The Point Where Two Worlds Collided: Site of Columbus’ Landing, Cuba

Update from the Southeast Regional Office

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The view from Bariay Key, located on the north coast of Cuba, in Holguin province. From Bariay, one can see the flat-topped mountain commonly called The Saddle of Gibara which is described by the Columbus in his journal when he first landed on the island of Cuba in 1492.
The view from Bariay Key, located on the north coast of Cuba, in Holguin province. From Bariay, one can see the flat-topped mountain commonly called The Saddle of Gibara which is described by the Columbus in his journal when he first landed on the island of Cuba in 1492.

The Conservancy has just added our Newest Tour- The Archaeology of Cuba– Join us for an adventure of a lifetime!

In Fall 2009, our Magazine American Archaeology featured an article about research being conducted in Cuba by some friends working with the University of Alabama. I’d already heard their stories of what a fascinating place Cuba was and reading the magazine article gave me an idea. Why not organize a Conservancy archaeological tour of Cuba. This was well before all the recent relaxing of travel restrictions, but I was assured it was possible.

First, and much to my delight, I was able to visit Cuba with two good friends who had been part of the research project we featured and were working on other projects as well. So, in 2012 I obtained a special visa and off I went with Dr. Jim Knight, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology, University of Alabama and archaeologist John O’Hear, to see what Cuba had to offer for an archaeological tour. It was an unforgettable trip.
Bariay excavation
Covered replica of some of the excavations at the Native village at Bariay Key.
Since today is Columbus day, or Indigenous Peoples’ Day in some places, I’m sharing a few of my pictures of Parque Monumento Nacional Bariay, Cuba, or Bariay Key. On this site is where Columbus is believed to have first arrived in October of 1492. This is held to be the point where the New World and the Old World cultures meet and collided. The park is a beautiful place located at the site of a well researched and documented Taino native village that is contemporaneous with those Columbus first saw when he arrived.  I was fortunate enough to be accompanied by Dr. Elena Guarch Rodriguez, a very well known Cuban archaeologist and one of the principal investigators for the area.
village
The reconstructed village at Bariay Key. Houses and the square ground or plaza where native dressed interpreters perform traditional dances.
So commemorate today however you wish, it is certainly a day to mark history. Personally, on Columbus Day, I like to think of my own personal “discoveries,” — visiting new archaeological or historical sites, learning about those important locales, working to preserve the archaeological and the history, and meeting the descendants of those who were there first and other people who care about those places. 
 
native host
One of the re-enactors in Native style Dress holds a papaya in the garden
Native Columbus and archaeologist
The native, the archaeologist and Columbus! : One of the interpreters conferring with Dr. Elena Guarch Rodriguez and another interpreter dressed as Columbus and also performs duties as the bartender in the café.
Bariay Key villager
One of the interpreters in Native style dress explaining the meaning of the dance they were about to perform for us.

 

bariay bar
Columbus tending bar at the onsite café. I love this picture! Bars at archaeological sites! What a great idea!

~Update from our Southeast Regional Office: Jessica Crawford, SE Regional Director

Our Newest Tour- The Archaeology of Cuba– Join us for an adventure of a lifetime!

Explore our 2009 article ‘COLLABORATING WITH CUBA in American Archaeology

Learn more about Archaeological investigations by Dr. Elena Guarch Rodriguez and International Team at neighboring site of El Chorro de Maita in Cuba. Work there has won prestigious Cuban prize: From indigenous space to colonial setting.

One of the many items of cross-cultural exchange that Columbus surprised on first encounter – Holy Smoke Summer 2014: “When Christopher Columbus landed on the island of Cuba during his first voyage to the New World in 1492, he and his shipmates saw something that baffled them. Many of the native people—probably members of the Taino tribe—smoked like chimneys…”

Explore more about Parque Monumento Nacional Bariay, Cuba, or Bariay Key

Smithsonian explores What Became of the Taíno? 2011

The Library of Congress Exhibits Online: Columbus and the Taíno

 

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