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Slave's Route: The Bitter Aroma of Coffee

Cuba's agricultural development, concentrated in sugarcane and coffee plantations during the Spanish colonial period, boosted slavery, due to the need for cheap labor force.

Thousands of men, women and children, forcibly uprooted from their communities and brought to the Caribbean Island, carried along their customs, religion and cultural traditions.

The slaves lived in sugar factories and coffee plantations, so they were able to transmit, from generation to generation, those elements of their culture and religion that are part of in Cuban nationality.

A key role in this process was played by coffee farms, most of which were created in eastern Cuba by settlers from other Caribbean countries.

Precisely, that Cuban region holds the ruins of dozens of French-Haitian coffee farms built between the late 17th century and the early 19th century.

Nearly one hundred of those farms were located in Santiago de Cuba province, to where the French settlers brought their customs and culture.

Coffee plantation
Coffee Dryer
Oil Painting about coffee

Those farms are part of the coffee belt of Cuba's southeastern region and are a key element in the Island's history and culture, as they are a clear testimony of the development of coffee plantations during the Spanish colonial period.

In addition to holding original elements of the farms, these areas are living testimonies of the agri-industrial techniques used by the French immigrants, as well as their customs and architecture, which is similar to the one they destroyed before fleeing to Cuba.

The remains of the farms also show signs of the exploitation the slaves had to endure, as the owners were more interested in making profits than prioritizing the wellbeing of the slaves, who were regarded as easily-replaceable tools.

Those interesting in learning about the region's history can visit the ruins of coffee farms, including Santa Sofía, which held more than 600 slaves, Kentucky and La Isabelica. The latter is in perfect state of preservation and holds the Ethnographic Museum.

Precisely, La Isabelica, located in the mountain known as La Gran Piedra, is linked to the legend of a French settler who fell in love with a beautiful slave whose name was Isabelica, whom he even married.

The French settlers also brought their rich cultural heritage, which contributed to the evolution of literature, music, dances, religion and cuisine in eastern Cuba and the Caribbean, beyond the borders of the island.

There are no slaves anymore. They disappeared as a result of the evolution of history, but their stories, customs and imprints are present everywhere in Cuba, including the plantations where the aromatic grain is cropped. A grain that is bitter for those who work in the field under conditions of exploitation.

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