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If you want to return to Camagüey

Published: 2017.07.26 - 10:12:55   /  /  Laura Barrera Jerez  /  translated by  Luis E. Amador Dominguez  /

If you want to return to CamagüeyIn 1514, the fourth town in Cuba was founded and was named Santa Maria del Puerto del Príncipe. It was not until 1898, when the largest Antillean archipelago gained independence from Spain, that they began to call that land Camagüey.

Located 550 kilometers from Havana, the region gradually became the city of churches: according to specialists, the place has the best set of religious buildings in neighborhoods of a historic center in Cuba. Today it is the most asymmetrical city in the country and was so built with the purpose of reducing the impact of the pirate attacks that were frequent, because the town was located in the north coast before it transferred to its current location.

In 2009, the Historic Center of Camagüey was declared a World Heritage Site and is the most extensive of the country, with cobbled streets, irregular blocks and imposing mansions that are interspersed with squares, small squares and narrow paved roads: an eighteenth-century atmosphere.

For centuries the essence of Camagüey has been linked to popular stories, the novelistic breath of its architecture and the privileges granted to it by nature, with its fossil woods deposits in the Sierra de Najasa, with its keys, beaches and islets, and its natural reservoir of pink flamingo, the largest of its kind in America.

There are breezes of mystery in every corner of those lands and you can feel legends that transfer attention, even, to the depths of the sea. Precisely, such spells led Ernest Hemingway to Cayo Romano to search for Nazi submarines during World War II.

If you want to return to CamagüeyHowever, one of the most iconic elements of Camagüey contains in itself several enigmas. What happens to the person who drinks water from a tinajón (an earthenware jar)?

That clay vessel, which is an undisputed symbol of the province, has its antecedents in the Andalusian vessel or water reserve. Already in 1838, when Antonio Bachiller and Morales visited the territory of Havana, he described his experience: "There are no abundant water reserves, the water is collected in beautiful earthenware jars ... placed in the patios. Due to their size, 4 or 6 of them might contain the amount of water in a water reserve."

The typical jar had European roots, but was built according to the Creole designs. It was thus that its dimensions adapted to the needs of each epoch: many were used to store water or as a night hideaway of the mambises and furtive lovers of the town.

The truth is that the tradition of turning mud into a tinajón, was not only a Camagüeyan custom. The researcher Jacobo de la Pezuela, in his "Geographical, Statistical and Historical Dictionary of the Island of Cuba," states that between 1863 and 1866, "in Sancti Spíritus there were 33 looms and 78 potters, and there were 18 potters in Santiago de Cuba."

Nevertheless, the author, coinciding with many other scholars of the subject, asserts that there was no productive center similar to the principeño, as they also call those who were born in Camagüey.

At the moment, several brands of potters of the children of the land of Ignacio Agramonte such as Pedro Areus, Carrasco, Vicente Morel and José Tomás Rodríguez are kept in pieces located in Miramar, Havana and even in Guane, Pinar del Río.

However, they say that the legend is only true in Camagüey. There are many attractions: stories of pirates, mysteries of urban distribution, the secrets of so many churches, the charms of its environmental heritage ... But none of these elements bewitch as much as the liquid stored in typical earthenware vessels. If you want to go back to Camagüey, drink water from the tinajón.

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