There have been some changes since then, as the city has taken on a much more tourist friendly attitude and is reflected in the increased number of shops and restaurants.
Trinidad de Cuba, the province of , Sancti Spíritus, was founded December 23, 1514, by a rich Basque landowner from central Cuba. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1988.
The main economy is tobacco processing, but tourism is an increasing source of income for the residents of Trinidad. In years past, Trinidad was a cultural center with theaters and music schools, and a haven for silver and goldsmiths. Today, there are, of course, the tourist shops, but also some very good street markets where you can find some authentic Cuban handicrafts, including textiles.
We visited a number of the old villas or palaces, which are now museums and then walked across the plaza to the Santísima Trinidad Cathedral, which is the largest operating church in Cuba. It is very ornate, with many side alters dedicated to various saints and the Virgin Mary.
In some free time I walked from the Iberostar, which is a 40-room, boutique hotel on a wonderful plaza, and had a quick meal at a tiny private restaurant. My meal was a large ham, egg and cheese sandwich and two Cristal beers, a local Cuba brew. My total cost: 7.50 Cuban Pesos, which is about $9 US. But it was my bar amigo who was most interesting. He told me he was a “professor.” I asked of what, and he said “tourists.” Meanwhile, the well dressed bartender (and owner, I imagine) was rolling his eyes. I think the “professor” was making a bar-to-bar study of the visitors who came to Trinidad and his podium was the bar and his lecture was to anybody who would listen. Still, he was extremely friendly, and as I left he wished me a great stay.
Back at the Iberostar, our group had decided to stay in and have a pizza party, featuring some very good pizza (thin crust). I begged a few slices and was impressed, and I am from Chicago, known for pizza.
All of Trinidad is a living museum, and it is frozen in time, because of the shifts of economy during the Industrial Revolution of the 19th Century, so everywhere you go you are walking on old cobble rock streets, passing ancient houses with red tile roofs, and listening to the music, which is everywhere.
Speaking of music, I have noticed now that every meal seems to come with a band. And every band come with a $10 CD. Some people like that and some don’t. I don’t mind it too much, but like home, I sometimes pay them to go away.
The one thing about Trinidad is that they do need the soaps, the lotions and the medical supplies that we bring. There is such a lack of things that we can easily buy at dollar stores or that we get from hotel stays. You just wish you could bring more, because more is always needed.
I stepped outside the Cathedral and an artist was doing pen and ink drawings of the plaza, and he asked me “when it will all end.” He meant the United States imposed travel and trade embargo. I shrugged. “Soon?” I said with doubt. Fifty plus years now, so who knows. “Yes,” said the artist, “that would be good.” We both knew that “soon” in the political world can be decades.
If you see nothing else in Cuba, see Trinidad. It is so beautiful and the people so friendly. You will love it.
Guest blogger Rich Davis is the Ya’lla Tours Midwest regional sales manager.
He is currently escorting a group in Cuba. Internet connection from Cuba is spotty, so I don’t have Rich’s photos yet. I wanted to get his post up to stay as current as possible, so included some images from previous trips. We’ll do a post of Rich’s photos in the near future.