The car, a Ford, was ready to go down the flight of steps. The driver had decided to ride along the street with steps to show his abilities. It was thus that the car, jumping, went down the 52 steps of the Padre Pico staircase. No one remembers what the Ford looked like after that, but more than a century later the steps are still there to tell the story.
The steep slopes that are typical of Santiago de Cuba’s anatomy required such flights of stairs. The peculiar steps were a relief to those who had to daily climb up and down its hills.
Several small staircases separate the high and low parts of the city, like the one in Callejón Santiago (Santiago Alley) and that of the Virgin, but none of them excels in size and originality the Padre Pico staircase, a symbol of the city and Cuba’s most famous street with steps.
Each step could tell a story: hundreds of neighbors of Santiago climb them daily on their way to school or work. They are the only possible way to reach the neighborhood of El Tivolí, one of the main stages of Santiago’s carnival.
They were built in 1899 with sponsorship of mayor Emilio Bacardí, who proposed to name them Padre Pico in honor of Bernardo del Pico, a Catholic priest very dear to the inhabitants of the village because of his charity work.
The staircase is a continuation of the homes. When the sun starts to go down, it is common to see neighbors playing domino on any one of the street’s landings. Others prefer to sit comfortably on the steps to comment on the day’s events.
There are also those who visit Padre Pico with the sole purpose of appreciating the beauty of the Island’s first capital. At the top there is a natural lookout with beautiful views: the old city with its colonial architecture, the dark red of the French tiles tracing the street, and, looking ahead at the horizon line, the waters of the bay that have witnessed Santiago’s blooming.
Nowadays no one ever thinks of driving a car down the steep slope, but every now and then some daring skater slides down the steps making pirouettes. However, one thing is for sure: all those who have seen, climbed or descended it recall the Staircase with fondness. Few visitors resist the temptation to tour it. Apparently, whether lit by the sun or the moon, the steps irradiate a certain fascination that charms all those who approach them.