Trinidad: UNESCO World Heritage town

Not climbing back on the bike after breakfast can be a bit disorienting, but Trinidad is not a place you fly in and out of. 

It is one of only 5 original Spanish colonial towns in Cuba, and it is by far and away the best preserved. Mostly colourfully painted single storey buildings, it’s heritage is further confirmed by its rough cobbled streets, not very comfortable for either walking or cycling.

Founded in the early 16th century, it was a staging post for expeditions to South America and it was from here that Hernán Cortés launched his invasion of Mexico.

You can spend hours wandering the streets, negotiating the tour groups and touters, and be surprised by something interesting round every corner. I was waylaid my a museum called The battle against the bandits, 

and discovered it was about Castro’s bid, in the early years of his regime, to root out the counter-revolutionaries in the Sierra de Escambray, which is the backdrop to Trinidad. The exhibition was designed to be a war memorial to all those who died for their fatherland…..and there seemed to be a lot of literacy educators amongst the victims. 

Castro had created huge teams of teenage literacy teachers who went out into the countryside to teach the campesinos to read and write….it was claimed the target of 100% literacy in the nation was achieved in less than a year. Many point to this as one of the great achievements of the regime, but I bet many of those people have never been into a bookshop or library in Cuba. Let me explain.

Cuba may be literate but nobody actually reads anything….not even newspapers. The rare bookshop you find has very few books, no customers, and that’s because 90% of the books are about some aspect of the revolution and the other 10% are about yawn-inducing topics like the history of apiculture in Cuba. Even the libraries are empty, because all they have are fusty dusty ageing volumes on topics no one wants to read about. What’s more, they are housed in dark forbidding unwelcoming buildings. The people of Cuba are suffering from cultural and intellectual starvation, and nobody here seems to realise it. Or do they…..?

I would recommend anyone coming to Cuba avoids the organised packaged tour. Go independently, live and travel with the people. Experience something of the discomforts of their means of transport, their lack of choices in both food and consumer goods, their frustrating queues to get the most basic things (I queued today to get into a bank and to buy a WiFi card). People say they want to see Cuba before it changes, as if what the Cubans have now is romantic and cute, and capitalism is only going to ruin it. We need to wake up and stop being patronising. Do go and spend your £s and $s to support their failing economy, but get down there in the trenches with them and try to see the world as they see it. You can’t do that if you are forever retreating into an air-conditioned tour-coach or finishing your day back at a smart hotel that serves canapés and cocktails before dinner.

OK folks, rant over. I’ll be back on the bike again  tomorrow…..😊

About Frank Burns

My journeys around the world are less about riding a bicycle, and more about what happens when I get off the bicycle. Click on the Personal Link below to visit my webpages.

Posted on January 16, 2018, in Cycling Cuba and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. That’s good Frank ! Go for it!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice post, Frank. That one had some heart and I dig that.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. …..thanks! Partly inspired by the fact that I can’t find anything of interest to read……beyond incessant propaganda.

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  4. The first time we went to Poland it was a bit like that. A year later we found lots of bookshops and nearly all sold English teach yourself books. American television also came on and a man we got to know well, taught himself English watching the Muppets. quite entertaining.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Really interesting Cuba blogs, Frank. Thanks so much. Looking forward to hearing more. Enjoy the rest of the trip. Much love Alison….and Dominic of course.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. We went to Cuba with Intrepid Travel 2 years ago which seems to be aimed at people who generally do their own travel e.g. backpacking but did not feel confident enough in some countries to do that form of holiday and therefore go with a group. We are in our 60`s and the oldest , most in 30`s, stayed in Casa`s like Frank. I would be wary of hiring a car- expensive and if you have a accident , you have to stay in the country until its all sorted ( 1 month plus) If you do not want a group tour, cycle if you can stand the heat, or hire a car with a driver, We did that for one day to see Vinales , as it was not covered on the trip.
    Lovely people and always give a good tip where possible. Poor but safe.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Good to receive your feedback, Alison, and hope to see you both soon.

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  8. Interesting, Paul, Cuba has just receive an international award for safe tourism……

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  1. Pingback: Trinidad: UNESCO World Heritage town; Frank Burns – All About World Heritage Sites

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