Early in the colonial period, a trading post related to the timber industry was established by the Ariguanabo river and later the land was settled by Spanish settlers and noblemen. Gabriel Maria Cardenas Santa Cruz, son of the Count of Monte Hermoso, sought permission to found a town and the request was granted by the King of Spain on September 22nd, 1794. Following the revolution in Haiti, San Antonio had an economical boom after many wealthy Frenchmen came to Cuba and their expertise was used in the creation of successful coffee plantations in the very fertile land, which also explains why San Antonio de los Baños is one of the very best tobacco growing regions in the country.
San Antonio de los Baños has an appealing lay out based on a grid pattern that boasts a system of pedestrian squares and an intimate urban scale. The name of the river means ‘river of the palms’ in aboriginal language. Since the very beginning the town was ‘a tourist destination; because of the river that gives the town part of its name: de los Baños, which means ‘of the Baths’. Besides the water was said to have healing attributes and many people came from Havana to ‘take the waters’.
San Antonio de los Baños was also the first place where amateur filmmakers did their movies in the 1950’s creating a Society of Filmmakers, one of the reasons why the International Film School, was located and has flourished in San Antonio. The project contains the proposal for the rehabilitation of the Historic Center and focuses on turning the main street pedestrian, and on the rehabilitation of the squares and heritage buildings to revitalize the town’s center. It also targets the restoration of the traditional promenades along the river and the increase of green spaces.