From settlement to city. A walk-through Cienfuegos founding history
Cienfuegos would not be Cienfuegos without the sea. It was its sheltered Jagua bay what attracted the first indigenous settlers to the area. Then it was turn for the Spanish conquerors, and French immigrants who ultimately founded the city, unique in Cuba for its architecture and urbanism and declared for that reason in 2005, World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Around 1494, during his second trip to America, Cristóbal Colón made a stop here to stock up its vessels. Although he sent his first impressions to the monarchs naming the place “Puerto de Misas”, it wasn’t considered a strategic point in the newly-discovered island for its lack of gold.
When Diego Velazquez and his men spread their colonization machine across the island of Cuba, Cienfuegos remained untouched. Despite the excellent conditions of the Bay of Jagua and the fertility of its lands, it was never founded as a village. However, it works as the starting point from which conquerors departed to Trinidad and Sancti Spiritus in search of gold.
The region gave shelter to Fray Bartolomé, a Spanish priest who advocate for Indians rights and opposed to the cruel colonization methods. He was the precursor of forthcoming Spanish and European settlements who started supporting themselves by developing agriculture, fishing and livestock. Precious woods abounded in the whereabouts of what it is Cienfuegos’ current location which were employed back then in the construction of Havana mansions and the restoration of ships.
In 1554 famous pirates, Jacques de Sores, Francis Drake in 1586, along with John Morgan, Jean the Fiercest and Gilberto Girón in their time, docked in the Bay of Jagua. They were a source of trade for inhabitants in the region who oppressed by the Spanish ruling had restrictions to obtain or commerce certain goods.
Cienfuegos as an urban center has its origin on the 22nd April 1819 by immigrants from Bordeaux, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Don Luís De Clouet and Favrot, of French origin. Therefore, it became the only city in America that under the Spanish crown was imagined, designed and founded by French, a fact that identifies it as the most French-like city in Cuba.
It was named as Fernandina de Jagua on the original founding act, and changed definitively on May 20, 1829, when the king granted it the title of town and call it Cienfuegos in honor of Don José Cienfuegos, captain general of the island. Cienfuegos was ultimately granted the title of city by royal order of December 10, 1880, considering “the increase of its population, the progressive development of its agricultural and industrial wealth and the importance of its seaport.”