Founding of Santa Clara Cuba 1689


Santa Clara was officially founded on July 15, 1689 by just 175 people. Two large families represented 138 of the fledgling town’s population. These families had already been living in the area and, consequently, were already owners of land next to the new city. The remaining 37 came from 7 different families, a priest and a governor. All of this final group originated from the coastal city of “San Juan de los Remedios” and is made up from predominantly people who had fled Remedios due to the constant danger posed by the frequent visits of pirates.

While most of the above group finally decided to stay, these 37 people traveled a little further south and, on June 1, 1689 they arrived at a hill where they rejoined the other two existing families. The legend has it that a mass was given under a supposed Tamarind fruit tree and the city was created. Still recognized today as the birthplace of the city, the place under the tree is known as “Loma Del Carmen” or Carmen’s Hill. Later generations built a church in a beautiful park which still exists and near the place featuring a monument commemorating the inaugural event which is now surrounded by a fourth generation of the Tamarind tree.

At the start the townsfolk called the settlement Cayo Nuevo, then subsequent names used were; Dos Cayos, Villa Nueva de Santa Clara, Pueblo Nuevo de Antón Díaz, Villa Clara and lastly, the final name which stuck was of course today’s Santa Clara.


Initial construction of the city began not far from Carmen’s Hill. Largely Spanish building standards were employed, guaranteeing a perfect square layout with a central plaza. Today this same square exists, being first called Plaza Mayor but is today known as Parque Vidal. The first buildings built were the Cabildo or City Town Hall and an unpretentious palm tree church. The church was enhanced in 1725 using brick, and stayed at the center of the Parque Vidal until August 22, 1923 when it was demolished in order to expand the plaza and build a new church close by. Back then, and even today, this decision, taken by the mayor remains highly criticized. The building, while not a jewel of architecture, was not entirely disagreeable to the eye. Has it remained; it would have certainly been example of the older colonial structures in the city. Resulting from this expropriation by the City Town Hall, a complaint was raised by religious figures and a total of 77 850.00 pesos were levied in fines to the Church, a considerable sum that would represent millions of dollars today.

Soon after the city’s first structures were built, subsequent buildings were erected such as: a theater, a chamber of commerce, meeting clubs, public libraries and dance halls. The location of the city, almost in the very center of Cuba, makes it a perfect stopover city and a great communication link, east-west and north-south. This excellent location furthered the city’s slow but unstoppable growth. By the 19th century, Santa Clara was bigger and more populated than the rest of the towns in the area, including what was once the larger town of Remedios. As a necessary stop between Havana and the east of the country, the city gained the title of Las Villas, a name which many Cubans still use today when referring to the city.