The Southern Pearl is the capital of Cienfuegos province equally named. On Cuba's Caribbean side, the city perches on the shores of Jagua Bay like a pearl sitting. Founded in 1819, the Villa was named after the Cuban Governor of the time, José Cienfuegos.

Although Christopher Columbus may have visited the zone during his second trip, and although the Spanish may have built the Jagua Castle in 1745, Cienfuegos started his development only after 1819, when wealthy Frenchman D'Clouet of Louisiana promoted this area to the French, who began to populate the region from Bordeaux among other places. The French influence had therefore an impact over the city history, particularly during the 19th century, when it became a major port for the sugar, tobacco, and coffee trades. Today, the province produces sugar, citrus fruits, cattle and coffee while developing its industrial side as well.

The city, planned according to a geometric layout typical of Neo-Classicism, conserves the European flavor in its colonial hub, with a wide Parisian Style boulevard and elegant colonnades. Exploring the historic center, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, and strolling along the malecon (seafront promenade) with its wonderful buildings fronting the harbor make for a splendid visit.

José Martí Park: Formerly called Plaza de Armas, this large square has been declared a national monument because of the surrounding buildings and its historic importance. It was here that the ceremony of the foundation of the city took place in the shade of a hibiscus tree, chosen afterwards as a marker for laying out the city’s first 25 blocks. The zero kilometer, the central point of Cienfuegos, is in the middle of the park. Lions on a marble pedestal flank a monument to José Martí, Cuban National Hero, erected in 1906. On Bouyón Street stands the only triumphal arch in Cuba. The Palacio del Ayuntamiento entirely occupies one side of the park. It now houses the provincial government assembly.

The Tomás Terry Theatre: Built in 1869, is a good example of eclectic Creole architecture. This Italian-style theater was the last will of Tomás Terry Adams, a slave trader and sugar factory owner who also became mayor. Declared a national monument, it has witnessed the performances of world famous figures like Sarah Bernhardt in the early 1900s. Its austere façade fronts the Central Park, and has 5 arches corresponding to the entrances of the theater. A huge fresco and ceramic masks on the pediment are also significant elements in the theater.

La Reina Cemetery: In the old section of the city, is a relic of 19th century funeral art. It houses remarkable monuments and low reliefs.

Jagua Castle: This well preserved castle was built in 1795 to repel attacks from pirates and smugglers. The Lady in Blue apparently haunts the premises. Her ghost sports an elegant blue brocade dress and rattles her jewelry.

Purísima Concepción Cathedral: Cienfuegos cathedral was finished in 1869. Its Neo-Classical facade with two bell towers of different height and stained-glass windows imported from France depicting the twelve Apostles are some its distinguishing features.

Beaches: Small beaches on the Caribbean Sea surround this urban center; such as Rancho Luna and El Inglés. The 50 scuba diving spots, between the entry channel of Jagua Bay and Boca Ambuila, are fascinating. Apart from the famous Notre Dame coral column, there are sunken ships and abundant species of fish.

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