and from railway. Its older parts are extraordinarily irregular. The streets are of all widths, and of all degrees of crookedness, and run in all directions. Bayamo was the third of the seven cities founded by Diego Velazquez, and was established in 1513. During much of the 16th century it was one of the most important agricultural and commercial settlements of the island. Its inland situation gave it relative security against the pirates who then infested West Indian seas, and the misfortunes of Santiago were the fortunes of Bayamo. Down the river Cauto, then open to the sea for vessels of 200 tons, and through Manzanillo, Bayamo drove a thriving contraband trade that made it at the opening of the 17th century the leading town of Cuba. A tremendous flood, in 1616, choking the Cauto with trees and III. 18 a wrecked vessels, cut if off from direct access to the sea; but through Manzanillo it continued a great clandestine traffic with Curacao, Jamaica, and other foreign islands all through the 17th and 18th centuries. Bayamo was then surrounded by fine plantations. It was a rich and turbulent city. In the war of 1868-78 it was an insurgent stronghold; near it was fought one of the most desperate conflicts of the war, and it was nearly destroyed by the opposing parties. Bayamo was the birthplace and the home of Carlos Manuel de Cespedes (1819-1874), first president of the "first" Cuban republic, and was also the birthplace and home of Tomas Estrada Palma (1835-1908), first president of the present Cuban republic.

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