Most of [node:61253 link Cienfuegos buildings of note surround Parque Martí, on the ground where the founding of the first settlement was proclaimed on April 22, 1819. The city’s most prominent and illustrious sons are commemorated in bronze or stone, including a statue to José Martí, guarded by two marble lions. Note the triumphal arch on the west side, unveiled in 1902 on the day the Cuban Republic was constituted.
The Catedral de la Purísima Concepción (tel. 043/52-5297, daily 7 a.m.–noon), on the east side of the square, dates from 1870. It has a splendid interior, with marble floors and a pristine gilt Corinthian altar beneath a Gothic vaulted ceiling. The stained-glass windows of the 12 apostles were brought from France following the revolution of 1789.
On the north side is the deteriorated Colegio San Lorenzo, a handsome neoclassical building. Adjoining it is Teatro Tomás Terry (tel. 043/51-3361, daily 9 a.m.–6 p.m., CUC2 including guide, CUC2 camera), completed in 1895 and named for a local sugar baron, a Venezuelan who had arrived penniless in Cuba in the mid-1800s. The proscenium is sumptuously decorated and has a bas-relief centerpiece of Dionysius.
The auditorium, with its three-tiered balconies, is made entirely of Cuban hardwoods and can accommodate 900 people in old-fashioned, fold-down wooden seats. The theater floor can be raised to stage level to create a grand ballroom. Enrico Caruso, Sarah Bernhardt, and the Bolshoi Ballet performed here. The Nacional Ballet and Ópera de Cuba still perform, bringing the bats from their hiding places to swoop over the heads of the audience.
On the west side, the Casa de la Cultura (Calle 25 #5403, tel. 043/51-6584, 8:30 a.m.– midnight, free) occupies the much-dilapidated Palacio Ferrer, an eclectically styled former mansion of sugar baron José Ferrer Sirés.
The former Spanish Club (the initials CE, inset in the pavement, stand for Club Español), on the south side, dates from 1898 and now houses the Museo Histórico Provincial (Av. 54 #2702, esq. Calle 27, tel. 043/51-9722, Tues.–Sat. 10 a.m.–6 p.m., Sun. 9 a.m.–noon, CUC2). It displays a modest assortment of antiques, plus an archaeological room honoring the Indians of the Americas. Fifty meters east is the Primer Palacio, now the Poder Popular, the local government headquarters.
Cater-corner to the Poder Popular is the Casa del Fundador (Av. 54, esq. 29, tel. 043/55-2144, Mon.–Sat. 9 a.m.–5:30 p.m., Sun. 9 a.m.–12:30 p.m., CUC1), where lived city founder Don Luis D’Clouet.
© Christopher P. Baker from Moon Cuba, 5th Edition