Monday, February 05, 2007

Day 9 - 11 - Trinidad

"Psssst! Cigar, cigar!"

That was the accompanying chorus during our two days in Trinidad. That and "skol!" from the German tourist groups bedecked with all-inclusive bracelets, downing rum cocktails in ten minutes flat and taking up the whole bar we'd just found tucked away in a discreet side street. No so discreet in the end.

Trinidad is truly beautiful place, with a peaceful main square, little cobbled streets you can lose yourself (and your balance) in, and gorgeous colonial houses partly restored with money from UNESCO. The streets are narrow and pedestrianised for the most part, and there is rhythmic salsa music wherever you turn.

So why didn't I love it? Trinidad has unfortunately turned into Disneyland, or at least as close as Cuba will get to that. In no other place in Cuba did I feel so much like a tourist. I felt rich, stared at, guilty and frustrated all at the same time. Cuba, generally, is not like other countries where people barter with you, pulling you over to see their products or insisting on selling you things, but in Trinidad it was. In Trinidad, pregnant mothers begged "for the baby" and children asked for pens and soap.

I can't decide if the beggars are more prominent in Trinidad because there are no jobs available, or because there are so many tourists milling around, easy pickings, that the people of Trinidad, exhausted from working for 20€ a month for the government, have found a new way to get what they need. Maybe it's because so many tourists go there on day trips from Varadero, eating in government restaurants and drinking in government bars, then get back on their coaches and to the safety of their government hotels (51% of all hotels in Cuba are owned by the government).

Perhaps if more people stayed in the casas particulars in Trinidad, eating with families there and contributing to the local economy, the people there would be able to stop harrassing tourists in the street and benefit from their presence in another way.

On a lighter note, we met my friend S and her boyfriend S while we were in Trinidad, they had booked their holiday in Cuba too, so we enjoyed the casa de la musica in Trinidad over mojitos and daiquiris (again...). S and S gave us a little salsa show from the lesson they'd had on the streets of Havana.

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