An easy ride from Havana, Matanzas is Cuba's second-largest province, and the site of its principal beach destination: Varadero. In addition to Varadero, the province is home to the colonial-era cities of Matanzas and Cárdenas, as well as the Ciénaga de Zapata, a vast wetlands area of mangrove and swamp taking up most of the southern half of the province. The southern section of Matanzas province also holds great historical and sentimental value to modern Cubans, as it was here, in the Bahía de Cochinos (Bay of Pigs), that the nascent Cuban revolutionary state defeated an invasion force trained, supplied, and abetted by the United States. Today the area draws divers for the stunning clear waters and colorful coral. Matanzas remains an important agricultural region with huge sugar plantations, as well as citrus groves and cattle ranches.
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