Trinidad & Cienfuegos, Cuba April 2017

Today we leave Havana for our long drive east to Trinidad located in central Cuba.  En route we stopped in Santa Clara founded in 1689 and was the last battle ground of the Cuban Revolution which toppled the Batista government in 1958.  One of these guerrilla columns that attacked and captured Santa Clara was led by Che Guevara.  Even if you don’t know exactly who he is, there is no doubt you must have seen an image of Che Guevara printed on a T-shirt or a graffiti of him tagged on a wall.  Che Guevara met the Castro brothers and joined their 26th of July Movement.  Soon he rose to second-in-command and was pivotal in his role that led to the ousting of former President Batista.

DSCF3381Revolution Square in Santa Clara

DSCF3383Che Guevara mausoleum at Revolution Square houses his remains as well as 16 of his fellow combatants killed during the Bolivia campaign.

Also in Santa Clara is the Tren Blindado or Amoured Train which was created in memory of the events of the Battle of Santa Clara in 1958 during the Cuban Revolution.  The site consists of a sculpture park, an obelisk dedicated to Che Guevara, and a monument to the bulldozer used by Guevara to derail the train.  The derailment and capture of the armoured train marked the victory for Fidel Castro in the Cuban Revolution.  The armoured train was sent by Batista carrying 373 soldiers, ammunitions, and provisions in an attempt to defeat the revolutionaries.  Che Guevara derailed the train by bulldozing 30 meters of the track and proceeded to capture the weapons and ammunitions on board.

Another two hours later we arrived in Trinidad which was built on the back of the 19th century sugar and slave trade.  Trinidad is dominated by a heavy Afro-Cuban heritage with more than 11,000 slaves brought over from the west coast of Africa during the height of the sugar trade.  These slaves brought with them their culture and religion that formed Santeria which is a syncretic religion where Roman Catholicism and Yoruba beliefs with the orishas (saints) merged.  Trinidad was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988 and is a perfectly preserved Spanish colonial town where the cobblestone streets seem to be frozen in time.  We stayed at the Iberostar Grand Hotel Trinidad which is centrally located and one of the few hotels here.

DSCF3446Iberostar Grand Hotel Trinidad



DSCF3417Plaza Mayor is the main square in Trinidad and although only a few blocks in size, it is the perfect mirror into its storied past with cobblestone streets and colonial mansions in pastel colors.

DSCF3439La Parroquial Mayor Church




IMG_20170420_185020_285Currency from numerous countries hanging from the ceiling of this tiny watering hole.

DSCF3561Casa de la Musica is located next to the cathedral in Plaza Mayor.  Every night, there is a live salsa band and people sit on the steps next to the cathedral to enjoy the free music.

DSCF3562Other than enjoying the free music on the steps, it is also an internet hotspot here so there are also many people here checking their phones all hours of the day.

A popular day trip from Trinidad is the city of Cienfuegos, often called La Perla del Sur (Pearl of the South), an hour west of Trinidad.  Along the way, we passed by many tobacco and sugar plantations as well as lush mountains in the distance.  Cienfuegos was home to many French immigrants and French colonial architecture can be seen everywhere.  If there was a Paris in the Caribbean, it would be here in Cienfuegos.  In 2005, the Urban Historic Center of Cienfuegos became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  There is no other place in the Caribbean that has as many Neoclassical structures in the same small area.

DSCF3471Palacio del Gobierno or City Hall

DSCF3475A compass inlaid into the cement at Parque Jose Marti marking “kilometre zero”, the central point of Cienfuegos.

DSCF3477Teatro Tomas Terry was built between 1887 and 1889 to honour Venezuelan industrialist Tomas Terry.  The architecture is both French and Italian with beautiful gold-leafed mosaics on the front facade.

DSCF3531Main Lobby of Teatro Tomas Terry

DSCF3488The beautiful frescoes inside and the original box seats recall the splendour of the days when many famous singers like Enrico Caruso and Sarah Bernhardt performed here.


DSCF3500Cathedral de la Purisma Conception built in 1833-1869



DSCF3517Arco de Triunfo which is the only such monument in Cuba and is dedicated to the Cuban Independence.

DSCF3538Palacio del Valle at the end of Punta Gorda peninsula is built with a combination of Moorish, Gothic, Romanesque, and Baroque styles.  It is a bit of a mess and this ornately decorated structure that reminded me of a Moroccan kasbah is now an upscale restaurant.




DSCF3552Looking out to the Caribbean from the roof terrace of Palacio del Valle

It is easy to get used to the laid back vibe and old world charm of Trinidad and Cienfuegos.  You become entranced by the peeling paint of the pastel colored buildings without the hustle and bustle of Havana.  Central Cuba especially Trinidad evokes nostalgia and is a nice break from busy Havana.
From Cuba, we continue on to the Mexican Riveria and normal internet connections :)  For our time in Cuba, we did have internet in the hotels by using a wifi card which we were given in Havana and had to purchase in Trinidad at the front desk.  There is basically no internet other than inside the hotel or at certain hotspots usually public parks or rest areas where you can use the same wifi prepaid card.  At first, we found it strange to see crowds gathering at the parks in the evenings.  Then we realised that locals gather here to check their email and surf the web into the wee hours of the night.  At least once you get online, there is not much censorship in terms of accessing your gmail, Facebook, or Instagram accounts, etc.

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