“I hope there are more Trinidads out there. I’d like to find and wander through them all, to fall in love over and over again.”

This was the thought floating in my head as I sat through the six-hour bus ride from Trinidad, Cuba, back to Havana, the country’s capital and tourist hub. I first learned about the small town in central Cuba while scrolling through #trinidad on Instagram. I’d been reminiscing on my time spent in Trinidad and Tobago, when a particular photo caught my eye. It wasn’t the Trinidad I knew, but it had its own striking beauty. Pictured was a cobblestone road lined with bright blue and yellow walls, the foreground a rich landscape of an elderly man’s face. I fell in love with the setting instantly. A year had passed since my last travels, and I was looking for a destination that would satisfy my craving for a new cultural experience.

Before long, I was planning my trip to this newfound Trinidad. It was going to be my first solo journey to a country where I didn’t speak the native language, so I hoped to find a community there to help me through the challenges of being on my own. Luckily, I wasn’t disappointed.

During my week in Cuba, I toured through Old Havana and the neighborhood of Vedado. I roamed outside the city to Viñales, too, but Trinidad… Trinidad was the heart and soul of my time in the country.

I didn’t have to know what “colonial architecture” meant to appreciate the tiny town’s infrastructural beauty. I also didn’t have to explore for long to discover why it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was fascinating to see how such a small community has held on to its heritage while still welcoming visitors. Like Havana, many will describe it as a place stuck in time, but really, it’s a community that has aged gracefully, allowing modernity and history to  coexist in a beautiful way.

Each day seemed to break peacefully. Roosters crowed as the smell of fresh bread filled the air; horses’ hooves clattered against the cobblestone as the sun rose; siblings and cousins walked each other to school; elders took in the morning through the windows of their colorful homes; everyone greeted each other with buenos dias — and just like that, the once-quiet lanes bustled with life as new and old generations mingled.

Despite its small population, Trinidad’s nightlife rivals the exuberance of the days. Restaurants and bars line almost every corner, live music echoes throughout the streets, salsa dancers emerge after dark, and artists showcase work from their living room spaces well beyond what is considered “regular” business hours. And no matter where I wandered, even after midnight, I never once felt unsafe — a female solo traveler with a huge camera hanging from her shoulder.

My two days in Trinidad were hardly enough, yet I still left with a feeling of fullness. And now, when I think of “Trinidad”, I remember the vibrant Cuban town that made me feel so immersed and welcomed.

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Renise Olisa
Renise Olisa is a full-time photographer currently based in the Turks and Caicos Islands. She pairs her love for photography with an immense passion for cultural expression and preservation, and is aiming to document as much of the Caribbean experience as she can. She credits her love for travel, culture, and photography to growing up in over five countries.