Founded in the early 16th century in honour of the Holy Trinity, the city was a bridgehead for the conquest of the American continent. Its 18th- and 19th-century buildings, such as the Palacio Brunet and the Palacio Cantero, were built in its days of prosperity from the sugar trade.
Trinidad and the Valley de los Ingenios
© Silvan Rehfeld
Trinidad is an outstanding example of a colonial city; it has maintained its historic core, featuring the highest percentage of surviving antique buildings and public squares and bringing together architectural, historic and cultural elements of great value. The city is representative of the colonial human settlement and the Valle de Los Ingenios is testimony to the development of the sugar industry.
After Spain decided to conquer and colonize the island of Cuba, Don Diego Velázquez was sent to the New World. Between 1512 and 1519 he founded the first seven Cuban townships: Nuestra Señora de La Asunción de Baracoa, San Salvador de Bayamo, Santiago de Cuba, Santísima Trinidad, Sancti Spiritus, Santa Maria del Puerto del Principe (now Camaguey) and San Cristóbal de La Habana.
In 1514 Velasquez founded a new town in honour of the Holy Trinity; he chose a site not far from the southern coast of Cuba, midway between the island's two tips. Protected on the north by a mountainous region of El Escambray, and lying at the edge of the Caribbean Sea on the south, Santísima Trinidad, or simply Trinidad, was one of the bridgeheads for the conquest of the American continent. It was the departure point for the expeditions led by Francisco Hernández de Córdova in 1517 and by Cortez in 1518. At the end of the 16th century, Trinidad's economic role increased, relaying the town's strategic utility.
In the 17th century, cattle, tobacco and contraband were the economic mainstays of a largely Spanish population. Towards the end of the 18th century, the sugar industry was firmly established in the Valle de Los Ingenios and Trinidad prospered. By 1796 Trinidad was the third-largest city in Cuba and a Lieutenant Governor was appointed there.
The urban layout of Trinidad dates for the most part from the first two centuries of its existence. Stone buildings were rare prior to the big sugar industry period, and the present city owes its charm to its 18th- and 19th-century buildings.
All the streets in town lead to the Plaza Mayor, on which, overlooked by the campanile of the Convent of San Francisco, two large edifices are worthy of special attention. The Palacio Brunet located on the corner between the church and the Calle Bolávar dates back to the 18th century and provides the most authentic picture of the golden age of the town, and the Palacio Cantero in neoclassical style now houses the municipal history museum.
Elsewhere, other 19th-century public buildings constructed between 1824 and 1857 are landmarks easily identifiable by their size and quality in an area of extremely homogenous streets. Characteristic of the city's domestic architecture are the single-storey houses whose verandas, wide awnings and, sometimes, wood balconies stand out against their polychromatic background of multicoloured walls, with door frames and windows often in a contrasting colour.
The nearby Valle de Los Ingenios is a living museum of the sugar industry, featuring 75 ruined sugar mills, summer mansions, barracks, and other facilities related to the field. The famous Manaca-Iznaga Tower, built in 1816, is 45 m high, and the tolling of its bells once marked the beginning and end of working hours on the sugar plantations.
The central park is composed of four small gardens separated by white-painted cast-iron fences; it is divided by two perpendicular walkways, one of which opens on to two bronze statues of greyhounds, and is adorned with fountains from the beginning of the 19th century. In the centre is a statue of Terpsichore, the muse of dance. Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC