Trinidad History Facts and Timeline

(Trinidad, Sancti Spiritus, Cuba)

Built on the back of sugar and slaves, the exquisite historic town of Trinidad is one of the finest Spanish-era colonial sites in Cuba, if not the entire Americas. The history of Trinidad is directly connected to the European craze for sugar in the 18th century.

The subsequent wealth that the sugar boom brought this town is reflected in its wonderfully preserved colonial centre, which has ranked as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for several decades.

One of Seven Villas

In 1514, the Spanish Conquistador Diego Velazquez founded a settlement known as Villa de la Santisima Trinidad on the site of an indigenous Taino village. Velazquez was the man who conquered Cuba and consequently governed it in the first years of Spanish colonisation. This was the fourth of Velazquez's seven original towns (villas).

Sugar Wealth

Sugar cane was at the heart of the history of Trinidad from the very beginning, helping this fairly humble collection of houses to quickly grow into a prosperous town. The surrounding Valle de los Ingenios was the hub of sugar cane production at this time, and this was its primary town. The influx of wealth was exceptional.

By the middle of the 1700s, the demand for sugar reached a frenzied peak in Europe. This resource boom created a group of local sugar barons who became as rich as kings and built huge manor houses in Trinidad, as well as palatial estates in the countryside. African slaves were imported by the thousand to work the sugar plantations.

The End of the Golden Era

The golden-gilded history of Trinidad was a fairly short-lived chapter however. Competition to export sugar in other parts of the Caribbean was intense and eventually stole much of Cuba's dominance. Frequent slave uprisings on the plantations, coupled with a general wave of struggles for independence across the Caribbean led to the downfall of the town's sugar industry.

A Town Forgotten

By the 1860s, the bottom completely dropped out of the global sugar market and Trinidad's economy, which was entirely dependent on sugar, collapsed. The town slipped away into obscurity and the history of Trinidad entered an empty period for decades.

A Blessing in Disguise

It was the collapse of Trinidad's economy that caused this magnificent colonial town to freeze in time. The town was passed over as a relic of another time when modernisation began to sweep through Cuba, following its independence. This allowed it to escape the island's development in the early 20th century, that would have likely ruined its pristine historic atmosphere.

Even before the revolutionary movement took over Cuba, the government realised the historic value and beauty of Trinidad. It was declared off-limits to development as far back as the 1950s. UNESCO had little to ponder when it declared the colonial core of the town a World Heritage Site in 1988.

City Museum of Cuba

Today, Trinidad is known as the City Museum of Cuba, a treasure of architecture and ambience unparalleled in the country. Tourists from home and abroad flock to the Plaza Mayor at the heart of the town every year, to explore its cobblestone streets lined with colonial buildings and historic monuments.

Through its museums and landmarks, the rich heritage of Trinidad's sugary past is laid out everywhere you look.