"" Writer's Wanderings: Port of Call: Cienfuegos, Cuba, Old Town

Friday, November 23, 2018

Port of Call: Cienfuegos, Cuba, Old Town

The first part of our tour in Cienfuegos was a dolphin show. Now we found ourselves going into the city on our way to the old town section. Cienfuegos is laid out in an amazing grid of streets and boulevards. The boulevards have large promenades in the center with benches and trees--a gathering place for a bit of peace and rest in the middle or at the end of a hot day. As we passed a building reminiscent of our trip to Russia, our guide explained that at one time the Russians were planning to make the city nuclear powered and had built residential buildings for their employees. Of course when the USSR fell apart, the Russians pulled out of the project.

We stopped in the middle of the historic part of the city, Parque Marti, named for the poet, journalist and patriot, Jose Marti. Like the square in Santiago, this one was surrounded by beautiful old buildings. The buildings all had colonnades in front of them allowing for plenty of shade to walk from one place to another.

Our guide took us into the Tomas Terry Theater which was under extensive renovation. The story of how Tomas Terry became wealthy is tied into the slave trade. He was quite a business man. He bought slaves cheaply that were not in the best condition and nursed them to health and then sold them at a much higher price. His estimated worth at his death in 1886 was 25 million dollars. In 1863 he attempted to get his theater built but it was not to happen until after his death when his family carried out his wishes. A statue of Terry graces the entrance of the theater.

After we wandered around the parts of the theater that were accessible, we went back to the Parque Marti and our guide pointed out several buildings including the beautiful Palace Ferrer and the Cathedral. We were given some time to wander around on our own and Bob and I walked completely around the square which had several art galleries with local artists' work for sale.

The Ferrer Palace was built by a wealthy Cuban family in 1912-13. They eventually moved on to Havana but it is said that Caruso, after singing at the Tomas Terry Theater, went to his room at the palace and sang from the balcony. You could have heard him for free by listening on the square below.

While the cathedral looked impressive from the outside with its red domed top, the inside was not nearly as nice as the one in Santiago de Cuba. We stopped in briefly and then continued on our way around the square.

Ferrer Palace
Our time on the square was up and we gathered at our pick up spot to board the bus for our next stop. We drove through a place called Punta Gorda which had several large mansions built before the revolution. The architecture was quite beautiful.

At a place that looked like it was perhaps some sort of school for the arts, we went into a large room that was set up with chairs and we were introduced to a group of ladies who played flutes (and one guy who played percussion). It was quite a concert filled with nice music and a bit of humor. The ladies had been playing together for seventeen years. None of them looked much older than twenty-something.
A mansion at Punta Gorda

After our concert, we returned to Parque Marti and were given directions to the "mall" which was a pedestrian street lined with little shops of souvenirs and art work. The middle of the street had kiosk after kiosk of souvenirs. We found a small painting of old cars that we bought. We're not big on souvenirs but that would at least give us something to remember Cuba by.

As we neared the waterfront, we noticed quite a few horse and carriages waiting for anyone who would like a ride back to the ship or around the town. Tourism is growing and I think the Cuban people are beginning to get a good handle on it.

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