According to the Cuban website Cubarte, the oldest church in Cuba has just finished a complete restoration.
Parrish Church Nuestra Señora de la Asunción de Baracoa in the Guantanamo province of Cuba pictured above was restored to mark the 497th birthday of the town of Baracoa.
The article is interesting, not because of the supposed restoration project, which is wonderful, but because so far as I can tell Parrish Church Nuestra Señora de la Asunción de Baracoa is NOT the oldest church in Cuba. Not wanting to publish any erroneous information I did some fact checking and it appears the less stately but still interesting Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria de la Popa is the oldest remaining church structure in the nation.
It was on the coast near Baracoa that Columbus landed in 1492 and it is where Diego Velázquez, one of the conquistadors that sailed with Columbus invoked a cabildo (an impromptu city-council of conquistadors) in a power grab aimed at usurping the general authority of Columbus’s son Diego. That savvy political move lead to the founding of the first European town on the island. That doesn’t mean the Spanish Baroque looking church in Baracoa is the oldest though. The only date I have found attached to it is 1833, more than three hundred years after the founding of Baracoa, which leads me to believe that Nuestra Señora de la Asunción was likely built on the site of the oldest church in Cuba.
Whichever church is oldest, Cuba remains something of a preservation supermarket. The United States embargo to helped freeze the built environment of Cuba in the late 1950’s but the blockade has been a double edged sword. The economic consequences of the embargo may have prevented historic buildings from being razed but they also make it difficult for preservationists, foreign and domestic, to properly caring for whats been saved.
Hopefully that will all change. With Cuba increasingly turning to tourism as a source of income and the new president Raul Castro slowly opening Cuba up we could perhaps see Cuba as a future leader in the preservation movement. Couple that with the possibility of Obama presidency loosening travel restrictions to the country and who knows? Maybe I’ll be able to visit Cuba and find out where its oldest church is for myself.
Have you been to Cuba? Do you know what its oldest church is? Do you have anything to add? Please click to ADD A COMMENT and let yourself be heard.