Isla de La Juventud or, Island of Youth, as it was named in the 1970s due to its favored location for summer youth camps is a sleepy island unlike mainland Cuba. Nueva Gerona is the capital of the island and could be described as the only place that constitutes anything remotely resembling a town. The city was founded in 1830 by Francisco Dionisio Vives, who was the Spanish governor of Cuba at the time. Oddly enough there is an American graveyard in Nueva Gerona to this day which is popular with Cuban Americans and those studying ancestry.
Nueva Gerona is a busy and relatively prosperous town with the small but colorful streets having more of a provincial Latin American flair than the distinctly Cuban feel of the mainland. Many of the visiting African students who study on the Island of Youth are based in Nueva Gerona giving the town a more cosmopolitan atmosphere than most other towns and cities outside Havana. Also they contribute towards the island’s citrus fruit industry.
Parque Central on Calle 39 is the place where many of Nueva Gerona’s young congregate. At weekends it is also home to some excellent live salsa and, if you are visiting the city, this is a good place to start; it is also home to the local tourist information office and to most of the town’s cafes and restaurants.