XVII Century - Colonial Era

A great part of the XVII Century goes by with the same pattern. In the second half of the century, Juan de la Gama, who was possibly Basque or from the Canary Islands, requested a grant for a site in “Ranch of Julian… bordering with Los Güines, Bayamo River and Nombre de Dios (God’s Name)” that the Havana Town Council processed on May 26, 1673. At that time an old Indian, Pedro Guzman, a native who still had the right to own land, allowed several Spanish farmers to settle on his land, some of them with families and slaves, where they erected their dwellings built of palm boards and fronds.

The place was west of the present town’s location, almost 2 kilometers going on the Havana highway that was called at that time the Southeast Road. Part of the Indian Guzman’s land was within the circle of Los Güines Corral where the neighbors, after several years, erected a hermitage of palm boards and fronds honoring Saint Julian.

Why Saint Julian? We don’t know for sure why this Saint, that has been protecting Güines for more than 300 years, was selected as its patron saint. Maybe the devotion of some neighbor or neighbors of San Julian Corral or Ranch of Julian natives of Cuenca in New Castile. We can only guess.

San Julián
San Julian, Bishop of Cuenca, Patron Saint of Güines

Another group settled “next to the Four Palms Bridge” in what later became the corner of Gras and Armenteros Streets and they also built their dwellings of palm boards and fronds, tilling the land as their primary source of work and income.

The years went by and the neighborhoods kept growing. Year after year a priest would come to visit the places where residents of corrals, farms and sites jubilantly received him, doing his holy chores in all the local hermitages. The location of Ranch of Julian is part of where the farm La Majagüilla, (“majagüilla” is a Cuban tree Carpodiptera cubensis) if still in existence was located, and in 1690 it already had a group of 20 dwellings and Los Güines Corral, towards the south, had many more scattered.

Apparently the neighbors built the hermitages to have a holy piece of land that would serve as a cemetery to bury their dead, avoiding to travel great distances through infernal roads, impossible to use during the rainy season, leading to the nearest parish’s cemetery.

Obispo Diego Evelino de Compostela
S.I. Dr. Diego Evelino de Compostela, Bishop of Cuba. Founded San Julian de los Güines Parish in 1688 or 1690

The population was growing so fast in this area, that the ecclesiastical authorities took note of it and in 1688 by an Edict of the Bishop, His Illustrious and Most Serene Dr. Don Diego Evelino de Compostela, the parish church was created. Other sources state that the parish was founded in 1690. Whatever the correct date is, it is an historical fact that Bishop Compostela sent as its first Parish Priest Don Manuel Agama Navarrete.

When Father Agama surveyed the area, he visited the two hermitages, one in the site of the Indian Guzman named San Julian and the other in Los Güines Corral. He decided for the San Julian hermitage because it was “more decent.” And he established his residence there and founded the parish with the name of San Julian, “one within the fields of San Xptobal of Havana,” and this is the way it is recorded in the oldest baptismal book existing in the church’s archives, with its opening corresponding to the year 1697.

Translated by the Staff of Círculo Güinero de Los Ángeles

Continue to: XVIII Century - Colonial Era (1701-1800)

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