A stop in Cienfuegos

A stop in Cienfuegos

feb 23, 2024
3 min read

Cienfuegos is the ‘French heart of Cuba, standing in the shadow of the Sierra del Escambray like a piece of Paris transported to Cuba's wild southern coast. Here the first pioneers were not the Spanish colonizers but the French, who arrived in the region in 1819 bringing with them the ideals of the European Enlightenment, which they were able to industriously incorporate into their nascent neoclassical settlement: the result is an extraordinary and sumptuous nineteenth-century architectural masterpiece.

Outside the city, the coast is surprisingly undeveloped: a small rainbow of emerald greens and iridescent blues, dotted with bays, caves and coral reefs. The pearl of the province, El Nicho waterfall, is located a short distance from the sea and is probably the most magical place in the Sierra del Escambray.

Cascada El Nicho, Cienfuegos
El Nicho Waterfall

Although Cienfuegos is ostensibly Francophile and white, its long-silent African ‘soul' was finally expressed in the 1940s thanks to the king of mambo, Benny Moré, while nearby Palmira is known for its santerías, brotherhoods of Catholics and Yoruba who keep alive the deep traditions of the times of slavery.

Monumento a Benny Moré
Monument to Benny More

Developed around the most spectacular bay in the country, Cienfuegos is a maritime city with an enviable position, it is one of the most recent inhabited centers in Cuba but also one of the most interesting from an architectural point of view, to the point of being a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

A must visit is the Tomas Terry theater on Calle 27 and Calle 29 which has French and Italian influences, is located on the north side of Parque José Martí and has a sumptuous look (note the gold leaf mosaics on the facade), especially inside. ‘internal. Built between 1887 and 1889 in honor of the Venezuelan industrialist Tomás Terry, it has 950 seats and is decorated with Carrara marble, precious Cuban wood sculptures and bizarre frescoed ceilings. In 1895 it was inaugurated with Verdi's Aida and later hosted numerous protagonists of Cuban music and artists of the caliber of Enrico Caruso and Anna Pavlova.

Teatro Tomás Terry
Tomas Terry Theater

At the end of Calle 37, concentrated in a truly breathtaking building, the Palacio de Valle, in the style of the Arabian Nights. Built in 1917 by Acisclo del Valle Blanco, a Spaniard, it resembles a particularly sumptuous Moroccan kasbah. This colorful riot of tiles, turrets and stucco that Batista intended to turn into a casino now houses a restaurant.

Revelers will prefer to visit during the months of August and September, as the Cienfuegos Carnival and the biennial festival dedicated to the musician Benny Moré take place respectively.

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