The bay on which Port Cienfuegos rests was among the first Cuban places visited by Christopher Columbus in Cuba. It wasn't for another three and a half centuries that the town was founded in 1819 by French emigrants from Louisiana. They named the town for one of the founders. Cienfuegos was destroyed by a tropical storm in 1825 and later rebuilt.
Cienfuegos is an important industrial city, leading the nation in overall industrial production. The city also is a key trading center as one of the major ports on Cuba's southern coast.