Holguin Province

When Christopher Columbus got his first glimpse of the Holguín coastline in 1492, he pronounced it “the most beautiful land human eyes have ever seen.” Cuba’s contradictions are magnified in Holguin, giving the impression that something in the undeniable beauty of the province breeds extremes. Fulgencio Batista, and his ideological opposite, Fidel Castro, were both reared here, as were Reinaldo Arenas and Guillermo Infante, dissident writers who didn’t have a lot in common with either leader. Then there are the dichotomies in the landscape. The environmental degradation around Moa's nickel mines jars rather awkwardly with the pine-scented mountains of the Sierra Cristal, while the inherent Cuban-ness of Gibara contrasts sharply with the tourist swank of resort-complex Guardalavaca. Holguín's beauty was first spied by Christopher Columbus who, by most accounts, docked near Gibara in October 1492 where he was met by a group of curious Taíno natives. The Taínos didn’t survive the ensuing Spanish colonization though fragments of their legacy can be reconstructed in Holguin province, which contains more pre-Columbian archaeological sites than anywhere else in Cuba.