From my balcony, I surveyed the street below as the morning sun shined brightly onto the roof terracotta roof tiles. Pedestrians, cyclist and horse driven carts moved slowly on this street. The clouds on the nearby mountains had dissipated. It promised to be a hot day. My tummy was not happy, some kind of bug perhaps.
After a nice and refreshing breakfast, I headed back to Plaza Mayor to contemplate my options today. A distinctive clip-clop sound of horse hoof on cobbled stones was uplifting and gave a rural feeling. I noticed a pig carcass on the back of the cart. Although, Trinidad is a tourist town, the locals have maintained their normal way of live here. Classic American cars also plied the same streets alongside the horses. The central part of this old town is pedestrians only streets.
At Plaza mayor, I met a group of musicians. I was not sure if they were returning home after the night’s events or just starting up. It was quite early. The usual pleasantries, my origins and where I lived and so on. Moises was very curios indeed as he was eager to learn. We talked about economics, agriculture developments, wealth, cost of living and income. I pulled out my notebook to show a roughly scratched world map, consequence from previous conversations, to locate New Zealand and Malaysia. Moises was quick to point out the locations. On the map, New Zealand and Cuba were on opposite ends of the page. “It is very far?” Not really, and I folded the ends to meet, like a globe, they got the picture. We had a good laugh and a little more understanding. I loved the look of learning innocence on their faces. Personally, I loved the interaction and physical touch like between old acquaintances. In my limited Spanish, we managed to understand Malaysian, New Zealand and Cuban issues.
Where did you learn how to speak Spanish”? I pulled out my Lonely Planet book. Immediately, Snr Golban, the oldest member here, identified himself on the cover photo! I refuted gently with a laugh as the face is hidden behind the double bass. The other guys insisted on proofing this. Snr Golban was a shy man. They held Golban’s hand and as he clinched his guitar, the distinctive crease on his hand was identical to that on the picture. Enrique, the ‘joker’ and most friendly guy quickly flipped through the book. They recognised another picture, a musical group on a street. “That’s Los Pinos”, he exclaimed excitedly. Enrique and Moises led to me meet them. I followed. On one of the streets along a block of houses and restaurants, the members of the Los Pinos played catchy salsa and son music. Soon, I had a dedicated band playing just for me. Moises, pulled out his trumpet, later joined in. Enrique couldn’t help himself and took the maracas. It was fantastic. The mood great, a sense of camaraderie and for the first time in Cuba, a sense of belonging. Enrique acknowledged me as an “amigo”, friend.
After my delightful time with the Los Pinos and my new amigos, I headed off to the Museo Historica. From the roof top, this must be one of the best views of old Trinidad and its surroundings. It was truly a magical view. The bell tower of Convento de San Francisco de Asis rose above the wonderful rustic terracotta roofs tiles and narrow cobbled stone streets. In the background, the green Escambray Mountains. To the south, a thin blue line of the Caribbean. Just below, a small local market was just beginning its day. A small morning market was just starting up. Typical Cubano dresses and an assortment of curios were on display. I could alos peep into neighbours homes from here.
Trinidad is truly a living museum. Although, it is a main tourist place, life seemed to be normal. I did not find it touristy. This made the experience more personal and exciting. Back on the picturesque streets, the locals smiled easily. Conversations is limited as language becomes an obstacle for both sides. Nevertheless, I was not holding back. Gentle whispers offered ‘priced’ Cuban cigars and horse riding opportunities into the mountains and to the former sugar plantations. In fact, Trinidad was built from the proceeds of sugar cane and tobacco cultivation in the surrounding regions. Resulting from these cultivations, West African slaves were brought in to work in the plantations. Their cultures and beliefs inherently followed them and hence, established a wonderful Afro-Cuban heritage.