An image of a Cuban carryinga sack home on a dirt path in the Valle de los Ingenios just outside Trinidad, Cuba.

The Valley of the Sugar Mills: The Tower and the Madding Crowd

April 30, 2014, Trinidad, Cuba

After our entertaining lunch, we decided to drive the short distance from central Trinidad to the Valle de Los Ingenios, once the largest sugar-producing region. The Valle or Valley of the Sugar Mills was home to Cuba’s sugar cane fields, plantations, and the ruins from more than 70 formerly operational sugar mills. The entire Valle de Los Ingenios is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, preserved so visitors can imagine how this verdant valley once bustled with the hard work of African slaves and later, Cuban workers toiling around the clock to harvest sugar cane.

An image of a The pile of rubble is from a collapsed house, all too common in Cuba where homes suffer decades of neglect.

The pile of rubble is from a collapsed house, all too common in Cuba where homes suffer decades of neglect. Photo credit: Iris Gonzalez.

Walking back to the casa particular to get into my rental car, Wade, Camille, and I passed homes that were crumbling from years of neglect. This being resource-poor Cuba, the construction materials from one disintegrated house was in a heap, waiting to be repurposed.

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I linked up with Americans Camille and Wade during my time in Trinidad, Cuba.

The Americans in Trinidad

April 30, 2014, Trinidad, Cuba

Wade, Camille, and I walked Trinidad’s streets until we found a restaurant for lunch. It must have been a tourist haven because we spotted a trio playing the traditional son music of Cuba outside its entrance.

Street musicians play Cuban son music outside a restaurant in Trinidad, Cuba.

Street musicians play Cuban son music outside a restaurant in Trinidad, Cuba.

El Dorado only had another table with several local men sitting there quietly, but not eating. We were the only ones ordering a meal. The food was good—we had seafood with the customary white rice and Cuban black beans.

What  made the meal memorable was the singer and conjunto who accompanied him.

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A guajiro, or rural man drives a horse drawn carriage past the Plaza Mayor in Trinidad, Cuba.

Breakfast, Bathrooms, and a Tower Climb in Trinidad

April 30, 2014, Trinidad, Cuba

Waking up early, I listened carefully from my guest room which faced the street to the sounds of Trinidad waking up. I heard no traffic, only the slow clop-clopping of the horse’s hooves on the cobblestones. Farmers called out what they carried in their carts.

Plantanos, plantanos,” one old man yelled, his voice trailing off as he headed to the edge of town. He had no takers for his bunches of plantains.

In Trinidad, early morning vendors call out what produce they have to sell.

In Trinidad, early morning vendors call out what produce they have to sell.

Magaly prepared a lovely breakfast for my first full day in Trinidad. The variety of ripe papayas, watermelon, guavas, even pineapple made for a luxurious breakfast.

“We are lucky to have mangoes, papayas, and bananas grow so well here,” Magaly said. “They travel only a few kilometers to our doorstep.”

A breakfast at Trinidad's Casa Magaly reveals the local bounty of tropical fruit available.

A breakfast at Trinidad’s Casa Magaly reveals the local bounty of tropical fruit.

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The waterfalls at El Nicho in Topes de Collante, near Trinidad, Cuba. Source: Wikitravel page for Topes de Collante.

Trinidad: Sugar Town, Rebel Base, World Heritage Site

April 30, 2014, Trinidad, Cuba

The casa particular where I stayed in Trinidad had a typically Cuban address: Calle Frank Pais #453 e/ Simon Bolivar y Fidel Claro.

Translated, it means house No. 453 on Frank Pais street or calle, entre or in between two other streets, Simon Bolivar and (y) Fidel Claro.

The names—Frank Pais, Simon Bolivar, Fidel Claro—are of revolutionary figures from Cuba’s history. What I discovered navigating around Trinidad is that most streets have two names.

The street signs only display one name and in Trinidad, it was the older, pre-revolutionary name that was on the street sign, not on modern maps. Sometimes for popular city streets, the old name is still used, so asking for directions can be confusing despite asking in fluent Spanish.

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