Viñales Valley
Viñales Valley
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Cultural Cuba Latin America And The Caribbean Province Of Pinar Del Rio

Viñales Valley is an outstanding karst landscape in which traditional methods of agriculture (notably tobacco-growing) have survived unchanged for several centuries. The region also preserves a rich vernacular tradition in its architecture, crafts and music.

The numerous caves scattered on the slopes of the hillocks in the Viñales Valley were inhabited for many centuries before the arrival of the Spanish conquerors. The fertile soil and favourable climate were conducive to the development of stockraising and the cultivation of fodder and food crops, using slaves from Africa. The cimarrones (escaped slaves) often found refuge in the caves of the valley. The Pan de Azúcar site contains the ruins of the biggest hacienda, where slaves were taught different trades.

The valley is surrounded by mountains. It is a plain of arable land, dotted with spectacular limestone outcrops (mogotes ) rising to a height of up to 300 m. It has a series of very large caves containing ammonite fossils. The vegetation on the hills is characterized by local endemic species, particularly Microcycas calocoma , and a living fossil of the Cretaceous phanerogamic flora. It is home to an interesting avian and molluscan fauna. The entire plain is devoted to traditional agriculture. Recent experiments have revealed that mechanical methods lower the quality of tobacco, and this explains why old methods, such as animal traction, are still being used.

Following the emergence and considerable expansion of tobacco cultivation, the village of Viñales was founded in 1875, along the road leading from Pinar del Rio, the capital of the province, to Puerto Esperanza, the main outlet to the sea. The Western Railroad (Ferrocarril del Oeste), of which only a few vestiges are left, was built in 1882. Viñales Valley was the scene of several military operations during the War of Independence and also during the Cuban Revolution. At present, the valley is devoted to agriculture;its population of some 8,000 people is engaged mainly in growing tobacco, a crop which gives the best yields.

Most of the buildings scattered over the plain are simple;they are built using local and natural materials, and are used as homes or family farms. The village of Viñales, strung out along its main street, has retained its original layout, and there are many interesting examples of colonial architecture. The valley is home to an original culture, a synthesis of contributions from indigenous peoples, Spanish conquerors and black slaves. An excellent illustration is the musical expression of the field worker (veguero ), of which Benito Hernández Cabrera (known as the Viñalero) was the main interpreter. Traditional crafts also flourish here. Cubans identify themselves strongly with Viñales Valley because of the beauty of the site and its historical and cultural importance. In the visual arts, the valley has been transformed into a symbol of the Caribbean landscape by artists such as Domingo Ramos and Tiburcio Lorenzo.

The site has a high degree of authenticity. It has been able to preserve its specific character, while adapting to modern conditions of life and receiving flows of visitors.

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