I’m up at 5 a.m. with a savage headache. I don’t know whether it was from the seven-year-old Havana Club rum I swilled last night or the small metropolis of roosters that are outside my bedroom door. I’ve heard a steady chorus of “cock-a-doodle-do” for nearly two hours. There are at least three of them, timing their insane cackles so when one stops another starts. When they do rest to catch their filthy breaths, I can hear other roosters off in the distance. It was the same thing in Havana. In the middle of the nation’s capital, one rooster sat outside my house and woke up everyone at the crack of dawn. It didn’t matter if you got home just before dawn. You weren’t sleeping anymore. And I’m not now.
Reading the history of Cuba, when they got rid of slavery they forgot to get rid of the roosters as well. Too bad rooster meat is awful. The Cubans would make a feast out of these bastards.
At least the roosters give this town of Trinidad some semblance of Cuba. Not much else does. I’ve been to touristy towns before. Las Vegas comes to mind. But few have been infiltrated to its very soul like Trinidad. It’s a city of 90,000 and I swear there are more tourists here than locals. Everywhere I went after arriving yesterday afternoon I saw white faces, whiter legs and sneakers. The locals, not surprisingly, have a much better command of English than anywhere in Havana, particularly when they’re outside their restaurants, art galleries and music venues barking at you to enter.
Trinidad, located on the southern coast about four hours from Havana, was one of the richest cities in Cuba. The massive fortunes the sugar industry produced before the first revolution in the early 19th century created a city of sprawling mansions, haciendas and a quaint town square. The town’s look has remained the same through two revolutions and the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The problem is it’s so cute and quaint, tourists come here by the busloads to see the “Perfectly Preserved Spanish Colonial Settlement.” UNESCO declaring it a World Heritage Site in 1988 didn’t help it any.
I read about its cobblestone streets. But they’re not like cobblestones in Havana, where they are even and flat and give you a historical feel, or Rome where they’re red and aligned so perfectly they look like 2,000-year-old mosaics. Trinidad’s cobblestones are simply a pile of rocks tied together by loads of concrete. Walking on them is like maneuvering around an obstacle course. Strolling in flipflops was a disaster. I was a sprained ankle waiting to happen. Even the hookers here don’t dare wear heels.