Thirdeyemom

A Drive through Cuba’s Countryside: Trinidad to Cienfuegos

One of my absolute favorite things to do when I travel is see the countryside. As much as I love the vibrant culture and pulse of a city, there is something special to be found in the countryside. Our drive from Trinidad to Cienfuegos was as nostalgic as I’d imagined. We passed farms, tobacco and sugar plantations and lush mountains in the distance. The deep blue colors of the Caribbean Sea sporadically appeared upon the horizon as we neared our next stop for the day: The lovely, historic town of Cienfuegos, Cuba.

Photo Source: Wikipedia Free Commons

Photo Source: Wikipedia Free Commons

We only had a few hours to spend in Cienfuegos before heading on the long drive back to Havana. The drive from Trinidad was beautiful and sadly the only pictures I could snap of the passing, verdant countryside were from the window of our Cuban tour bus. The glare was bad, the motion a little fuzzy but at least I captured a few good shots of the beautiful Cuban countryside.

“I long for the countryside. That’s where I get my calm and tranquillity – from being able to come and find a spot of green”. – Emilia Clarke

Cuban countryside

Powderpuff clouds in the horizon

Cuban countryside

Saying hello to the deep blue Caribbean Sea.

Cuban countryside

The countryside was once a prosperous way of life, when Cuban farmers and rich landowners lived off the land and grew sugar, tobacco and other key crops. Today most of the plantations and farms are government owned yet Castro’s regime has slowly allowed a small opening of the economy after the nearly catastrophic Special Period of the ’90s.

Cuban countryside

Cuban countryside

As we drove, I realized how incredibly beautiful Cuba is. I found it so hard to believe that in such a lush, green place that Cuba has to import over 80% of the nation’s food. Vegetables are slowly emerging in the expensive farmer’s markets, beef is a rare commodity and the fish industry is mostly for the tourists. What a pity.

Cuban countryside

I hated to leave the countryside and sincerely wished I had more time. There is so much more of Cuba to see but that will have to be for another time.

Stay tuned……Cienfuegos is a loverly place right on the sea. We visited a local artist studio, walked around the Spanish Colonial town square and had lunch in one of the most beautiful Moorish mansions I’d ever visited.

27 comments

  1. wunderful stuff, always a pleasure to see ur stuff, cuz i’ll prolly never get there so is as close as it gets..thankz fer sharin ” 🙂 Q

  2. Nicole why is it that vegetables aren’t grown there or not in large amounts? One would think no matter the government structure it would be sensible to grow food.

    • Great question. They do grow food but what happened is that after the Cuban Revolution, the Communist regime nationalized everything including farming. Then when the Soviet Union collapsed in the 90s, who was subsidizing the Cuban economy in the neighborhood of millions a day, they went from all that money to nothing and the economy collapsed. People were hungry, the farms didn’t do well and sadly not much has changed. The Cuban Government did implement the ration card system where they subsidized Cuban’s food but this only includes the bare minimums like rice, beans, cooking oil, etc. I don’t believe it includes vegetables. The fruits and vegetables are sold at different markets that are not included in the monthly ration cards meaning Cubans who earn about $20-$25 a month need to spend what ever else remaining they have for fruits and vegetables. Thus, they do grow the stuff but most is sold separately or goes to the restaurants and hotels for the tourists. The rest is sadly underdeveloped. This is my understanding of how things work. Simply Communism just didn’t work to keep these industries alive and well.

      • Yes it is sad. But at least people there are much better off than in other parts of the world and for the most part they enjoy their lives even with frustration.

  3. I’m curious as too why they don’t grow fruit and vegetables. Do you know the reason, Nicole? They have the land for crops and the sea for fish but but you say they have to import over 80% of the food. Were you enlightened as to why? It all seems so wasteful. I grew up in the countryside where we were almost self-sufficient. Fruit and veg we grew, milk (we also made cheese and yogurt) came from our goats, eggs from our chickens and game shot by local farmer friends.

    • Great question! I just answered a similar one and here is what I sent as an answer. I’m really thinking it is all due to the inefficiencies of the regime. They do grow this stuff but they could do much better. Apparently during the 90s there was hardly anything green. Now farmer’s markets are popping up but they are expensive. Here is my reply:
      Great question. They do grow food but what happened is that after the Cuban Revolution, the Communist regime nationalized everything including farming. Then when the Soviet Union collapsed in the 90s, who was subsidizing the Cuban economy in the neighborhood of millions a day, they went from all that money to nothing and the economy collapsed. People were hungry, the farms didn’t do well and sadly not much has changed. The Cuban Government did implement the ration card system where they subsidized Cuban’s food but this only includes the bare minimums like rice, beans, cooking oil, etc. I don’t believe it includes vegetables. The fruits and vegetables are sold at different markets that are not included in the monthly ration cards meaning Cubans who earn about $20-$25 a month need to spend what ever else remaining they have for fruits and vegetables. Thus, they do grow the stuff but most is sold separately or goes to the restaurants and hotels for the tourists. The rest is sadly underdeveloped.

  4. It is difficult to believe how completely a rotten government can stuff up a country. I still can’t understand why people don’t go fishing for themselves, or grow a few things on vacant land. It is beyond comprehension.

  5. They import over 80% of their food? I had no idea. Traveling back and forth to the states, we usually pass over Cuba. I’m amazed at how big it is. Nicole, your shots from the bus are great! I had numerous photo opportunities in Ecuador from the bus, but I missed 90% of them. It’s really hard to get good pictures from a bus window.

    • Thanks! Yes it is hard to believe they import so much but they just never really established a good food industry after communism took over and privatized everything. I was surprised too!

  6. The Costa Rican countryside looks very familiar to this. I wonder why local vegetables aren’t more readily available to the residents?

    • Yes so true! The response to why veggies is not available has been asked a lot so here is my response. Just an educated guess on after being and experiencing Cuba:
      Great question. They do grow food but what happened is that after the Cuban Revolution, the Communist regime nationalized everything including farming. Then when the Soviet Union collapsed in the 90s, who was subsidizing the Cuban economy in the neighborhood of millions a day, they went from all that money to nothing and the economy collapsed. People were hungry, the farms didn’t do well and sadly not much has changed. The Cuban Government did implement the ration card system where they subsidized Cuban’s food but this only includes the bare minimums like rice, beans, cooking oil, etc. I don’t believe it includes vegetables. The fruits and vegetables are sold at different markets that are not included in the monthly ration cards meaning Cubans who earn about $20-$25 a month need to spend what ever else remaining they have for fruits and vegetables. Thus, they do grow the stuff but most is sold separately or goes to the restaurants and hotels for the tourists. The rest is sadly underdeveloped.

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