We have an hours ride along the Carribean coast to Trinidad. Preserved as a colonial city, Trinidad, founded in 1514 is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Our time will be spent in the old part of the city. Nancy Benitez, architect from the Office of the City Historian is on hand to present an overview of the city’s history and architecture. Basically Trinidad was not the most prominent cities in Cuba. Its era of growth and prosperity is centered around the sugar cane business 18-19 th Century. Spanish and European influences including Italian paintings and artifacts are found from this era. By 1886, the number of sugar mills dropped from 56 to 18 compounding the issues of lack of slave labor, lack of capital (over spending on mansions, etc.), port much too shallow for long haul ships, poor soil , water, etc. Trinidad remained cut off from much of the country due to lack of transportation. By 1990 there are 5 restaurants, 2 bars and 2 shops yhe number of which remained unchanged from 1990 until 2010. 2% of income from these businesses were paid to government.
By 2011, private business arise – 48,000 people with 300,000 tourists overnighting. No infrastructure to accommodate this influx. However, Trinidad has grown into the second highest city hosting private businesses, second only to Havana. In 4 years time over 1000 rooms, 80 restaurants are introduced. But they are not government sponsored so there is no direct tax collected. This has a huge impact on the historical preservation of the city. Income tax only on private business, artists, rooms, etc. Also there is a labor and cash shortage of course in the area of historical preservation.
Recently, Cuba has formed 2 trade zones (as China) where there are tax incentives put in place for businesses. This is an experiment to see if the incentives will benefit the development in these areas.
Our historian accompanies us to a refurbished house that now operates as hostal. It’s outdoor patio is so inviting we want to spend the rest of the day. We note the Arabic influence in the wood beams of roof.
After a very longgggg lunch, we have free time to roam through the private shops – cuentapropistas. We step into a museum in a former family home where we climb some very rickety stairs onto the roof of a tower with a great view of the city.
When we gather again, it is at the home/business of Julio Munoz ,a Cuban entrepreneur, who operates a bed&breakfast out of his family home. He is a professed photographer and horse whisper. The latter we were provided no evidence of this talent. Julio spoke of some of the challenges of starting and running a private business including taxation.
On our own for dinner, we walk toward town on the water to Finca del Mar a lovely little outside cafe with seafood, music and nice atmosphere.