Cuba Day 6

Monday 28 May 2012

Las Terrazas

After breakfast (sadly no fresh OJ, even the push-button espresso machine gone – I am such a spoiled American) we take an hour bus ride, fifty miles west of Havana, to the Sierra del Rosario Biosphere Reserve.  There had been major deforestation in the 19th century by the French colonial coffee plantation owners (who sought refuge in Cuba after the Haitian Revolution), leading to wholesale destruction of the ecosystem, degradation of the land, and resulting poverty for the campesinos.

So these coffee plantations (owned previously by imperialists) were wiped out and in 1968 the land was terraced, with bulldozers and by hand, with the help of people from Italy, England, France.  (I think those were the countries the guide mentioned.)  3000 workers involved.  5 million trees planted, 20 indigenous species including palms, breadfruit, cedar, ebony, Cuban pines (yes, I was surprised to see pines on a Caribbean island), carob, mango, pomarrosa (rose apple), plumeria, and others such as teak from Thailand, mahogany, eucalyptus.   Las Terrazas gets 90” rain a year.


Pre-Revolution there were 120 farmers living in dirt-floored huts.  They got the houses or are in the old people’s home.  Apartments were built for 1000 others.  It was designated a Biosphere Reserve (there are six in Cuba) by UNESCO in 1985.

They get 20 – 30 tons of honey a year.  Residents are involved in farming or are painters, musicians (a group serenaded us as we had our morning Cuba Libre), artisans.  The wood is culled for buildings and furniture.  However, Las Terrazas is still not self-sustaining; they have no meat (and I’m sure they’re not growing their staple, rice).  So they want more eco tourists.

An artificial lake created by the damming the San Juan River.  White-tailed deer, tree rats (they brag about rats?), 100 different kinds of birds.  Bromeliads, over 100-recorded varieties or orchids.  Photo of mariposa, Cuban national flower, which smells like gardenia.  A paradise in the midst of the squalor which is the rest of Cuba.

Cafe Maria

Photo of the 83-year-old woman who grows her own coffee and has a small coffee shop, Cafe Maria.  Had a tiny coffee milkshake – nice in the heat.  (Other choices were espresso with guava liquor, or milk, or rum, or cold with mint.)

Casa del Campesino

Lunch at Casa del Campesino (the farmer’s home), outside on a deck.  Moors and Christians (black beans and rice), the ever-present salad of sliced cabbage, tomatoes, carrots and cucumbers.  Roasted chick (but big, American-sized portions), and the ubiquitous (and delicious) ice cream for dessert.  Photo of the kitchen and the resident peacock.  (I had to blow up this photo, he was so gorgeous.  You can tell I’m loving my new camera.)

Lester Campos

Visit to resident artist Lester Campos.  Nice breeze in his house/studio overlooking the lake.  Interesting tree with dead tree shadow on parched land, among other paintings of trees.  Paintings of Las Terrazas.

Marina Hemingway

Then we returned to Havana, first with a detour to the Marina Hemingway.  (The hotel on the corner is called El Viejo y La Mar, the Old Man and the Sea.) This area, of course, all non-nationals.  But the largest yacht (which I did not get a good photo of) is owned by a Cuban-American woman, Ella Cisneros, who has her crew pilot it to Cuba from Miami while she flies.


Then we visit the beautiful home of collector and art dealer, Milagros Borges.  M & S, C & M both buy paintings of Vladimir León Sagols’ Evas series, one in red, the other in black/grey.

 

 

Galería Luz y Oficios

On to La Jungla patio and the Galería Luz y Oficios in La Habana Vieja.  According to curator Elvia Rosa Castro, the title of this show, Escapando con el Paisaje, can mean both “exploiting the landscape” and “running away with it.” Believe that artist Marianela Orozco, who installed a crop of gigantic pinwheels, Playtime, one of the installations along the Malecón for Detras Del Muro (not my photo; it’s from the brochure), also did Woman’s Sky, my favorite painting here.  (Or maybe her granddaughter painted it – it’s hard to tell from my notes.)

Dinner at the elegant Paladar Atelier.

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2 Responses to “Cuba Day 6”

  1. Jim Says:

    Fabulous peacock photo, Lynne.
    Did you not see any deer, rats, and birds?
    I hope you get some photos of squalor?

    • notesfromthewest Says:

      No, saw no animals other than birds, the maga (thin in Jamaican patois) dogs and cats, some cattle, and horses that looked like they were starving. Squalor? Yeah, I got a lot of photos of laundry hanging on balconies, and buildings falling down.

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