Gibara charms any visitor. This has been asserted by many, including musician Eliades Ochoa, who was one of the guests who attended the most recent edition of the International Film Festival held here.
“This town has it all. It is an attitude whereby the people are open to whoever visits,” the trovador and member of the world-renowned Buena Vista Social Club noted while speaking with Granma International.
The annual event this year played host to stars such as Puerto Rican Benicio del Toro, famed Spanish actors Victoria Abril and Imanol Arias, as well as Cubans Adela Legrá, Eslinda Núñez, Jorge Perugorría, Vladimir Cruz, René de la Cruz and many others.
Both those visiting for the first time and those who are already established guests, repeatedly praised Gibara for its colonial architecture and harmonious coexistence with the sea. But the greatest praise was always for its inhabitants, heirs of a special magic born 200 years ago, when the first stone of what would become this enchanting coastal town was laid at the site that came to be known as Villa Blanca de los Cangrejos (White Village of the Crabs).
These characteristics were undoubtedly considered when the idea of turning the town into a tourist destination arose, a task which occupies many here, as seen in what has been accomplished until now and the ongoing works to rescue and restore buildings while erecting new ones, mainly aimed at accommodation and recreation.
One of the largest works currently under construction is the Hotel Plaza Colón, in what was a colonial mansion built during the first stage of Gibara’s urban development, which belonged to one of its most powerful families.
The hotel, part of the Encanto chain, will have 14 rooms and a cafeteria offering breakfast, lunch and dinner to its guests and the public. It is due to open its doors to coincide with the upcoming International Tourism Fair, FITCuba 2017.
Architect Alberto Mora Reynaldo noted that the distinctive features of the building are being preserved, such as its traditional tiled roof, wrought iron grilles and woodwork, as well as the large interior patio and corridors, while an extension is being built on the back in the same style.
In addition to its own charms, the hotel is distinguished by its prime location in the town’s third square. “This (plaza) is surrounded by buildings that from their beginnings were based on domestic architecture, although there are ample examples of each of the elements of the buildings that characterize Gibara in its urban and architectural development,” Mora explained.
For example, there is the Casa de la Cultura, representing the splendor of the neoclassical style, which was formerly home to the Sociedad Española; alongside examples of a more eclectic architectural period.
A hundred construction workers are currently working round the clock to finish the hotel on schedule.
RENOVATIONS CONTINUE ACROSS GIBARA
There are currently more than ten construction projects underway in facilities of the Gibara Comprehensive Tourism Complex, among them the Bar-Café Punto Náutico, located near the town’s 60 meter-long floating quay, which was also installed with the aim of attracting visitors to the area. From here, tourists can board a catamaran on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and enjoy trips along the bay.
In this regard Fermín Nodal Tejeda, director of the Complex, explained that the site was almost in ruins, but is now being rescued in order to offer night-time entertainment and other activities given its privileged seafront location.
This young director or any other sector official in the municipality or the province will affirm that the transformations began about five years ago with the intention of offering more cultural and recreational options to tourists, including guests of the all-inclusive hotels in Guardalavaca and Pesquero.
Valued was the fact that Gibara has similar characteristics to other highly popular tourist destinations such as Viñales, Trinidad, Remedios and Baracoa.
In order to move forward, the support of political, provincial and local government authorities was requested, which immediately joined efforts to start a constructive process aimed at curbing the deterioration of heritage properties.
This was swiftly followed by a process to identify facilities with these characteristics, both abandoned and those in use. The idea was to turn them into tourist attractions, including the clear intention of transforming some into heritage hotels in the lead up to the 200th anniversary of Gibara’s founding.
Thus the Hotel Ordoño, which retains its original style and is in high demand, was born. The Hotel Arsenite was then restored, also possessing high architectural values.
Simultaneously, several options were proposed to offer excursions and tempt tourists to go beyond the town’s beaches and explore more of Gibara. In this context the attractive La Loja bar, the 20th Century Cultural Complex and the Leisure Club were established.
The rescue of cultural facilities is vital to municipality authorities, a process in which the restoration of the municipal theater stands out, while the cultural-tourism-heritage link is promoted, to transform Gibara into a well-rounded tourism product.
What has been achieved to date and the plans for the future can not be considered isolated from the International Film Festival which is held here every year. It is an event that over takes Gibara as together with filmmakers and stars, prominent figures of music, dance, the visual arts and other artistic manifestations flock to the town.
The establishment of various private hostels and restaurants, in which good customer service predominates within a warm familial atmosphere respectful of the welcoming nature and typical food of the area, also complement state facilities.
Visitors will continue to fall for Gibara and its natural charms, as efforts continue to further enhance the “Beautiful Pearl of the East.”