Cienfuegos was just a quick stop on our excursion to TRINIDAD, but as soon as I stepped off the bus, I was wishing we could stay at least a few hours. Cienfuegos was lovingly nicknamed in colonial times the "Pearl of the South". The seaside city still retains much of its colonial delight, thanks in part to a well preserved historic centre. As the centre of Cienfuegos, Parque Marti is revered both for its historical importance and symbolic significance.
The establishment of Cienfuegos was quietly celebrated here, under the hibiscus tree chosen as the marker for laying out the city's first 25 blocks. Inlaid in the cement of this former parade ground is a compass rose, called the "zero kilometre", marking the central point of Cienfuegos. Lions on marble pedestals flank the entrance to the park, framing a monument in the distance dedicated to Cuban national hero, Jose Marti. Further down the path, at the west end of the park, stands Cuba's only triumphal arch. Commissioned in 1902 by the local workers' corporation, it commemorates the creation of the Republic of Cuba.
Parque Marti is surrounded by many important historical buildings, another reason why the plaza has been declared a national monument. Here are some of the buildings you'll see around the perimeter of Parque Marti.
Antiguo Ayuntamiento. This elegant building is said to be modeled after the Capitolio in Havana. It is home to the provincial government assembly.
Catedral de la Purisima Concepcion. Cienfuegos' cathedral was built from 1833-1869. It features two bell towers, of differing heights, French stained glass windows and a Neoclassical facade.
Teatro Tomas Terry. Tomas Terry Adams was a wealthy sugar factory owner who later became mayor of Cienfuegos. It was in his last will and testament to have this Italian-style theatre built after his death. World famous singers, such as Italian tenor Enrico Caruso, performed here.
Collegio de San Lorenzo. Another Neoclassical building, this school was built thanks to a generous donation from Nicolas Jacinto Acea, an academic who valued accessible education for all.
Palacio Ferrer. This palacio was built in the early 1900s by sugar magnate Jose Ferrer Sires. Rumour has it that Enrico Caruso stayed here when he performed at Teatro Tomas Terry.