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CUBA–The no-longer-forbidden island
CUBA–The no-longer-forbidden island
COASTLINE–Our first view of the northern coastline
COASTLINE–Our first view of the northern coastline
LANDSCAPE–The land looks a bit desolate
LANDSCAPE–The land looks a bit desolate
CIENFUEGOS–Settled first by the French in 1819
CIENFUEGOS–Settled first by the French in 1819
CIENFUEGOS–Our introduction to the city wasn't too promising
CIENFUEGOS–Our introduction to the city wasn't too promising
CIENFUEGOS–The outskirts of the city
CIENFUEGOS–The outskirts of the city
CIENFUEGOS–But finally, some signs of the old city
CIENFUEGOS–But finally, some signs of the old city
CIENFUEGOS–An intersection with well-preserved 19th century buildings
CIENFUEGOS–An intersection with well-preserved 19th century buildings
CIENFUEGOS–The bright sun prompts folks to stay in the shade
CIENFUEGOS–The bright sun prompts folks to stay in the shade
CIENFUEGOS–Many city streets are shaded by trees
CIENFUEGOS–Many city streets are shaded by trees
CIENFUEGOS–Visit to a local printmaking workshop
CIENFUEGOS–Visit to a local printmaking workshop
CIENFUEGOS–A row of city houses
CIENFUEGOS–A row of city houses
CIENFUEGOS–Young Cuban inspects the tourists
CIENFUEGOS–Young Cuban inspects the tourists
CIENFUEGOS–Cathedral of the Holy Conception, built 1833-69
CIENFUEGOS–Cathedral of the Holy Conception, built 1833-69
CIENFUEGOS–Ah, yes, the old cars
CIENFUEGOS–Ah, yes, the old cars
S/C PANORAMA–Our home for eight days
S/C PANORAMA–Our home for eight days
S/C PANORAMA–The dining room, compact but well organized and fitted out
S/C PANORAMA–The dining room, compact but well organized and fitted out
S/C PANORAMA–The stern deck was breezy and well-used
S/C PANORAMA–The stern deck was breezy and well-used
S/C PANORAMA–The sun deck also attracted a crowd
S/C PANORAMA–The sun deck also attracted a crowd
S/C PANORAMA–Of Greek ownership, the ship had all the modern electronics
S/C PANORAMA–Of Greek ownership, the ship had all the modern electronics
S/C PANORAMA–The sails were only deployed once, for about an hour…disappointing
S/C PANORAMA–The sails were only deployed once, for about an hour…disappointing
S/C PANORAMA–Our cabin was minuscule
S/C PANORAMA–Our cabin was minuscule
TRINIDAD–The port in this World Heritage city, founded in 1514
TRINIDAD–The port in this World Heritage city, founded in 1514
TRINIDAD–Fishermen still ply the waters of the Caribbean Sea to the south of the island
TRINIDAD–Fishermen still ply the waters of the Caribbean Sea to the south of the island
TRINIDAD–Typical Spanish colonial street
TRINIDAD–Typical Spanish colonial street
TRINIDAD–The brightly colored houses glow in the sunlight
TRINIDAD–The brightly colored houses glow in the sunlight
TRINIDAD–Church of the Holy Trinity dominates the Plaza Major
TRINIDAD–Church of the Holy Trinity dominates the Plaza Major
TRINIDAD–A statue of Jose Marti, national hero of Cuba
TRINIDAD–A statue of Jose Marti, national hero of Cuba
TRINIDAD–The shops around Plaza Major do a bustling business
TRINIDAD–The shops around Plaza Major do a bustling business
TRINIDAD–Street vendors are also popular
TRINIDAD–Street vendors are also popular
TRINIDAD–Deliveryman with goodies passing one of the lovely old mansions of the sugar barons
TRINIDAD–Deliveryman with goodies passing one of the lovely old mansions of the sugar barons
TRINIDAD–Pleasant corner with the bellower of the Church of San Francisco, built 1813, in the background
TRINIDAD–Pleasant corner with the bellower of the Church of San Francisco, built 1813, in the background
TRINIDAD–Fine example of a colonial house with ceramic tiles on the walls
TRINIDAD–Fine example of a colonial house with ceramic tiles on the walls
TRINIDAD–Another attractive colonial house
TRINIDAD–Another attractive colonial house
TRINIDAD–The surrounding streets have many well-preserved colonial buildings
TRINIDAD–The surrounding streets have many well-preserved colonial buildings
TRINIDAD–Traffic jam in colonial Trinidad
TRINIDAD–Traffic jam in colonial Trinidad
TRINIDAD–The locals still use dependable transportation, …
TRINIDAD–The locals still use dependable transportation, …
TRINIDAD– …while the tourists favor these cute little electric taxicabs.
TRINIDAD– …while the tourists favor these cute little electric taxicabs.
TRINIDAD–Photogenic old men come out for the tourists' dollars
TRINIDAD–Photogenic old men come out for the tourists' dollars
TRINIDAD–An old guy I especially liked
TRINIDAD–An old guy I especially liked
TRINIDAD–Another smaller plaza tucked away in the barrios, …
TRINIDAD–Another smaller plaza tucked away in the barrios, …
TRINIDAD– …was the venue for a couple of musicians.
TRINIDAD– …was the venue for a couple of musicians.
TRINIDAD–A youngster carrying on the tradition
TRINIDAD–A youngster carrying on the tradition
TRINIDAD–A peek inside reveals a large statue of the Virgin Mary enthroned in the living room, …
TRINIDAD–A peek inside reveals a large statue of the Virgin Mary enthroned in the living room, …
TRINIDAD– …and down the street, a Santaria shrine.
TRINIDAD– …and down the street, a Santaria shrine.
TRINIDAD–A quiet and picturesque World Heritage Site
TRINIDAD–A quiet and picturesque World Heritage Site
CAYO LARGO–A resort island off the south coast of Cuba
CAYO LARGO–A resort island off the south coast of Cuba
CAYO LARGO–Shallow seas around the island, …
CAYO LARGO–Shallow seas around the island, …
CAYO LARGO– …encourage the growth of mangroves.
CAYO LARGO– …encourage the growth of mangroves.
CAYO LARGO–Several large resorts cater to foreign tourists
CAYO LARGO–Several large resorts cater to foreign tourists
CAYO LARGO–A sea turtle breeding farm is one of the attractions
CAYO LARGO–A sea turtle breeding farm is one of the attractions
CAYO LARGO–Judy gets acquainted with a sea turtle
CAYO LARGO–Judy gets acquainted with a sea turtle
CAYO LARGO–The island is ringed with beautiful white sand beaches, …
CAYO LARGO–The island is ringed with beautiful white sand beaches, …
CAYO LARGO– …and populated with iguanas, …
CAYO LARGO– …and populated with iguanas, …
CAYO LARGO– …and hutias, which look like huge rats.
CAYO LARGO– …and hutias, which look like huge rats.
CAYO LARGO–A post for every bird and a bird on every post
CAYO LARGO–A post for every bird and a bird on every post
CAYO LARGO–Attractive bird: what is it?
CAYO LARGO–Attractive bird: what is it?
CAYO LARGO–Pleasant day at the beach is done
CAYO LARGO–Pleasant day at the beach is done
MARIA LA GORDA–Pure silica sand beach at the extreme western tip of Cuba
MARIA LA GORDA–Pure silica sand beach at the extreme western tip of Cuba
MARIA LA GORDA–We visit a very small farming community
MARIA LA GORDA–We visit a very small farming community
MARIA LA GORDA–The town's elementary school: about 15 students, 11 teachers, and no running water
MARIA LA GORDA–The town's elementary school: about 15 students, 11 teachers, and no running water
MARIA LA GORDA–The students dutifully serenade us and ask what kids in USA are like
MARIA LA GORDA–The students dutifully serenade us and ask what kids in USA are like
MARIA LA GORDA–The 'art studio' of the school. CCTV is connected only to government channels
MARIA LA GORDA–The 'art studio' of the school. CCTV is connected only to government channels
MARIA LA GORDA–Judy sits in front of one of the few pictures of Fidel we saw
MARIA LA GORDA–Judy sits in front of one of the few pictures of Fidel we saw
MARIA LA GORDA–Life's a bit slow here: this is the town dance hall…
MARIA LA GORDA–Life's a bit slow here: this is the town dance hall…
MARIA LA GORDA– …and a restaurant closed to foreigners.
MARIA LA GORDA– …and a restaurant closed to foreigners.
GUANAHACABIBES BIOSPHERE RESERVE–Includes a World Heritage Site, but we saw very little
GUANAHACABIBES BIOSPHERE RESERVE–Includes a World Heritage Site, but we saw very little
GUANAHACABIBES–A weather station, active but closed and locked
GUANAHACABIBES–A weather station, active but closed and locked
GUANAHACABIBES–A ranger on horseback doesn't do much for a dull and disappointing visit.
GUANAHACABIBES–A ranger on horseback doesn't do much for a dull and disappointing visit.
LAS TERRAZAS–A community of 1000 people, descendants of some of Fidel's army
LAS TERRAZAS–A community of 1000 people, descendants of some of Fidel's army
LAS TERRAZAS–They hosted a lunch with local entertainment
LAS TERRAZAS–They hosted a lunch with local entertainment
LAS TERRAZAS–In the mountains west of Havana, it's a 'showplace' commune-type farming village
LAS TERRAZAS–In the mountains west of Havana, it's a 'showplace' commune-type farming village
LAS TERRAZAS–Apartment buildings provide rather upscale living conditions…
LAS TERRAZAS–Apartment buildings provide rather upscale living conditions…
LAS TERRAZAS– …and separate homes are far superior to other hamlets we saw.
LAS TERRAZAS– …and separate homes are far superior to other hamlets we saw.
LAS TERRAZAS–A coffeehouse, managed by residents; everything is owned by the government.
LAS TERRAZAS–A coffeehouse, managed by residents; everything is owned by the government.
LAS TERRAZAS–The place is slowly turning into a resort for rich tourists.
LAS TERRAZAS–The place is slowly turning into a resort for rich tourists.
LAS TERRAZAS–Yes, the inevitable crafts display and salesroom
LAS TERRAZAS–Yes, the inevitable crafts display and salesroom
HAVANA–Finally, we see the capital, Havana, off the starboard bow.
HAVANA–Finally, we see the capital, Havana, off the starboard bow.
HAVANA–The seafront is rather attractive, with well-preserved buildings and monuments
HAVANA–The seafront is rather attractive, with well-preserved buildings and monuments
HAVANA–The port facilities are crumbling and uninviting
HAVANA–The port facilities are crumbling and uninviting
HAVANA–Castle of the Three Kings and Morro Lighthouse, built by the Spanish in 1589, is right across the bay from Old Havana
HAVANA–Castle of the Three Kings and Morro Lighthouse, built by the Spanish in 1589, is right across the bay from Old Havana
HAVANA–Castle of San Carlos de la Cabana, 1763-74, also guards the entrance to the city
HAVANA–Castle of San Carlos de la Cabana, 1763-74, also guards the entrance to the city
HAVANA–Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, 1580-91, with Baroque embellishments…needs a good cleaning
HAVANA–Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, 1580-91, with Baroque embellishments…needs a good cleaning
HAVANA–A large plaza is alongside the basilica, with restored buildings around three sides
HAVANA–A large plaza is alongside the basilica, with restored buildings around three sides
HAVANA–The original structure can be discerned on the side wall of the basilica
HAVANA–The original structure can be discerned on the side wall of the basilica
HAVANA–Several sculptures and a large fountain grace the plaza
HAVANA–Several sculptures and a large fountain grace the plaza
HAVANA–A shopper with the day's finds strolls across the plaza.
HAVANA–A shopper with the day's finds strolls across the plaza.
HAVANA–The tourist trail leads from the basilica into the pedestrian zone of Old Havana
HAVANA–The tourist trail leads from the basilica into the pedestrian zone of Old Havana
HAVANA–Narrow streets with protruding balconies, all in pastel colors
HAVANA–Narrow streets with protruding balconies, all in pastel colors
HAVANA–A street vendor selling folded birds made of leaves
HAVANA–A street vendor selling folded birds made of leaves
HAVANA–The trail leads to Plaza Vieja, the heart of the city since 1559
HAVANA–The trail leads to Plaza Vieja, the heart of the city since 1559
HAVANA–Coffeehouses, cafes, and shops ring the plaza
HAVANA–Coffeehouses, cafes, and shops ring the plaza
HAVANA–The buildings have been lovingly restored
HAVANA–The buildings have been lovingly restored
HAVANA–The shell of an old hotel on the corner will magically transform into a luxury hotel
HAVANA–The shell of an old hotel on the corner will magically transform into a luxury hotel
HAVANA–On the plaza, a young man hawks tasty baked treats
HAVANA–On the plaza, a young man hawks tasty baked treats
HAVANA–A well-beaded lady
HAVANA–A well-beaded lady
HAVANA–A stroll down Mercaderes Street passes more Colonial buildings, not quite as pristine
HAVANA–A stroll down Mercaderes Street passes more Colonial buildings, not quite as pristine
HAVANA–One of the old cigar stores of Havana
HAVANA–One of the old cigar stores of Havana
HAVANA–Street person
HAVANA–Street person
HAVANA–Open space along Mercaderes Street
HAVANA–Open space along Mercaderes Street
HAVANA–Beneath the streets is evidence of Colonial Spanish drainage system
HAVANA–Beneath the streets is evidence of Colonial Spanish drainage system
HAVANA–Pastel restored buildings with lovely balconies
HAVANA–Pastel restored buildings with lovely balconies
HAVANA–Old cafe in old Havana
HAVANA–Old cafe in old Havana
HAVANA–Green space in the middle of the old city
HAVANA–Green space in the middle of the old city
HAVANA–Plaza Vieja, laid out in 1559, was the scene of fiestas, processions, and bullfights
HAVANA–Plaza Vieja, laid out in 1559, was the scene of fiestas, processions, and bullfights
HAVANA–The Plaza is surrounded by colonial mansions
HAVANA–The Plaza is surrounded by colonial mansions
HAVANA–Cathedral of the Virgin Mary of the Immaculate Conception, 1748-77, built of coral in Baroque style
HAVANA–Cathedral of the Virgin Mary of the Immaculate Conception, 1748-77, built of coral in Baroque style
HAVANA–The Cathedral once held the remains of Christopher Columbus
HAVANA–The Cathedral once held the remains of Christopher Columbus
HAVANA–A corner on Plaza Vieja
HAVANA–A corner on Plaza Vieja
HAVANA–The Spanish style courtyard can be seen through the doors of this old building on the Plaza
HAVANA–The Spanish style courtyard can be seen through the doors of this old building on the Plaza
HAVANA–Performers serenade the patrons at a restaurant
HAVANA–Performers serenade the patrons at a restaurant
HAVANA–A Santaria priestess on the plaza
HAVANA–A Santaria priestess on the plaza
HAVANA–The street and old gateway leading to Plaza de Armas…
HAVANA–The street and old gateway leading to Plaza de Armas…
HAVANA–…where, among other things, booksellers and artists set up shop
HAVANA–…where, among other things, booksellers and artists set up shop
HAVANA–Old building being restored for modern use
HAVANA–Old building being restored for modern use
HAVANA–
HAVANA–
HAVANA–Hotel Nacional, an Art Deco landmark
HAVANA–Hotel Nacional, an Art Deco landmark
HAVANA–Lobby of the Nacional, restored and open for business
HAVANA–Lobby of the Nacional, restored and open for business
HAVANA–Hotel Nacional Restaurant, frequented by 1940's entertainers and Mafia personnel
HAVANA–Hotel Nacional Restaurant, frequented by 1940's entertainers and Mafia personnel
HAVANA–The city skyline from the Malecon, a seafront roadway and promenade, known for sunsets and cruising old cars
HAVANA–The city skyline from the Malecon, a seafront roadway and promenade, known for sunsets and cruising old cars
HAVANA–Much of the city is a mish-mash of architectural styles and non-styles
HAVANA–Much of the city is a mish-mash of architectural styles and non-styles
HAVANA–Soviet-style concrete skyscrapers rise above the old and neglected city
HAVANA–Soviet-style concrete skyscrapers rise above the old and neglected city
HAVANA–A monument to an hero, possibly Napoleonic
HAVANA–A monument to an hero, possibly Napoleonic
HAVANA–Somebody's nice idea for a fountain…sans water
HAVANA–Somebody's nice idea for a fountain…sans water
HAVANA–National Museum of Fine Arts holds collections of Colonial Spanish, Cuban, and Latin American art
HAVANA–National Museum of Fine Arts holds collections of Colonial Spanish, Cuban, and Latin American art
HAVANA–Across the street is a small museum of the Revolution with 1950's era airplanes and vehicles
HAVANA–Across the street is a small museum of the Revolution with 1950's era airplanes and vehicles
HAVANA–This purports to be the tail of an American U-2
HAVANA–This purports to be the tail of an American U-2
HAVANA–The non-touristed sections of the city are less tidy but equally colorful
HAVANA–The non-touristed sections of the city are less tidy but equally colorful
HAVANA–All of the buildings are government-owned
HAVANA–All of the buildings are government-owned
HAVANA–Balconies are useful as well as pretty
HAVANA–Balconies are useful as well as pretty
HAVANA–Abandoned lot
HAVANA–Abandoned lot
HAVANA–A peek inside one of the old buildings
HAVANA–A peek inside one of the old buildings
HAVANA–Vibrant street life: more locals, fewer tourists
HAVANA–Vibrant street life: more locals, fewer tourists
HAVANA–Street vendor
HAVANA–Street vendor
HAVANA–Making churros…they were delicious!
HAVANA–Making churros…they were delicious!
HAVANA–Musicians of the Buena Vista Social Club celebrate a birthday…
HAVANA–Musicians of the Buena Vista Social Club celebrate a birthday…
HAVANA–…with dancing patrons at a corner cafe.
HAVANA–…with dancing patrons at a corner cafe.
HAVANA–Grand staircase of a decrepit building
HAVANA–Grand staircase of a decrepit building
HAVANA–The hallways exhibit evidence of 50 years of neglect
HAVANA–The hallways exhibit evidence of 50 years of neglect
HAVANA–But signs of occupation linger
HAVANA–But signs of occupation linger
HAVANA–Five stories up: will it collapse under me?
HAVANA–Five stories up: will it collapse under me?
HAVANA–And one more frail spiral staircase leads to…
HAVANA–And one more frail spiral staircase leads to…
HAVANA–…a completely remodeled rooftop bar for those who can afford it—tourists
HAVANA–…a completely remodeled rooftop bar for those who can afford it—tourists
HAVANA–A floodlit open frame…
HAVANA–A floodlit open frame…
HAVANA–…for sunset over the city; but where are the people?
HAVANA–…for sunset over the city; but where are the people?
HAVANA–They're down below on the dark and mysterious—and dangerous—streets
HAVANA–They're down below on the dark and mysterious—and dangerous—streets
HAVANA–Ah yes, the old cars! A 57 Ford
HAVANA–Ah yes, the old cars! A 57 Ford
HAVANA–And a 57 Chevy
HAVANA–And a 57 Chevy
HAVANA–58 Chevy convertible in pristine shape
HAVANA–58 Chevy convertible in pristine shape
HAVANA–Most of these are taxis with Russian diesel engines and tattered interiors
HAVANA–Most of these are taxis with Russian diesel engines and tattered interiors
HAVANA–58 Thunderbird
HAVANA–58 Thunderbird

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WORLD HERITAGE SITES

  Cuba is the largest, and the second-most populous, island in the Caribbean Sea. It lies along the northwestern curve of the Sea, just south of Florida. Before the arrival of the Spanish, Cuba was inhabited by three distinct Amerindian tribes: the Taino, the Guanajatabey, and the Ciboney–all of whom were farmers, fishermen, and hunter-gatherers.

  On his first voyage to the New World, Christopher Columbus landed on the northeast coast on October 28, 1492, and claimed the island for Spain. The first Spanish settlement was founded in 1511 at Baracoa and others soon followed, including Havana in 1515. Within a century, the indigenous people were virtually wiped out, mainly due to Eurasian infectious diseases. The island developed slowly, with a diverse agriculture topped by sugar cane; and the wars of empire between France, Britain, and Spain for the rich Caribbean island lands rolled over Cuba as well. A desire for independence from Spain resulted in rebellions and conflicts beginning in 1868, led by Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, and again in 1895, led by national hero, Jose Marti. Spanish troops then began a campaign of suppression, the United States sent the battleship Maine to protect U.S. interests and she exploded and sank in Havana harbor in 1898, and the Spanish-American War began. At the end of the war, Cuba gained independence in 1902, but the U.S. retained the right to intervene in Cuban affairs and supervise its finances and foreign relations; Cuba was also required to lease the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base to the U.S.

  Cuban-American relations have been strained ever since, with two occupations of Cuba by the U.S. and much rattling of sabers and nuclear missiles in the last century. What was once a lively, culturally diverse tourist destination became closed to U.S. citizens as the island descended into a Marxist-Leninist workers’ paradise. The effects of 50+ years of Communist rule can be clearly seen by the few Americans who make their way to the island. With the loosening of U.S. sanctions against the country since 2009, a different future lies ahead for Cuba but what the future will bring is yet uncertain.

  I visited Cuba in March, 2015, when the requirements for “educational travel and approved contacts with the Cuban people” were still in effect. The one-week tour hit three major cities: Cienfuegos, Trinidad, and Havana–as well as several ‘showcase’ villages and compounds on the western end of the island. Travel between the places was on a sailboat yacht with about 70 passengers (it was this that induced me to select the trip), and chartered local buses were used to move around the land. The ship was nice enough, with good food and an attentive crew—but the cabin for two was very tiny and thus not really comfortable. The rather-regimented touring included at least one “people-to-people” encounter each day, arranged and managed by various co-ops and committees, apparently designed to show us how free and comfortable and satisfied the people felt. Taken with several grains of salt… Since the focus was sociological rather than historical, I was left disappointed that we hadn’t seen much of what gave the three cities World Heritage Site status. But I guess I went there at a historical crossroads time and it will be interesting to watch the changes that come in future years.




Cienfuegos

Old Havana

Trinidad