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Valle de los Ingenios: Cuba's Sugar Treasure

The Villa de la Santísima Trinidad (Holy Trinity), one of the first villages founded by the Spanish conquistadors in Cuba over four centuries ago, has become a must for thousands of vacationers visiting the largest Antillean Island every year.

In addition to its cultural wealth, exuberant nature and historical places, Trinidad also boasts the Valle de los Ingenios, or Sugar Mill Valley, a unique example of the development of the sugar industry in Cuba.

The valley, which was declared World Heritage by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), along with the city's historic heart, holds dozens of ruins of sugar factories, summer houses, barracks and other facilities linked to sugar production.

A true living museum about Cuba's sugar industry, the valley boasts an industrial architecture that is monumental because of both its dimensions and material wealth, along with singular examples of domestic constructions, the houses where the owners lived, some of which are well preserved.

As an example of the development of the sugar industry, in 1827, the Trinidad area had 56 sugar factories, whose labor force consisted of 11,000 slaves. At the time, the region had a population of 28,700.

The sugar industry found excellent natural conditions in the Valle de los Ingenios, which had all the necessary resources to develop that sector, including pristine forests, fertile lands and ports to ship the product.

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

Add to all this the dynamic growth of slave trade since the early 18th century, which guaranteed the necessary labor force to boost the sugar industry.

One of the region's most outstanding sites is the ruin of the San Isidro de los Destiladeros sugar factory, which belonged to a Catalonian landowner and which was one of the most prosperous sugar mills in the area until it was abandoned in the second half of the 19th century.

The remnants of the house show its owners' wealth and its builders' knowledge. It has a three-story tower, similar to others in the valley, which served as both a belfry and a lookout.

That structure is complemented by elements of a hydraulic system that is similar to those built in Europe, consisting of thick rock walls and aimed at bringing the necessary water to produce sugar.

The Italian architect and artist Daniel Dall'Anglio left the imprint of his mural paintings in the walls of several farms, some of which are undergoing a thorough restoration work with financial assistance from international agencies such as UNESCO.

All these elements turn Trinidad into one of the best exponents of the development of the sugar industry in the largest Antillean Island, and are a unique complement to the many tourist attractions that visitors can enjoy in a city that is also known as Cuba's Museum City.

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