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Published: June 17th 2017
From Casa Verde to Trinidad to Casa Musica
June 16, 2017
We began our morning with breakfast across the street from Casa Verde at Hotel Jagua. It was built in the 1950s with casino space and likely under mob influence, but apparently the casino never became a reality. After eating, it was off toward Trinidad, a community settled by the Spanish in the early 1500s, but later replaced by the French who brought the newest sugar cane technology to Cienfeugos following the Haitian slave revolt. So, we stepped back into time once again.
On the way to Trinidad, we stopped for a moment to catch a photo of a cactus fence. These were built by plantation owners to prevent slaves from escaping. Cuba has a disturbing history relative to slavery, but has moved forward from it in a positive way. We will reflect more on this in Miami. In any case, while stopped, a gentleman approached us from his front porch and offered flowers to the women and tamarind (a legume, not a fruit). Nothing could have made this rural gentleman’s day more than to offer a kindness to strangers and he wanted nothing in return. Earlier, we also stopped to purchase some freshly cut bananas, which were small but sweet. The whole bundle, handed through the car window, cost $1.
Upon arrival at Trinidad, we began navigating through narrow streets and finally made our way to the historic city center, a UNESCO world heritage site. There, the streets were original cobblestone. This area was abandoned between 1850 and 1950 because the sugar industry had moved to Cienfuegos. Maybe that helped protect the old downtown. There, we visited former Spanish residences and a museum on the site of the former home of the Spanish slaveholder and sugarcane magnate Mr. Iznaga.
From there, we visited a Santeria temple of a water goddess and learned a little bit more about that faith. Then, we took in a Cancanchara drink, a mixture of honey, Limon (lime), moonshine, ice, and water, served in a small terra cotta cup, glazed on the inside but not the outside.
After lunch at Trinidad, we headed to the harvest hacienda of Mr. Iznaga, where he relocated during the harvest. Separate paintings of him and his wife hung on the wall, and neither of them looked very happy. They had to have some concern as slaveholders as they built a 7 story tower to oversee the fields in case any slaves decided to escape. Jake and Rich climbed to the top of this tower and made it up and back. It was a piece of cake compared to the Duomo in Florence. In the rear of the hacienda was a mill that ground the sugarcane and was powered either by human effort or that of oxen. In front were 19th century vats that were used to boil the cane into molasses. The day was very hot and humid and we were glad to get back into our van for the cooler air and the return drive to Cienfuegos.
Our dinner option was to dine on our own or, to take the advice of our guide, Ralph, to enjoy a dinner “in the home of friends” at a local Hostal, essentially a B&B. We loved meeting the family and enjoying a tasty dinner, though we noticed Ralph taking several phone calls and darting in and out of the room. Once we heard a guitar play, we knew we were in for yet another surprise. Another local group? No, it was our favorite a Capella group from the previous day, who gathered at the Casa for a jam session and house party. We were blown away and hope sincerely that this group succeeds in their quest to perform in the United States, both in Miami and in the Chicago area. This time, they brought their instruments, including guitar, trumpet, and flute, and were absolutely talented at improvisation. It was a wonderful way to end the evening and we have returned to Casa Verde with smiles on our faces!
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