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Western Cuba Travel Guide


Cárdenas is traditionally known for its horse-drawn caletas (carts), for its many bicycles, for its crab fishery, and for being the first town in Cuba to raise the national flag. This event, much revered by Cubans, occurred in 1850 after a mercenary force of Kentuckians and Mississippians led by a Venezuelan named Narciso López briefly captured Cárdenas from the Spanish, hoping to provoke a

national uprising that failed to materialize. However, Cárdenas became famous in 2000 because it was the original home of Elián González, the boy who became enmeshed in a tug-of-war between his Cuban father and his anti-Castro relatives in Miami when his mother died during a furtive boat escape to the U.S. from Cuba.

A gigantic stone crab marks the town line as you approach from Varadero; sculptures of a bicycle and a caleta mark the other end of town. With barely a car in the streets, there's a dramatic simplicity to what lies in between. Cárdenas merits a two- or three-hour visit; the dining and lodging are so superior 10 minutes away in Varadero that trying to do either here isn't advised.

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