Trinidad is very different now from its heyday during the height of sugar cane production in the surrounding valleys. It is now a UNESCO site and much of its building stock is being restored albeit slowly and there are museums on archaeology, colonial architecture and history.
An architectural historian’s experience of visiting Trinidad.
I wandered the streets seeing how life is lived today and imagining what it might have been like 200 years ago.
It is hard to imagine such times, where now the main industry is tourism, most locals are employed in the servicing of the tourist industry or making and selling trinkets on the streets to the passing crowds.
It is a vibrant town, colourful and busy with musicians playing everywhere, in restaurants and cafes as well as on the street. Salsa is danced every night on the steps of the church, life is lived on the street where people congregate to watch passers-by and to catch the breeze.
The band Grupo Ensueño in a restaurant playing for us whilst we ate delicious pizza.
A man teaches his son to play guitar on the steps of the church just before sunset.
He sits outside watching, she stays inside and pops out to check on him every now and then. He sits there only in the afternoons after the sun has moved around.
A typically colourful street scene in Trinidad, most houses are painted in bright colours, it looks vibrant and bold not at all cute.
Horse-drawn carts are a common sight, hooves clanking on the cobbles and with a cloth canopy to provide a patch of shade.
Wandering the streets I came upon this iguana sitting on the edge of the road, I was cajoled into taking its portrait along with its owner. I was stupidly nervous of the creature, it’s skin looked unpleasantly both papery and greasy.
The shady side of the street painted blue by the flowing water.
Children play everywhere in the streets, happy and safe, motorised traffic is banned from the centre of the old town so the streets become a playground.
This little boy and his friend were trying to fly a kite between the steps outside the church and the large cobbled square. I watched them, full of energy as only small boys can be, running up and down the steps trying to get the makeshift kite to fly, never disheartened by their lack of success. Several passers-by walked straight into the thin pale kite-strings, not seeing them in the bright sunlight and got tangled up.
The little dancer, oblivious to any audience, twirled and posed in a world of her own.
The two girls are forcing the younger boy to play wheel-barrow, the cobbles must have been painful under his hands.
Later they switched to carry him between them, each holding a leg, the poor boy nearly doing the splits.
I stayed in a Casa Particular “Casa Carlos Sotolongo” on Plaza Major – the Cuban version of a bed and breakfast house. In Trinidad, these are often grand houses full of antique furniture, china and glassware imported by the Spanish plantation owners in the 19th Century. They usually only have one or two bedrooms for hire and modern bathrooms have been added.The hosts are very happy to cook for their guests, breakfast is included but they can provide lunch and dinner as well.
A room in the historical museum set up as it would have been in times gone by, the Casa Particular I stayed in was similar though less grand.
Lunch at Maria’s Casa, barbecued pork steaks with an array of side dishes, including pounded plantain, the slices are flattened with a mallet and then fried. We also had yucca – a little like steamed potato but with much more flavour – with fresh home-made pork scratchings – delicious. We had dinner there one night too which was a banquet with lobster, beef in a rich sauce, white fish fried lightly in butter and so many side dishes we thought we would burst. Then the compulsory ice-cream and cigars for those who partake.
Hostal Maria and Enddy, 407 Calle José Martí, Trinidad, Sancti Spiritus, Cuba.
Email enddymar[at]yahoo.es. Look them up on Tripadvisor
From the Historical Museum tower you can look out over the town, the streets curving round the hill, towards the Valle de los Ingenios, the valley of the sugar plantations.
Plaza Mayor from the tower.
A grand house on the corner of Plaza Major, two stories and with a balcony and intact original painted floral ornament! Most houses in Trinidad are single storey, the grander houses are two storeys and very occasionally they have three.
Sunset at the Plaza Mayor
Catching the last rays streaming out from behind a perfect cloud beyond the Plaza Mayor
The best salsa dancer in the Palenque de Los Congos Reales, always laughing.
On the road into Trinidad a car wash guy takes a rest in in the shade after washing down a precious vintage car .
In Sancti Spiritus I saw this old man in his rocking chair keeping cool in the deep shade of the typical Spanish Colonial arcade, I’m not sure what his job was, a door-keeper perhaps. He sits behind an old bell cast with the words Trinidad de Cuba.
The hat maker and the singer from the band in the pizza restaurant where I was sitting, watch as two policemen examine a man’s papers, whilst a nurse walks past. Inevitably there is a Che Guevara T shirt in view too.
There are three men working on the restoration of the tower, all without scaffolding or even ropes.
White Wellington boots seem to be the latest craze in Cuba, I saw at least three men wearing them or looking at some but I’ve never seen them in Europe.
Cuba is full of colour, this painter tries to keep paint free by wrapping his head in a cloth whilst he rollers the bright blue paint.
The old joke about how many people it takes to perform a task is true in Cuba too. How many men did it take to fill this hole, one to actually fill the hole, three to guard him or aide him as he does so and an obligatory passer-by to oversee the whole thing, oh and a photographer to record the occasion. 5 men, one woman.
If only I spoke Spanish, these guys were arguing but who knows about what!
A young man stands on a corner wearing his long skeins of garlic like a shawl, he is waiting for his companion who has stopped to sell a string to a customer.
A horse waits patiently in the shade for his owner to do some business.
I met this crew of pavement workers and asked if I might take their photo, they were very pleased, happily posed for me and made the peace sign.
This trader has come into town bringing his wares to sell to Trinidadians. Everything is freshly sourced from his and his neighbours plots.
The shoe-shine man – a bicyclist stops by for a quick buff-up and a rest in the shade.
The cat watches out for any new customers at this little stall on a side street. On sale are just the few vegetables that the owner has grown in his yard. The sign reads “If you don’t pay now, we are no longer friends”.
Tuk-Tuks and motorised CoCos are readily available for hire if you need to get somewhere quickly. They are waiting on every corner and unlike cars and coaches, they can access all parts of the town.