April 17, 2015. Cienfuegos

Our day begins at the Cienfuegos Botanical Garden. A botany expert takes us on a short walk along the main road of the facility pointing out various trees and bushes on site. Because we are in the tropics many of the species are known to Florida and other venues with this same climate. We see large hibiscus trees, a Brazil nut tree, different types of Palm trees and mimosa tree. A tarantula bravely crosses the road for our photo shoot.

Across the way is a sugar mill complex- the Cuban equivalent of a company town. Although the sugar mill has long since been closed, the workers remain living in the complex. Nancy Robaina , a teacher & historian, explains the history of Edward Atkins with the botanical gardens & the mill. On or about 1884 Atkins is able to buy the land for the mill etc. slavery was regressing. The railroad was built to accommodate the farming. Atkins introduced payment for labor. Although the workers were paid in pesos they had to buy from the company store. It was not a place to make money. Of course in 1960 the farm was nationalized. When the bottom fell out of the cane market , mills closed and labor was cut. Many of the buildings were used for schools 1 – 5 ratio of teacher to student.

Petro, a steam engine driver (later heavy fuel, now night watchman, explained his role with the mill. The people now wish to turn the site into a museum.

We lunch across the street from the hotel, Casa de Verde and then spend a few hours walking around the local malecon. Late in the afternoon, we walk in downtown Cienfuegos to the main square. This is a much younger city – 1902, reflected in its architecture. Our visit is concluded with a presentation by the Choir of Cienfuegos, European traveled capella group.

Dinner in town at hot pink building is la prado where we can walk or ride back to the hotel.

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