Tucked away atop the hillside of the surrounding Sierra del Escambray mountains in Central Cuba lies one of Cuba’s most precious colonial jewels: The beautiful colonial city of Trinidad. Founded in 1514 as Villa de la Santísima Trinidad by Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar, a Spanish conquistador, Trinidad has rightfully earned the reputation as one of the most beautiful and well-preserved colonial cities in all of Latin America.
Trinidad was built in an isolated place awash with beauty near an extremely fertile area for growing sugar cane, tobacco and other important crops. In Colonial times, Trinidad became one of the most prosperous cities in Cuba given its enormous sugar production in the Valle de los Ingenios (Valley of Sugar Mills) which has around 70 historic sugar mills that enriched Trinidad’s economy. Due part to greed and part to ignorance, the plantation owners did not take care of the land. They depleted the riches of the soil causing the quality of the sugar to falter which essentially ruined Trinidad’s economy.
Near the end of the 18th century, with the sugar economy destroyed, the people of Trinidad left and this once prosperous town became a ghost town for another century. Around the early 1900s there were very few residents in Trinidad and the only access to the town was by sea due to the surrounding mountains. Trinidad was completely isolated thus was able to remain frozen in time.
By the 20th century, as the economy improved people began to move back to Trinidad and resume their lives in this beautiful place. Roads were finally built in the 1950s therefore Trinidad was no longer cut off from the world and her beauty was discovered. Thankfully today Trinidad remains a small city of about 60,000 residents and all of Colonial Trinidad has been restored to its grandeur thanks to Trinidad’s recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988.
To walk the streets of this gloriously lovely city is a pleasure for the eyes. Each building is colored in brilliantly bright hues of corals, yellows, lime greens and pumpkin oranges. On a sunny day, Trinidad is breathtaking despite the hordes of tourists who have also come to enjoy this spectacular preserved town.
Follow me and take a look at the magical colors of Trinidad, a place you are bound to never forget.
Plaza Mayor is the main square and heart of Colonial Trinidad. Surrounded by gorgeous colonial Spanish architecture and the omnipresent Santísima Trinidad Cathedral and Convento de San Francisco, plaza mayor feels like stepping back in time.
Colors of the streets
Every turn you take, you are surrounded by gorgeous pastel-painted buildings and homes. Trinidad reminded me so much of Antigua, Guatemala, another colonial gem in South America.
Colors of the people
I saw this man atop a donkey with his “for rent” sign and I couldn’t resist capturing him on film multiple times. His straw hat, cuban cigar dangling out of his mouth, and his leathery aged skin. His image reminds me to this day of Cuba.
I caught him in a few different locations around Trinidad. He was obviously working the crowds. I reflected upon what he’d seen throughout his life. Batista and Cuba’s notorious days of grandeur, the rise and fall of the Cuban Revolution and Castro. The Special Period and the slow changes in Cuba. So much this man has weathered through his years in Cuba.
The rhythm and beat of the drums and sound of song fills the streets of Trinidad, pouring out of open air bars and along the cobblestone streets as well. Every night locals and tourists alike can come to dance salsa at the open-air Casa de Musica in Plaza Mayor, and there are plenty of Cuban men of all ages willing to show you the moves.
During the heat of the afternoon, only the tourists roamed the streets dressed in wide-brimmed hats and western clothes. Yet off the beaten path, I found the locals gathering together alongside the doorsteps and shade of the tiled rooftops.
After walking around Plaza Mayor, I decided to explore the back streets of Trinidad to see the real part of town that is generally hidden from tourists. It was equally as lovely and as colorful as the rest.
Sadly, it was time to head back to the main square. I could have spent another hour or so just wandering the streets and taking photos yet it was time to go. I was careful to watch my step along the centuries-old gigantic cobblestone streets. Of course I saw a few more interesting subjects to photograph for Trinidad is highly photogenic.
As I ended my tour, I came upon the Casa de Musica, where we would return that evening for music and dancing. It was empty now but by dusk the place was packed and bouncing with people under the twilight sky.
It was time to head back to our hotel by the sea. Since Trinidad is so small and is preserved, there are few hotels in town. Tourists are welcome to do a home stay with a local which I would have loved to experience. Yet alas I was on a group tour, the only way to legally travel in Cuba as an American. We stayed about a ten minute drive away in a Soviet-built resort right next to the glorious Caribbean Sea.
I said my goodbye to Trinidad for the time being. For I would be back that evening for music and dancing under the millions of twinkling stars. I could hardly wait!