Cienfuegos, Cuba October 2017 (22 photos)

This is part 10 of my Cuba 2017 photo series.

After a few days in the city of Trinidad on the south coast of Cuba, I headed back towards Havana. Along the way I stopped in the city of Cienfuegos.

Cienfuegos is a city on the southern coast of Cuba. It is about 250 km from Havana and has a population of 150,000. The city is dubbed La Perla del Sur (Pearl of the South). It is the only city in Cuba founded by the French.

It is known for its colonial-era buildings.

Not surprisingly for a town that shares its name with Camilo Cienfuegos, who fought with Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, it has many reminders of the revolution.

Q: Where are your buccaneers?
A: Under my buccanhat.

Bucanero is the name of one of the local beers.

The central square is named after José Martí.

Tomás Terry Theater has gold-leaf mosaics and ceiling frescoes.

Leaving Cienfuegos, I continued towards Havana but I decided to make another stop along the way. And so it was that a funny thing happened on the road to Havana; this is the story of my visit to Australia.

The village of Australia, founded in 1862, is in a sugar growing area and dominated by the old, out-of-service sugar factory’s chimney, with “Australia” written prominently down its length. The village is named after the factory, the Central Australia, which like others in the area were named after continents.

The village was the first sugar town in Cuba to stop using slave labour.

It still has a working steam train.

But the small village of Australia has a very important role in Cuban history and subsequent World history.

On 17 March 1960, the CIA’s plan for the overthrow of Castro’s administration was given the support of US President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The stated first objective of the plan was to “bring about the replacement of the Castro regime with one more devoted to the true interests of the Cuban people and more acceptable to the US in such a manner to avoid any appearance of US intervention.” The CIA trained and funded Brigade 2506, a counter-revolutionary military group mostly made up of Cuban exiles in the USA to invade Cuba, gain the support of the local population, establish a provisional government, and then call upon the USA for military support. Eisenhower’s successor, John F. Kennedy, approved the final invasion plan on 4 April 1961.

However, Cuban intelligence operatives soon found out about the invasion plans. In preparation for the coming invasion, Fidel Castro took direct control of the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces, and based his defensive military operations in the village of Australia, just 42km from the Bay of Pigs.

The Bay of Pigs invasion commenced on 17 April 1961 but as American involvement in the invasion became public knowledge, President Kennedy withheld the needed additional military support to Brigade 2506. On 20 April, the members of Brigade 2506 surrendered after only three days, with the majority being publicly interrogated and put into prisons, or killed.

The failed invasion strengthened the position of Castro’s leadership, made him a national hero, and strengthened the relationship between Cuba and the Soviet Union. This eventually led to the events of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, the enduring US embargo against Cuba, and the initiation under President Kennedy of Operation Mongoose which included plans to recruit the Mafia to assassinate President Castro. As it was, President Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963. Interesting.

One of the local “Australians”. I had great pleasure in telling him I was from Australia too.

In the background to the left are the remnants of a spy plane, shot down during the conflict.

This is part 10 of my Cuba 2017 photo series.

This is part 12 of my photo series of my 2017 trip to the USA, Mexico, Cuba, and Canada.

Leica Etcetera, Photography Etcetera

A funny thing happened on the road to Havana


64 thoughts on “A funny thing happened on the road to Havana

  1. Fantastic piece of history you’ve incorporated into this, Draco. What a time it was! 😦 Wonderful photos, as ever you’ve got to the heart of it. I started out singinging that ‘Havana’ song that’s on the radio these days, but soon stopped when I got wrapped up in your post. 🙂 🙂

    • History comes to life. Actually, I had a steam train trip planned whilst in Cuba but missed out because the train tracks were destroyed in one area by Hurricane Irma. That would have been fun.

  2. Draco!!! Amazing! To think that our country’s namesake played such a pivotal role in the defeat of the Bay of Pigs invasion!!! Wow! We can be proud!
    The photos as usual are fantastic, love our companero the Australian!!!

    Thanks for this interesting piece of history, Draco, fascinating!

  3. What a coincidence that you are from Australia and visited a town called Australia in Cuba. It is amazing how the wreckage from the spy plane is still there after quite a few decades, and seems like the locals see it as just a piece of their town, a part of their life and history.

    Like Jo, I had the Havanna song stuck in my head…just before I came on WP this evening. Lovely to see another Cuba post from you. Again, superb shots 🙂

  4. Gorgeous the “stories” from the Pearl of the South and the village of Australia,Draco!Fantastic photo series with magnificent neoclassical mansions,monuments,murals;the mosaics and the ceiling frescoes in Tomás Terry theater are spectacularly displayed.Your references to recent history and to political intrigues were compelling as well.Thanks to your post the village of Australia became famous 🙂

    • Thank you so much. I can’t help but wonder how much grander and magnificent Cuba would be if it had the money and resources to maintain its heritage buildings, but then the charm of decay would be lost. I find the political intrigue so fascinating, particularly with the tool of hindsight.

  5. I thought Trinidad was sooo cool. To see all of the different modes of transportation from the horses, Chinese bikes and the cars was educational for me! Great pics!

  6. Such a treat to view these remarkable photos and read the historical information.
    JFK and Cuba, “As it was, President Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963.”… It was a chaotic period of time, say the least.
    Thank you for the awesome post, Dragon!

  7. I love the Australia connection and the trains, as well as virtually visiting a country I’ve never visited. It’s interesting to get a different perspective on some of the world events as well.


  8. An amazing snippet of history you have given us LD and I’ve been wondering when you would get to Australia, I believe you mentioned you would be going there way back in the beginning of this series of fascinating insights into Cuba. I also wondered when I opened this post what on earth was Uluru doing in your feature photo… Incidentally that is a lovely photo it looks like a painting. Again you have given us a great selection of images of this unique country. Thank goodness America never got its foot in. I’ve been away and off line for a week so I’m busy catching up and am travelling backwards through your posts

    • The village of Australia was a complete surprise to me. Then discovering its role in history was even more of a surprise. Those were chaotic and intriguing times indeed. Yes, I did hint at this post ages ago. I’m a fair bit behind in posting. 🙂

      That Uluru photo is one of about 15 that appear at the top of my page to identify my blog, separate to the post. I prefer that to the same static image each time someone visits my site. But that was quite fortuitous that a photo of Australia appeared for you on this particular post. 🙂

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