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"Holguín was for me … absolute boredom," wrote Reinaldo Arenas in Before Night Falls, an autobiography that became Julian Schnabel's Academy Award–nominated film in 2000. "The town was flat, commercial, square, with absolutely no mystery or personality. … I saw Holguín as a gigantic tomb, its low houses looked like pantheons punished by the sun."
Holguín, Cuba's fourth-largest city, has gotten worse in the four decades since Arenas lived here. The "low houses" of which he speaks have all been added onto illegally using whatever materials their owners could acquire. The result has been an aesthetic collapse, where piles of bricks and cinder blocks lie in the street and structures are bare of paint. Still, if you seek insight into a Cuban city that has been bypassed by tourism, Holguín is an interesting study. And it's also a good gateway to the beach resorts at Guardalavaca 50 km (31 mi) north.
Holguín at a Glance
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