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Slave's Route: Cuba's Sugar Industry

Spanish colonization in Cuba left a heritage that is present in the development of the sugar industry, which took advantage of the island's fertile soils to boost that crop, brought from abroad.

The demand for cheap and strong labor force was an incentive to slavery, due to which thousands of men, women and children were forcibly uprooted from their homeland in the so-called black continent.

One of the regions that best show that process is Villa de la Santísima Trinidad (Village of the Holy Trinity), one of the first villages founded by the Spanish conquistadors in Cuba more than four centuries ago.

Trinidad boasts a rich culture, exuberant nature and many sites linked to the development of the sugar industry in the Caribbean Island, including Valle de los Ingenios (Sugar Mills' Valley).

The valley, which along with Trinidad's historic heart, was declared Humankind's Heritage by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), holds several ruins of sugar mills, summer houses, barracks and other facilities used in the sugar-making process.

A true living museum exhibiting the development of the sugar industry in Cuba, Trinidad has a monumental industrial architecture due to the dimension and wealth of its constructions, and unique examples of houses used as the living quarters in the sugar mills, some of which are well preserved.

Iznagas's house, "Ingenios's" Valley.
Trinidad
Tower at Manaca-Iznaga Sugar Mill, Trinidad

During the boom of the sugar industry in 1827, Trinidad had 56 sugar mills, whose labor force consisted of more than 11,000 slaves, in a region that had a population of 28,700.

The development of that industry benefited from very favorable natural conditions in Valle de los Ingenios, where the industry had all the necessary resources, pristine forests, fertile soils and ports.

Add to all these the dynamic expansion of slave trade in the late 18th century to guarantee the necessary labor force to develop the sugar sector.

One of the most important ruins in the region is that of the San Isidro de los Destiladeros sugar mill, owned by a Catalonian landowner and one of the most prosperous mills in the region until it was abandoned in the second half of the 19th century.

The ruins of the living quarters show the wealth of its owners and the expertise of constructors. The building has a three-story tower that used to be a belfry and lookout, like others that still exist in the valley.

Another prominent element is the hydraulic system, which resembles those built in Europe and consisted of thick walls and stone buttresses.

All these elements turn Trinidad into one of the best exponents of the development of the sugar industry in Cuba and show the presence of African slaves in the Caribbean Island.

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Architectural Museum of Trinidad
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Calle Ripalda No. 83 e/ Fernando Hernández y Ruben Martínez Villena

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Cabildo de los Congos Reales o de San Antonio
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Calle Isidro Armenteros No. 168

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Municipal Museum of Trinidad (Cantero Palace)
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Calle Fernando Hernández Echemendía No. 52, Plaza Mayor

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Carretera de Trinidad a Sancti Spiritus

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Brisas Trinidad del Mar
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Península de Ancón

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