The capital, Nueva Gerona, dates from the 19th century and remains the only substantial settlement. Surrounded by small rounded hills, it is a pleasant, laid-back country town with a slow pace. The recent proliferation of private tourist-related businesses means that it is not as isolated as it used to be. Most development has taken place post-1959 (the island’s entire population was just 10,000 in 1959), so there are few historically interesting buildings. The town centre is set out on the grid system where each block is about 100 m, with even-numbered streets running east–west and odd numbered ones north–south. The Río Las Casas runs through the town heading northwards out to sea; this has traditionally been the main route to the Cuban mainland. The boat that served as a ferry from the 1920s until 1974, El Pinero, has been preserved by the river at the end of Calle 28. It ferried Castro off the island when Batista’s amnesty secured his release.
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