M.Góral

Not only does Cuba smell and taste of rum, but above all of that it smells of the sugarcane from which this rum is made. Brown sugar is also produced from the sugarcane – which is ideal for Mohito drink. But I do not want to write about alcohol today, but about sugar mills. For the first time I heard about sugarcane from the book of Polish journalist and diplomat, Krzysztof Jacek Hinz, who lived in Cuba during 1991-2001. He mainly described Cuba from the political side, but I was intrigued by the chapter referring to the Year of Great Effort, which was a great dream of Castro about a record sugar production. In 1969, the speech of the Great Leader released in the nation enormous enthusiasm and faith that producing 10 million tons of sugar would strengthen the country and show its power around the world. Everybody went out to the fields: workers, farmers, artists, athletes, intellectuals – everyone wanted to be a part of a great success. El Comandante shifted even the Christmas and New Year Eve’s celebrations to July 1970, so the production did not have to be interrupted. Probably it was possible to collect enough raw material to achieve the production goal. Unfortunately, the lack of storage and production planning destroyed partial harvest. A large amount of sugar cane remained in the fields and was burned out by the sun. Ultimately, Cuban people managed to produce 8.5 million of tons of sugar. But that was not the only worry. Lack of knowledge about the collection among Cubans, who were not farmers on a daily basis, caused the exclusion or destruction of stocks that were intended for the next harvest. To meet export obligations in 1971, sugar rationing was introduced.

However, this was not the main reason for the fall of the big sugar factories. To find out the truth, we have to go deep into history, up to the nineteenth century, when slaves worked on the sugarcane fields. It was the abolition of slavery in 1880 that led to the final collapse of production, for one simple reason, there was no one to work there. Before that, however, in 1806 Napoleon imposed a continental blockade of Spain, which blocked the export of sugar to Great Britain. As a side effect, the possibility of obtaining sugar from beetroots has been discovered in Europe. Therefore, Cuba had to look for new export markets, which was not easy with the sharp fall in the price of sugar in the first half of the 19th century.

.

M.Góral

M.Góral

.

Most of the sugar mills are located near the town of Trinidad, the place itself is called Valle de los Ingenios, which is on the UNESCO list. The largest of them are Monaca Iznaga and San Isidro. Unfortunately, the second one will be converted into a restaurant and museum soon. The picture below shows the last remaining painting from the building. Of course, there are much more closed sugar mills in the valley. The development of this region was strongly influenced by the port, separated from the plantation by 4-6 km,which allowed an easy export.

.

M.Góral

M.Góral

M.Góral

.

As for San Isidro, the first owner in 1776 was Jose Delrey Fernandez (I hope I remembered the name well) who had 10 slaves at that time. Then the sugar factory was taken over by Cuban man, Pedro Amadoro. He was considered a good owner because he was the only one who allowed his slaves to live with their family. It can be said that he created a kind of slave factory. The husband and wife were not separated, which referred into more children and thus more hands to work in the sugarcane plantation. Up to 10-14 people lived in one room. In the moments of splendor, Pedro had 300 slaves and 30 slaves at home, who were involved in the kitchen, cleaning and care of his 12 children.

Today, there is not much left of the rooms and building where rum has been created in subsequent processes, but a good guide will certainly recreate it by showing you around this small estate. Take your time, admire the nature, rest little bit from the city noise and maybe you see something extraordinary. Let me know in the comment if you spot this extraordinary thing in one of my pictures 😉

P.S. In the 18th century, the annual production of rum could have reached up to 6000 barrels.

.

M.Góral

M.Góral

M.Góral

M.Góral

M.Góral

M.Góral

.

Slaves usually worked 16 hours a day, which significantly shortened their lives to 40 years. Among the slaves, the owner also used to chose one who daily monitored the work of others on the sugarcane fields from the tower. It is said that the height of the tower manifested the power and wealth of the owner, positioning him among the other owners of the sugar factory.

The largest tower in the Valle de Los Ingenios region used to belong to Manaca Iznaga, which measures 45 meters and is the highest tower of this type in Cuba. The bell at the top (today the bell is at the foot of the tower) used to proclaim the beginning and end of labor, as well as the time of prayers, fires and escapes. From interesting facts Iznaga had 40 children, 5 sugar mills and 400 slaves.

.M.góral

A_2a

M.Góral

.

I have not noticed that before, but as I started to look at all the pictures from Manaca Iznaga, it turned out the tower is not straight. Also please notice the view from the top, it allowed in XVIII century to look out on every slaver on the sugarcane field that belonged to the owner.

.

M.Góral

M.Góral

M.Góral

M.Góral

M.Góral

.

There are 4 options to visit Valle de Los Ingenios: a morning train (10 CUC both ways), a horse-riding trip (keep in mind that it can take 4-5 hours which might be too long and exhausting, I reckon it might be around 30-40 CUC), rent a bike (around 5 CUC) or take a guided tour (around 25 CUC).

.

M.Góral

.