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The San Diego River runs impassive by the Sierra del Rosario in Vueltabajo. Amid these mountains, Senator Jose Manuel Cortina laid the foundation of his large estate in the early years of the last century. There were thousands of acres of land dedicated to the cultivation of tobacco, coffee production, planting of oak trees, citrus, fruit and breeding of horses, cattle and pigs.

La Guira was the first property acquired by the senator in the municipality of Los Palacios. Gardens acclimated with Carrara marble sculptures and bronze lions were built in the picturesque landscape. He also built an artificial lake with wharves and bridges, ideal for navigation of small boats.

While traveling through this site, inaugurated today as National Park, the traveler is surprised by the medieval front of the property, made with stones and local materials.

“Cortinas´ mother was from Matanzas and his father was from Vizcaya and he wore patched trousers when he got his Law degree. He obtained these lands, untangling disputes of widows and charging commissions. His ambition was much” says Anadeylys Chavez, one of the guides on the site.“He cultivated oratory, traveled around the world learning from other cultures. He filled the park with exotic plants and birds brought from the American forests”, continues the guide.

The main house, inhabited by the senator and his family, was of spruce wood and stone. It had two floors and 15 rooms. There are only ruins of the house, where visitors overlook their lenses taking home amazing photos.

Visitors to this historic site, invested today as National Park, can refresh in a natural pool or just enjoy the beauty of the French park, the Japanese orchard, the little walk of Versailles and the Chinese pagoda, where Cortina used to meditate alone surrounded by Manchu tinsel tapestries, silk cushions and life- size sculpture of a Buddha and a Mongol warrior of Genghis Khan era. The aforementioned buildings were built by masters of Asian and European work.

By: Susana Rodriguez Ortega