Note from El Equipo: Cynthia Carris Alonso is the author of A Taste of Cuba: A Journey Through Cuba and Its Savory Cuisine (Apollo Publishers, 2018), and a book of photography, Passage to Cuba (Skyhorse Publishing, 2015), an up-close look at the world’s most colorful culture.
Since 1992, I have traveled from New York City to Havana several times a year, both as a photojournalist and to visit my husband’s family in Cuba. My appreciation for and connection to the optimistic, resilient, and creative Cuban people, their art and culture, has grown with each experience.
A surreal atmosphere prevails as you walk around the old streets with 1850s architecture…
My Cuban friends and family would always recommend I visit the charming and historic city of Trinidad, in the southern Cuban province of Sancti Spíritus; yet, it always seemed so far… In 2016, however, I finally had my first opportunity to visit the city, which was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1988. Upon arrival, it was immediately clear why the city of Trinidad received this world recognition and is now well-preserved for everyone to value and admire.
Although COVID-19 has led to the temporary closings of many restaurants and tourism has come to a halt, we bring you this virtual trip to Trinidad, for your experience until you can visit on your own.
1. The Landscape
Driving the 200 miles (about 317 km) distance southeast from Havana, travelers will go miles with views of sprawling land, colored as if from an impressionist painting, that once serviced a wealthy sugar industry and is now sprinkled with crops and farmhouses.
2. The Architecture
The great wealth from the sugar industry’s boom period is still present in the ornate and elaborate neoclassical architecture of many of Trinidad’s buildings, its palaces and luxurious mansions, which escaped the early twentieth century wave of modernization in Cuba.
Trinidad’s famous bell tower, Convento de San Fransisco, decorates the restored colonial town. Once a convent and now a museum, visitors can climb up the stairs inside the tower for scenic panoramic views of the beautiful and unique city, one with terracotta-tiled roofs, pastel colored painted houses, and pretty Moorish-style courtyards.
As one approaches the main square, Plaza Mayor, closed to cars and open only to pedestrians and horseback riders, one immediately feels the enchantment of Trinidad’s historic buildings and well-maintained beauty.
The town is typically abuzz with energy catering to the constant flow of tourists mixed with local business. A surreal atmosphere prevails as you walk around the old streets with 1850s architecture, while 1950’s American cars pass by, and meet residents trying to survive the challenges of our 21st century times.
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3. Music & Dance
Talented musicians play classic Cuban music in the streets and in the Palacio de la Música off the main square, while fabulous folkloric dance is performed just down the street at Palenque.
If you’d like your own unique dance experience, you can venture up a huge hill by foot to dance with changing colored light beams at Disco Ayala, which was built inside a natural cave!
4. The Beaches
Gorgeous beaches are nearby, such as the relatively deserted Playa Ancón, an easy 7-mile (12 km) bike (or taxi) ride from the center of town.
5. The Food
Fresh seafood can be enjoyed at many of the local paladares. One of my favorites: Davimart Paladar, at Anastacio Cardenas 518. As is true for most of Cuba, the primary culinary influences in Trinidad came from its Spanish and French colonizers, as well as the African slave trade, by way of other islands in the West Indies.
Related Post: Every Day Is Sunday: Coronavirus in Trinidad
I was so mesmerized by Trinidad’s architecture, cobblestone streets, museums, privately owned shops with handmade jewelry, ceramics, clothing and crafts, and the delicious dishes of the paladares (privately owned restaurants) that I have continued to lead groups to this seemingly magical city so different and distant from the hubbub of Havana and the rest of the country.
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