Cuba: The Lost World, Part IIPosted: January 27, 2014
Michael J. Totten writes: Most of Cuba is flat with low rolling hills, but after leaving Cienfuegos and heading toward Trinidad, I saw the Escambray Mountains—home of the anti-communist insurgency known as the Escambray Rebellion—off in the distance.
The island finally had a skyline.
Those mountains might be a nice place to camp or go hiking (you would not want to camp or hike in the sweltering lowlands), but the overwhelming majority of Cubans have no way to get there. They aren’t prohibited from traveling to or in the mountains, but hardly anyone owns a car. Salaries are capped at twenty dollars a month. Driving to the mountains for a day hike from Havana would cost more than a months’ salary just for the gas. A bus ticket likewise costs more than a month’s salary.
Then it hit me, ton-of-bricks style. Most Cubans have never seen those mountains. Nor have they seen Trinidad, one of the oldest Spanish colonial cities in the hemisphere which lies on a narrow coastal plane between the Escambray and the Caribbean.
The city threw me off balance when I stopped there for a day and a night. I had absolutely no idea what to make of this place. My preconceived notions and assessment of the country thus far got smacked in the side of the head with the force of a knock-out punch.
Cuba is a total surveillance police state and Havana has fallen to ruin, but Trinidad is both delightful and charming.
And I don’t just mean Trinidad has the potential to be delightful and charming. It’s delightful and charming right now. Even under communist rule.
How was this possible?
The regime wants me to describe the city this way, which makes me not want to do it, but I’m not going to lie. I’m not going to tell you every place in the country is dreary and drab when it’s not.
Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar, conqueror of Cuba, founded Trinidad exactly 500 years ago, in 1514. It’s older than almost every building in Paris. UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site in 1988, and for good reason. Hardly any colonial city in the world is preserved as well as Trinidad.
The streets are made of stone, the roofs beautifully tiled. All the buildings and houses are colorfully painted. Every visible structure in every direction pre-dates the Industrial Revolution. The city is a living museum piece, not just of Cuba before communist rule, but of Latin America during the Conquistador era, of the world before industry and machines, before globalization and standardization and the mass society changed politics and culture for everybody forever…
- Cuba: The Lost World (punditfromanotherplanet.com)
- Still in Trinidad – the slave trade in Cuba (lovefromcuba.wordpress.com)
- Cuba, Brazil formally open new port near Havana (nzherald.co.nz)
- Origins and Growth of the Democratic Opposition in Cuba (babalublog.com)
- Prime Minister Simpson Miller now in Cuba (jamaica-gleaner.com)
- Trinidad part two (lovefromcuba.wordpress.com)
- Cuba Announces New Plans for Oil Exploration (repeatingislands.com)
- Cuba As Seen From The International Space Station (spaceref.com)
- 8 ways Cuba has mastered the art of diplomacy to get what it wants (voxxi.com)
- Latin leaders to applaud Cuba’s dictatorship (babalublog.com)