Trinidad (English: Trinity), a UNESCO world heritage site in south-central Cuba, is home to colorful buildings in a winding labyrinth of narrow streets. As in much of Cuba, the town offers visions of colonial charm and examples of unsightly decay. Once a center for the Caribbean sugar trade, Trinidad now depends upon income from tourism and tobacco processing.
All photos by Matthew Townsend
Milagro (English: Miracle) was born and raised in Trinidad in central Cuba. “Trinidad is very beautiful,” she says. “And the people here are friendlier than elsewhere in Cuba.” Milagro asks if I have any soap or skin cream — a common question in Cuba, where beauty products are hard to find.
Cuba’s confounding dual currency system — Cuban pesos (CUP) for inexpensive but often inadequate rations and “convertible” pesos (CUC) for everything else — makes currency trades a common part of Cuban life. Dollars and euros can be converted into convertible pesos, but small coins often prove difficult to convert. Thus, Cubans, including this ceramics worker with a European coin, seek to trade coins and bills of smaller denomination for their equivalent value in CUC or foreign money of higher denomination.
Hector, who initially introduced himself as “Denzel Washington,” explains the finer points of Cuban rum to patrons at the exquisitely decorated Restaurante 1514 — the founding year of Trinidad. Hector says more and more Americans have come to Trinidad, and he wears a Cuban-American friendship pin to celebrate this fact. Here, dinner for one may cost as much as a local doctor’s monthly salary.
Jorge grew up in Trinidad. He rolls cigars in front of patrons at a local music club, La Canchanchara, and offers to light them straight away. He has rolled cigars for 54 years.
Natividad (English: Nativity) greets passersby from a second-story balcony. A sign indicates that she and Paulo can be found there. She grew up in Trinidad and likes it. “There is so much history here,” she says.
A worker in a small ceramics factory adds finishing touches to a detailed piece of pottery.
A man sits in the shade outside of a butcher’s shop.
Elvis (left) and Ernesto say Trinidad offers a view of an antiquated world where culture matters. Like most in Trinidad, they are quick to converse. “Elvis, like Presley,” Elvis says of his name. He points to his shirt and shouts out to Madrid’s soccer team.
This photo essay is the second of three parts in a series on Cuba. Part three will take a closer look at the Episcopal Church in Cuba and the work of the task force considering reintegration of the church with the Episcopal Church in the United States.