Cienfuegos is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful cities in Cuba. It was dubbed the Pearl of the South, after a song by Cuban music icon Benny Moré, who immortalized it in his lyrics as “the city that I like the most”.

“I cannot imagine my life anywhere else”, says Ángel Luis Oliva, a proud native of Cienfuegos. “I’ve been to other places in the world and I even studied at the University of Havana, but I could never live anywhere else.”

This is what happens to many inhabitants of Cienfuegos.  Many arts and science personalities have remained in this city despite finding better professional opportunities in the Cuban capital.

The city that Benny Moré praised in song

Lázaro García, one of the most important figures in the nueva trova movement, told the press that Cienfuegos is the city where he needs to live. The artist recognizes that in addition to love and family, “I need the seawall, the people, the city buildings”.

Without fear or regard for the disadvantages of geographical fatalism, other artists like him have managed their careers from “the beautiful city by the sea“, an epithet for which the city of Cienfuegos is also known.

Sunset: Many agree that one of the most beautiful scenes of Cienfuegos are its sunsets. Photo: Glenda Bozo

Troubadours like Nelson Valdés,  the Pedro and Roberto Novo brothers or writers, such as Marcial Gala and Atilio Caballero, just to mention some of the most contemporary ones, have evoked the charms of the city of Cienfuegos in their work.

Related article: Havana At Night: Meeting a Bohemian Life

And I Stayed In Cienfuegos… 

Despite the attractive work proposals that Cienfuegos generates for industries, such as the Oil Refinery, the Thermoelectric Plant, the Cement Factory or the still visualized Petrochemical Complex, this territory is not located in the most receptive provinces of the country, which ranked ninth in the Population and Housing Census of 2012.

On the contrary, Cienfuegos, according to data published by the ONEI, is precisely one of the places with less migration to other regions.

These indicators could refer to the acceptance of its inhabitants of their lifestyle, local development, social interests and work options in comparison to other locations.

Cienfuegos Cuba
The asymmetry of the bell towers of the Cathedral of Cienfuegos stands out as one of their interesting features. Photo: Glenda Boza

Some scholars say that in the case of Cienfuegos, immigration can contribute to its economic development considering that it is the second province with the smallest population in the country and high levels of industrialization.

In fact, many of the “non-natives” who have moved to this city have done so seeking better employment options.

Pedro Romero Figueroa, arrived in 2002, from Santiago de Cuba, when they went there looking for workers.

“I came alone and I had to find a place to stay. I’ve been living here for 16 years and now they finally gave me a house. I will now be able to bring my family and dedicate myself to agriculture”.

Nelvis Barroso Batista also works the land and came here looking for better medical care for his son who suffered from kidney failure.

Also known as the city of domes, one of the most beautiful architectural buildings in the center of the city is the Goitizolo Palace. Photo: Glenda Bozo

“It is not that things were bad there in San Luis, Santiago de Cuba, but here in Cienfuegos things are definitely better. My life changed. Not only did I find treatment for my son, but I was also given the land that I was always denied. Now I am independent and happy”.

There are thousands of stories like these, stories of people who are proud of the place where they were born and, above all, who recognize that “staying the course in Cienfuegos, at all cost, has been the best thing that has happened to them”.

Cienfuegos celebrates its bicentennial

In the midst of its bicentennial celebration, Cienfuegos stands majestically among the cities of Cuba. Many labels have been used to highlight its beauty, but none as true as “the beautiful city by the sea“.

This was acknowledged by UNESCO in 2005, when it declared the Historic Center of Cienfuegos “Cultural Heritage of Humanity” for being a prime and exceptional example of an architectural ensemble representative of the new ideas of modernity, hygiene and order in urban planning efforts developed in XX Century Latin America”.

Cienfuegos Cuba
Castle of Jagua. Photo: Glenda Bozo

The seawall that runs along part of its bay; the longest Paseo del Prado in Cuba; its eclectic architecture that combines tradition and a modern flare; and even the industrial towers, visible from a distance, are some of the elements that one cannot forget when talking or singing about Cienfuegos.

Even its two cemeteries, declared National Monument and Outdoor Funeral Heritage Site, serve as setting for wedding and sweet sixteen party photos, without any worry about superstition overshadowing the beauty and peculiarity of these resting grounds.

Carlos González Dávila, head of  KToque Estudio, one of the most important private photography businesses in Cienfuegos, recognizes that he can also turn into cheerful photos those whose main location are the beautiful vaults, the almost perfect marble sculptures, and the still noticeable beauty of the tombs and the rusty bars, corroded by time and saltpeter.

Just by contemplating it, whether in photos, videos or in person, you can see why this city, founded by the French and among the youngest and most modern of Cuba, once inspired Benny Moré to sing, “I stayed in Cienfuegos“.

Article written byGlenda Boza. PanamericanWorld. Cuba