Cienfuegos is not easily cowed by the popularity of her sisters, Havana and Trinidad; she has a unique identity and flavor all her own. Thanks to a hint of French thrown into the usual Cuban cultural suspects of Spanish colonial and South American influences, Cienfuegos stands apart from the rest on this warm island. From truly breathtaking architecture to a stroll through Cuban culture, Cienfuegos has as much to offer visitors as Cuba’s larger metropolises, if not more.
Originally settled by the indigenous people known as the Taino, the area now known as Cienfuegos is one of the few areas in Cuba with significant French colonial influences. The area’s original name was Cacicazgo de Jagua, which literally translated to “the chiefdom of Jagua”, designating the area as the kingdom of the Taino Chief Jagua. In the 19th century French immigrants from both the Bordeaux province of France and the American territory of Louisiana settled in the area, and many of the streets today still retain some of those original French names. Cienfuegos quickly grew to become a powerful port thanks to its proximity to Jamaica and South America, especially during the height of the sugar trade.
The temperature and climate in Cienfuegos is classified as “tropical savannah”, with warmer than average temperatures and distinct wet and dry seasons. During the summer months, temperatures can rise as high as 95°F (35°C), and in the winter months temperatures will drop as low as 45°F (7°C). The heaviest months for rainfall are from August through October when the city sees an average of 6.5 inches of rain.
Built in honor and named for the Venezualan industrialist Tomás Terry, the Teatro Tomás Terry is a 950-seat auditorium decorated on the outside in stunning gold-leaf mosaics, but holds even more grandeur on the inside. The French and Italian inspired interior is splashed with Carrara marble, Cuban woods and woodwork, and gorgeous ceiling frescoes, all created in the late 19th century. The theater debuted in 1895 with a performance of Aida, and is a celebrated venue of both contemporary and classical Cuban music.
Located in the Punta Gorda region, the Palacio de Valle is a stunning architectural blend of Baroque, Moorish, and Spanish-Colonial styles all combining into one breathtaking and statuesque palace. Reminiscent of the architecture of Morocco, the Palacio was built in 1917 by the Spaniard Don Acisclo del Valle who spared no expense on its construction, spending a mind-boggling 1.5 million pesos to complete. Architects and materials were brought in from Europe, including Carrara marble, Venetian ceramics, and Spanish ironworks, as well as beautiful mosaics and crystals. In the mid-20th century, an investment company purchased the property with the intent to convert it into a casino, but their plans were interrupted by the Cuban Revolution. Today the Palacio de Valle is a luxury hotel and will soon house a gourmet restaurant within its walls, paying tribute to the building’s lavish construction and ornate features as it nears its centennial celebration.
The oldest cemetery in Cienfuegos, the Cementerio la Reino was founded in the mid-19th century and is filled with Spanish soldiers who perished in the Wars of Independence. This is the only cemetery in the city where the deceased are interred above ground, due to higher groundwater levels than in other parts of the city. The cemetery is a fascinating place to explore with poignant markers and tragically beautiful statuary spread all across the grounds.
Eight-Day Cuba People to People Program Aboard the M/Y Voyager
It has never been so easy to go back in time to a place rooted in culture and history. Where the people are as warm and welcoming as the climate. Cruise through Cuba during 8 days aboard our two great vessels on a people to people program that allows you to step back in time to a country that been closed to Americans for half a century. You’ll explore the western part of the island nation famous for its culture, music, warm people and art.
Eight-Day Cuba People to People Program Aboard the S/C Panorama
Disembark in Cienfuegos, which is also known as the Pearl of the South. In 2005 the city was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. We will also be treated to salsa lessons and then a performance by the singers of the Chorus of Cienfuegos, or a string quartet, during our time in the city. Visit the Graphic Arts Workshop, and have a walking tour of the city centre and Parque Martí to see some outstanding examples of its architecture representing the new ideas of modernity and urban planning as developed in Latin America from the 19th Century.
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