Cienfuegos, Cuba

Mar 09, 2018 - Harmony V

Bienvenue to Cienfuegos! We have arrived back ‘home’ in Cienfuegos after an evening at sea. Cienfuegos is not only fun to say, but one of my personal favorite towns we visit during this excursion through the Cuban archipelago. Designated as a UNESCO world heritage site, Cienfuegos has gone through many evolutions beginning as Cuba’s only French settlement (rather than Spanish) during the height of the sugar era, to a coastal getaway for the rich and famous, to its current state of a carefree nautical port welcoming visitors looking for an escape from the busy city of Havana.

We spent our morning enjoying a walking tour through Plaza Martí to marvel at the elegance of the surrounding French architecture, through a bustling local farmer’s market, and down the city’s quiet promenade to meet local artists and vendors during Cienfuegos’ annual book fair. During the afternoon we explored the upscale neighborhood of Punta Gorda, a skinny peninsula surrounded by the bay of Cienfuegos, which includes a historic yacht club, Batista’s former summer home, and even an eclectic Moorish-inspired castle. Guide books claim that if Cuba had a Paris, this is most definitely it.

One of the reasons Cienfuegos is so incredible is all the phenomenal talent that comes out of this city - beginning in elementary school at the Benny Moré School of Art, a boarding and day school teaching classical music, dance, and visual art, as well as a community arts program called Abracadabra promoting song and dance among the youngest generation of Cienfuegos - both of which we had the opportunity to watch performances at and meet the talent on our last day in Cuba.

We close our time in Cuba together at the top of the Union Hotel in central Cienfuegos for views over the pastel city with fresh mojitos in hand for a final toast. Hasta la proxima!

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About the Author

Erika Skogg

National Geographic Photographer

Erika Skogg is a photographer, educator, and National Geographic Explorer with experience documenting cultural stories from the United States to Morocco, Greenland, Iceland, Colombia, and beyond. Born and raised in Wisconsin, Erika’s photographic research and storytelling ideas are driven by the desire to immerse, understand, and visually preserve the region’s local Nordic culture, and in 2018, Erika received a National Geographic Early Career Grant for her project “Scandinavian American.” Erika travels to Scandinavia regularly in search of the cultural connections to our emigrant history and promote an interest in one’s own genealogy to foster a respect for the continued immigration of today.

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