Matanzas, city (1994 est. pop. 115,000), capital of Matanzas prov., W central Cuba. A port with a large, deep harbor, it exports sugar, fruits, and sisal. Industries in the city include sugar refineries and textile mills. Matanzas is located on the turnpike between Havana and Varadero Beach, and is a popular stopover for vacationers, who explore the picturesque Yumurí River valley and the caves of Bellamar, famous for their calcite crystal formations. Founded in 1693, it was once a pirate haven but by the early 19th cent. had become Cuba's second city, mainly because of the growth of the sugar industry. As the industry moved eastward, the city's importance declined. Matanzas remains an important cultural center for the area.
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