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This national capital building recently reopened after an 8-year renovation.

The Capitolio was built in 1929 as the home of the Congress. After the country’s leftist revolution in 1959, the building, which was loosely modeled after the U.S. Capital building, was neglected as a symbol of imperialism.

Restoration work continues in some areas but the building is open for guided tours. Inside and out, the building is an architectural treasure and not to be missed. The most famous feature inside is a 57-foot bronze Statue of the Republic.

 

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The Pinar del Rio province in the far west of our mystery country is the country’s prime tobacco growing region. Tobacco has been a major segment of the country’s economy since it was first discovered by Spanish colonists in the 16th century. Prior to colonization, natives knew the plant well and used it for medicinal and ritual purposes. Today, most tobacco is produced on small private farms and exported in the form of premium cigars.

 

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The Malecón is the famous waterfront boulevard in this capital city of a large island nation. From the Malecón one looks out at the mingling waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. Lovers love the Malecón at sunset. Fishers gather along the Malecón at dusk, not for recreation, but to put food on the table for their families. Tourists and locals alike enjoy a stroll on the long promenade that stretches five miles along the coast line from the harbor in the Old City to the Vedado neighborhood.

 

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In the small, colonial city of Trinidad, the austere (yet pleasing, I think) Iglesia Parroquial de la Santísima, or Church of the Holy Trinity, surveys the main city square, Plaza Mayor. The church’s humble Neoclassical façade belies an exultant Neo-Gothic alter inside. Trinidad was a wealthy center of the sugar trade in the 18th and 19th centuries and its cobbled streets are lined with faded, grand villas and public buildings from that era. A few miles outside the city, over 50 sugar plantations operated in Valle de los Ingenios (Valley of the Sugar Mills), powered by the labor of tens of thousands of slaves. Trinidad and Valle de los Ingenios are both UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

 

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Plaza de la Catedral is one of many public squares in the capital’s old city. The square was a swamp until drained in the 16th century. In a city known for Spanish colonial architecture, the 18th-century Cathedral of the Virgin Mary of the Immaculate Conception is one of few examples of the local Baroque style. 

 

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From the late 18th to the late 19th century, the Valle de los Ingenios (Valley of the Sugar Mills) was a center of sugar production in our mystery country. At the peak of the industry, over fifty cane sugar mills were in operation, with over 30,000 slaves working in the mills and the sugar cane plantations that surrounded them.

 

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