Baracoa, a seaport city of N.E. Cuba, in Santiago province. Pop. (1907) 5633. The town lies under high hills on a small circular harbour accessible to small craft. The country round about is extremely rugged. The hill called the "Anvil of Baracoa" (about 3000 ft.) is remarkable for its extremely regular formation. It completely dominates the city's background, and is a well-known sailors' landmark. The town is the trading centre of a large plantation region behind it and is the centre of the banana and cocoanut export trade. There is a fort dating from the middle of the 18th century. Baracoa is the oldest town in Cuba, having been settled by Diego Velazquez in 1512. It held from its foundation the honours of a city. From 1512 to 1514 it was the capital of the island, and from 1518 to 1522 its church was the cathedral of the island's first diocese. Both honours were taken from it to be given to Santiago de Cuba; and for two centuries after this Baracoa remained an obscure village, with little commerce. In the 16th century it was repeatedly plundered by pirates until it came to terms with them, gave them welcome harbourage, and based a less precarious existence upon continuous illicit trade.
Until the middle of the 18th century Baracoa was almost without connexion with Havana and Santiago. In the wars of the end of the century it was a place of deposit for French and Spanish corsairs. At this time, too, about 100 fugitive immigrant families from Santo Domingo greatly augmented its industrial importance. In 1807 an unsuccessful attack was made upon the city by an English force. In 1826 the port was opened to foreign commerce.