Museo Conjunto Histórico de Birán

Top choice Museum

in Holguín Province

Fidel Castro Ruz was born on August 13, 1926, at the Finca Las Manacas near the village of Birán, south of Cueto. The sprawling ranch, bought by Fidel's father Ángel in 1915, includes its own workers' village (a cluster of small thatched huts for the mainly Haitian laborers), a cockfighting ring, butcher's shop, post office, store and telegraph. The several large yellow wooden houses surrounded by lush cedars housed the Castro family. Tours are thorough and very worthwhile.

The farm opened as Museo Conjunto Histórico de Birán in 2002, its unassuming name intending to downplay any Castro 'personality cult.' This gaggle of attractive wooden buildings on expansive grounds constitutes a pueblito (small town) and makes a fascinating excursion. It appears as a backwater today, but once sat on the camino real, Cuba's main east–west road in colonial times.

Around the various houses, you can see more than a hundred photos, assorted clothes, Fidel's childhood bed and his father's 1918 Ford motorcar. Perhaps most interesting is the schoolhouse where Fidel first studied before moving on to Santiago as an outstanding pupil. Fidel sat in the middle of the front row. There are pictures of young Fidel and Raúl and Fidel's birth certificate, made out in the name of Fidel Casano Castro Ruz.

A cemetery contains the grave of Fidel and Raúl's father, Ángel, and siblings. The site illustrates, if nothing else, the extent of the inheritance that this hot-headed ex-lawyer gave up when he absconded to the Sierra Maestra for two years, surviving on a diet of crushed crabs and raw horse meat. Finca Las Manacas was the first property to be appropriated by the government after the revolution.

Those who come on their own should bring a detailed map. Otherwise, tour agencies offer it as a day trip from Holguín.