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Visit Trinidad

History and Culture Trinidad

Trinidad is often referred to in the guidebooks as a Museum City and it is easy to see why. Trinidad gives the impression of a colonial patrimony, stuck in a time of smugglers, pirates and colonial decadence. Located in Central Cuba, some 370 kilometres from Havana, the city of 'La Villa de la Santsima Trinidad' was founded in 1514 by Diego Velzquez de Cuellar. It was the third settlement set up by the Spaniard, following Baracoa and Bayamo. The land was fertile and proved perfect for agriculture and tobacco production and there were even a few small gold reserves. However, in 1918 Hernn Corts passed through the settlement on his way to conquer Mexico and emptied it of its inhabitants, recruiting people for his cause. The remaining settlers and original inhabitants of Taino Indians kept the area going by agriculture and a small amount of outside trade.

Golden Age

Revolution

Due to its cut-off location from Havana caused by poor communications Trinidad became somewhat isolated and transformed into a den of smugglers and pirates. Then in the early 19th Century things began to pick up for the settlement as French immigrants arrived, fleeing from the Haitian Revolution and slave revolt. They set up sugar mills. Sugar and honey became the country's main products and initiated a golden age for the city. In the three neighbouring valleys of Santa Rosa, San Luis and Meyer there were over 50 sugar cane factories in operation at the peak f the trade boom. During the 18th Century Cuba became the world's biggest sugar producer and the trade brought a lot of wealth to the area. Ornate mansions were constructed around the Plaza Mayor to house the town's newly wealthy inhabitants and immigrants and furniture and materials were imported from Europe and the rest of South America. Even some pirates gave up their day job and purchased property.

However, all was not to be so rosy for long. The Wars of Independence and the superiority of the harbour at Cienfuegos, combined with increased trade competition from other parts of Cuba and a fall in the slave trade caused an economic decline in Trinidad and many of the sugar plantations were destroyed during the fighting in the Wars. Trinidad began to stagnate and appear very undeveloped in comparison with other settlements in Cuba.

UNESCO World Heritage Site

During the 1950s the dictator Fulgencio Batista declared Trinidad a 'jewel of colonial architecture' and a law was passed in order to preserve it. This law, combined with a new highway constructed nearby that bypassed the town, ensured that it remained off the beaten track and undeveloped. Then, in 1965 it became a National Monument and restoration work began around the historic Plaza Mayor. In 1988 Trinidad became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Plaza Mayor

Nowadays, Batista's statement has evidently proved true and Trinidad is a town full of charm and character. The Plaza Mayor is adorned by grand colonial mansions, all delightfully and painstakingly restored, and huge palaces such as the Palace of Count Brunet - now the Romantic Museum, Cantero Palace and Borrell Palace, decorative houses with neo-classical ornamentation, courtyards in full bloom, a bell tower and unique churches all have been wonderfully preserved.

Trinidad gives off a truly magical vibe and is a special place to spend some time and get to know the Cuban history and traditions, perhaps during a course at a Spanish language school. Come and get to know this colonial gem, you won't be disappointed!