Baracoa is located on the spot where Christopher Columbus landed in Cuba on his first voyage. It is thought that the name stems from the indigenous Arauaca language word meaning "the presence of the sea".
The original inhabitants of the island were Taíno. They were eradicated by European diseases throughout the island. A local hero is Hatuey, who fled from the Spanish in Hispaniola and raised a Taíno army to fight the Spanish in Cuba. According to the story Hatuey was betrayed by a member of his group and sentenced to burn at the stake. It is said that just before he died a Catholic priest tried to convert him so he would attain salvation; Hatuey asked the priest if Heaven was the place where the dead Spanish go. When he received an answer in the affirmative he told the priest that he would rather go to Hell.
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