Most folks come here on all-inclusive packages, and many are content to spend their entire time in a chaise longue on the beach or beside the pool. However, a wide range of tours and activities are available for the more active.
A slow-moving, dusty little town about 30km (19 miles) southeast of Guardalavaca, Banes is best known for its unlikely association with the towering figures of 20th-century Cuba. Fulgencio Batista, whose government the rebels deposed in 1959, was born here in 1901. Fidel Castro and his brother, Raúl, were born nearby in Birán. The hotels and tour operators in Guardalavaca arrange guided excursions to Banes, though if you wish to go independently, you could easily do so by rented moped or taxi.
Fidel married the daughter of the conservative mayor of Banes in 1948 at the small Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Caridad, on a plaza at the edge of the park. (They divorced 6 years later.) Of perhaps greater significance in town is the Museo Indocubano, Av. General Marreo 305 (tel. 24/80-2487), specializing exclusively in Cuba's pre-Columbian history. Its collection is among the best in Cuba; among the 20,000 or so items, exhibits include fragments of ceramics, jewelry, tools, and a valuable 13th-century gold "idol of Banesa," just 4cm (1 1/2 in.) high. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9am to 5pm, and Sunday from 8am to noon; admission is CUC$2.
Tucked into the hills of the Banes zone are 96 archaeological sites from the Native American groups that once populated the area. Museo El Chorro de Maíta (Maíta's Stream Museum), Cerro de Yaguajay (tel. 24/43-0201), represents the largest and most important discovery of a Native American cemetery in Cuba. The community dates from 1490 to 1540. The burial ground contains the remarkably well-preserved remains of 108 Taíno men, women, and children (62 are on display), including a single Spaniard, most likely a friar, whose body is marked by a cross. A cacique (tribal chief), lying in a fetal position, is distinguished by a copper medal placed on his shin. Several skulls are deformed, the result of a beautification practice that involved applying two pieces of wood to the head with ropes. Found among the remains were Spanish ceramics and jewelry and objects crafted from gold, copper, coral, and quartz; many are displayed in cases. The museum is open daily from 9am to 5pm. Admission is CUC$2.
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