viernes, 10 de diciembre de 2010

Valley of the Sugar Mills, a Living Cuban Museum

Trinidad is an old Cuban city, declared World Heritage by UNESCO in 1988 and situated between the mountains and the sea. It is an unforgettable and grand site for those looking for very well preserved architecture from the past, as well as its natural surroundings.

The nearby Sugar Mill Valley, which with its bright vegetation surrounding the environment with almost magic traces from a past that forms part of Cuban history, is the true source of its heritage.

The valley had monumental industrial architecture for its size and variety of materials, together with unique examples of domestic buildings, known as sugar-mill houses, some of them very well kept today.

The sugar-mill houses still existing in Sugar Mill Valley, are an example of the type of construction linked with economic activities, basically sugar production, and the environment. The interrelation between the natural scenario, constructive expression and the ruins, represent past generations because Trinidad owes its origin to the sugar industry. Together with its cultural richness, exuberant natural scenery and numerous places linked with the past, Trinidad has in Sugar Mill Valley a unique treasure of the development of the sugar industry in the largest of the Antilles.

One can still admire the Manacas-Iznaga bell tower which is a witness of the ancient greatness of the area, which, together with the town, has been declared a National Monument.

There are also the ruins of the San Isidro de los Destiladeros sugar mill in the area, which was the property of a landowner of Catalan origin which was one of the largest properties in the region until it was abandoned during the second half of the Nineteenth Century.

There is also the mansion of the old Bella Vista sugar mill, built in the oldest Roman style, constructed in the fourth decade of the Nineteenth Century by a wealthy man from Iberia, Don Pedro Malibrán.

Another building which should be mentioned, because of its local Cuban style, is the house of one of the most productive sugar mills of the time, the Guaimaro Sugar Mill.

Among the remains of the Manacas-Iznaga native village there are some huts belonging to a slave town, considered among the largest on the island until 1857.

Sugar Mill or San Luis Valley, as it is also called, is a true archeological monument to the sugar industry, an activity which created and marked the economic development of one stage of our nation’s history.

The valley still has several ruins of former installations, such as sugar mills, living quarters, summer houses and others which are a living memorial of a history dating back more than four centuries.

As a sign of the zone’s peak, it is worth saying that in 1827 the region had 56 sugar mills, which used nearly eleven thousand slaves as hand labor, out of a population of 26,700 inhabitants in the whole territory.

The development of the sugar industry found very suitable condtions in Sugar Mill Valley with all necessary resources for the industry, natural forests, fertile land and available ports for the shipment of products.

Besides, there was the dynamic for the slave trade expansion since the end of the Eighteen Century, so the needed work force for the development of production was guaranteed.

Among the constructions can be seen elements of a hydraulic system, recalling the Europeans, basically built with thick walls and quarry stones, for carrying the water needed for the development of the sugar production process.

In several of the territory’s haciendas, there are mural paintings made by Daniel Dall'Aglio, an Italian architect and artist. Some of them are being restored with financial support received from different international bodies, such as Unesco. The Valley of the Sugar Mills is a unique complement of the countless other leisure attractions located in the Museum City of Cuba, as this World Heritage site is also called.

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