Camagüey (Spanish pronunciation: [kamaˈɣwej]) is a city and municipality in central Cuba and is the nation's third largest city with more than 321,000 inhabitants. It is the capital of the Camagüey Province. After almost continuous attacks from pirates the original city (founded as Santa María del Puerto del Príncipe around 1515 on the northern coast) was moved inland in 1528.
The new city was built with a confusing lay-out of winding alleys. There are many blind alleys and forked streets that lead to squares of different sizes. One explanation is that this was done by design, to make the city easier to defend from any raiders; by the same version, the reason that there is only one exit from the city was that should pirates ever return and succeed in entering the city, it would be possible for local inhabitants to entrap and kill them. However, locals dispute this reasoning as a myth, asserting that in truth the city developed without planning, and that winding streets developed out of everybody wanting to stay close to their local church (the city has 15 of them).
The symbol of the city of Camagüey is the clay pot or “tinajón”, used to capture rain water to be used later, keeping it fresh. Clay pots are everywhere, some as small as a hand, some large enough for two people to stand up in, either as monuments or for real use. Local legend has it that if you drink water from a girl's personal tinajón, you will fall in love with the girl and never leave her. The main secondary education institutions are the University of Camagüey and the Instituto Pedagógico de Camagüey. In July 2008, the old town was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The old city layout resembles a real maze, with narrow, short streets always turning in a direction or another. After Henry Morgan burned the city in the 17th century, it was designed like a maze so attackers would find it hard to move around inside the city.
Camagüey is the birthplace of Ignacio Agramonte (1841), an important figure of the Ten Years' War against Spain in 1868–1878. Agramonte drafted the first Cuban Constitution in 1869, and later, as a Major General, formed the fearsome Camagüey cavalry corps that had the Spaniards on the run. He died in combat on May 11, 1873; his body was burned in the city because the Spanish feared the rebels would attack the city to recover his body.
The outline of Ignacio Agramonte's horseback statue in the Park that bears his name is a symbol of Camagüey. It was set there in 1911, uncovered by his widow, Amalia Simoni. The city is also the birthplace of the Cuban national poet Nicolás Guillén; also of Carlos J. Finlay, an outstanding physician and scientist, who first identified the Aedes aegyptis mosquito as the vector of the Yellow Fever.
Santa Lucía Beach is 110 kms (68 miles) or just a little over an hour's drive from the city of Camagüey, the capital of the province of the same name. Thousands of foreign visitors come here every year to enjoy the sun, sand, salty air and crystal clear waters of this 21-km (13-mile)-long beach, which is protected by the world's second longest coral reef, a fantastic place for scuba diving and other water sports. This beach and Cayo Sabinal, Cayo Romano, Cayo Cruz and Cayo Guajaba, in the Sabana-Camagüey Archipelago, just offshore, are home to the largest colony of Roseate Flamingos (Phoenicopterus ruber) in Cuba, and to other species of Cuban coastal flora and fauna. Ernest Hemingway used to sail off this coast while hunting or fishing on board his yacht, El Pilar. He also hunted down German U-boats during World War II. His most autobiographical novel, "Islands in the Stream", which was published in 1970, was based on these experiences.