Thursday, January 12, 2012
Gibara: from a villa to a tourist destination
Gibara is the spitting image of a seaside town drawn up by artists. It seems to arise from the bottom of the Atlantic spreading the smell of sea shells around every corner, while the reflection of the white foam emerging from the waves covers and lights up the streets.
Its discoverer, Christopher Columbus, landed his ships in Rio de Mares —as he called Gibara Bay- and showed a land whose inhabitants have never been tired of weaving stories of ancient and recent times.
According to fishermen, this coastal town is destined to charm strangers and remain in the memory of those who still yearn to breathe its ocean air. Hence the idea that recently emerged to turn Gibara, also known as the the White Village of Crabs, into a tourist destination.
"Gibara can become an important tourist destination, because of its attractive environment, coasts, beaches and caves. Despite some more recent modifications, there still remains the colonial architecture which is a great attraction for visitors," said Wilfre Rodriguez Garcia, a specialist at the Gibara Historian’s Office.
Lorenzo Peña Leyva, director of the Tourism in Gibara, explained that works will be carried out gradually, including local development projects with state investment from the Ministry of Tourism and the collaboration with non-state entities, such as guests houses, restaurants and other facilities including food service supply.
The people of Gibara are proude of many of its city’s attractions such as "El Faro de Gibara", which includes the Buenavista Hostal, the El Faro restaurant, with capacity for 100 visitors, and the El Coral bar.
"The Ordoño" rises
A merchant never wanted to leave his beloved forever. So in 1926, he ordered the construction of a windowed balcony in the hotel bearing his name. The legend says that if you look into the eyes of the soul, you can still see the figure of Felipe Ordoño contemplating the tomb of his beloved, which lies very near the sea. Now there is another reality that captivates the traveler passing through.
The remodeling of the tallest building of the Villa Blanca in the intersection of J. Peralta and Donato Marmol streets, in the historic heart of the city remains vigilant to the people of Gibara.
In the two-story building, construction brigades are currently working on the restoration and renovation to turn the Ordoño into a four star hotel.
"The facility, belonging to the Encanto hotels resort of Cubanacán Group SA, will have 27 rooms, 15 rooms with full beds and 12 double rooms, lobby bar-cafeteria, restaurant and other services highly personal, always in terms of customers," said architect Yosvier Rodriguez Lucas.
The works are slated for completion in March, when delegates and guests to the International No Budget Film festival arrive to Gibara.
"Ordoño constructed this building with different purposes and according to the characteristics of the time. The first floor served as warehouses with high ceilings framed structure and the second was the residence of the family and guests with a sort of balcony and sitting area. Given this distribution and the need to build 27 rooms and adapt them to the particularities of a hotel, it was necessary to remodel the interior, building an intermediate level. Now the building has three levels," said Rodríguez, who also is an investor of the work.
Another larger work carried out here was the building of a plant to treat liquid waste, because Gibara does not have a sewage system. "This problem represented a serious obstacle to the opening of the facility, as we faced the dilemma of damaging the environment, so we built in the basement a treatment plant, which will allow end products to be used as fertilizers."
Jorge Luis Diaz, delegate of the Ministry of Tourism in the province, said that the rebuilding of the Ordoño hotel, valued at approximately $ 2,430,000 Cuban pesos, including 1,666,000 in US dollars, will be completed on time, to become a great attraction that will help boost tourism in the city of Gibara.
Routes for walking
The Cave of the Bakers in Gibara, invite us to walk the paths of dreams and legends. "This archaeological path has delighted thousands of local and foreign visitors. The trail has two routes, one above ground and one below ground, on which we explain details of the geographic area," said José Corella Varona, an enthusiast for nature and eco-tourism.
This is not just any cave. In winter, it becomes the headquarters for the International Film Festival in a Cave that takes place in Chile. "It is wonderful to see a film in this cave," says Joselin.
The president of the Municipal Assembly of People's Power in Gibara, José Ernesto Mayo Zaldivar, said that they have implemented an action plan that includes the elimination of offices located in the main streets of the city and to create facilities that provide services to the population. We have been bring back and opening new shops, an art gallery and other places of great attraction to the visitor, and self-employed businesses that are related to tourism."
The villa will receive tourists from around the world as in the 1930s to 1950s, when the region was a favorite of Asian people. To this end, managers with experience in tourism marketing have developed several ideas for this new destination. In this regard, Lorenzo Peña highlighted three aspects designed to achieve this purpose: to bring tourists staying in hotels in Guardalavaca, Pesquero and Esmeralda, through excursions. The second, to promote attractive offers for the incorporation of the domestic market. The third is based on the realization of direct contracts with tour operators, that would bring tourists via all inclusive packages.”
The key lies in "the developing hotels here, with not great investments by restoring existing buildings with heritage value, to construct coveted accommodation facilities," said Lorenzo.
According to the director of the Tourism in Gibara, a new ocean route is providing service to Gibara from Guardalavaca with a catamaran that will bring vacationers on Tuesday and Thursday. The executive also announced that they will shortly launch an option for those who want to spend a day in Gibara. "
Gibara, a city that once was walled to prevent the attacks of pirates and smugglers, is now opening to the world. Those who come to this magical land will never forget the exciting image of its ships in anchorage and the abundance of healthy air and gentle people ...".
By Dianet Doimeadios and Lourdes Pichs
Photo: Juan Pablo Carreras