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French-Haitian Coffee Plantations: A Treasure from the Past

Eastern Cuba, with a centennial history closely followed by visitors, incorporates to its attractions the ruins of dozens of French-Haitian coffee plantations established in that territory in the late 18th century and the early 19th century.

There are nearly 100 of those farms in the eastern province of Santiago de

Cuba, a reminder of a period during which the French landowners settled down in the island, bringing their customs and culture.

Thirty-two of those ancient coffee plantations, established by the French who escaped neighboring Haiti in 1789, after the revolution in that country, were built in the eastern province of Guantánamo.

The majority of them are located in the zones of La Gran Piedra, El Cobre, Dos Palmas and Contramaestre.

The plantations form part of the coffee belt of the southeastern region of the largest Antillean island, and are a key element in the country's history and culture, since they represent an evident testimony of the development of that culture.

In addition to the original outlines of the plantations, those places show live testimonies of the agro-industrial techniques used by the French immigrants, as well as other customs and houses with an architectural style similar to the ones they destroyed before fleeing to Cuba.

Zones of difficult access in the mountainous region of eastern Cuba serve as a protection to testimonies of the development of French-Haitian coffee plantations, which have been preserved until today in spite of the attacks of nature and the implacable passage of time.

The ruins show singular solutions to problems to create a road network to facilitate the transportation of the harvests to the loading points.

Preliminary studies showed that the typical coffee unit established by the

French settlers mainly consisted of the domestic house - turned into a warehouse -, the roads and the agro-industrial areas.

The imprints of that past, declared Humankind's Heritage by UNESCO, constitute, according to experts, a true monument to hydraulic, road, domestic and funeral engineering and to the productive system, thus revealing the expertise of their creators.

The experience of the French was accompanied by a rich cultural treasure, reflected in the evolution of manifestations such as literature, music, dance, religion and gastronomy, not only in eastern Cuba but also in other regions of the Caribbean, beyond the frontiers of the largest Antillean island.

History lovers can visit the ruins of coffee plantations such as Santa Sofía, a giant with more than 600 slaves, Kentucky and La Isabelica. The latter, which architecture is in a perfect state of conservation, houses a museum of ethnography.

That property, located in the heights of La Gran Piedra, is related to the legend of a French settler who fell in love with a beautiful slave named Isabelica, with whom he even got married.

Santiago de Cuba's offers of sun, beaches, culture and history include live exponents of colonial times, and one of its main attractions, the ruins of French-Haitian coffee plantations, have become a treasure from the past.

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