Hotel La Rusa
This legendary little hotel was established by a Russian émigré (and princess) and former dancer, Mima Rubenskaya or “La Rusa de Baracoa”. She had settled in Baracoa after fleeing the Revolution in 1917 at age six. There she is in black-and-white, framed on the wall in the lobby. She converted her three-story home into a hotel – the Miramar – in 1953. Supposedly it hosted several illustrious guests, among them Errol Flynn and the poet Nicolás Guillén; and over the years La Rusa became active in Cuban revolutionary politics and later played host to Che Guevara, and Fidel and Raúl Castro.
Until recently this big yellow house right by the sea didn’t really live up to its storied past. But major restoration works were completed in 2009. So right now La Rusa Hotel is looking quite swish.
It is situated on a bay close to the eastern tip of the island of Cuba where the Caribbean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean. Founded in 1512 by Diego Velazquez, this is Cuba’s oldest European settlement, things are pretty laid back in this town and the abundance of palm trees along this coast give it a South Pacific feel.
The fact that this was an important Spanish outpost is evidenced by the three impressive forts: Fuerte Matachin, now housing the museo municipal; Fuerte de la Punta, now refitted with a restaurant; and El Castillo de Seboruco, which is now a pleasant hotel.
On calle Antonio Maceo, you’ll find people queuing for hot chocolate drinks in the baking tropical sun at the Casa del Chocolate, opposite is a lovely Casa de la Trova, holding rooftop performances and you can’t forget to visit Plaza Independencia (it is the focal point for community life in the city), Yunque de Baracoa and The Stone Zoo, which comprises a multitude of stone animals.