Mines and Pines
|Hotel: This was a capital and energy intensive hotel for the use of dollar spending tourists. While Cubans don't seem to seek view property for building their houses, this location was definite selected for that attribute. As tourist buses passed they would pull-in for five minute stops so the passengers could enjoy there view. When this happened the resident ensemble would assemble and perform a few Cuban standards, like Guantanamera. The PR director for the hotel explained that they offered an "eco-tourism walk that visited near-by houses and farms." But one wouldnt want reality tourism to go too far, after the walk the clients retreat to what is a fantasy for most Cubans: air-conditioned rooms, manicured lawns, a swimming pool and more meat at every meal that the Cubans have on their ration card for a month.|
|Socialist Art: A cross from the Dos Hermanas cabins where we are staying is a mural painted on the side of rock face in brown and primary colors called "Prehistoric Mural." Thats its name and subject, not its origins. It was painted shortly after the revolution in 1959. It is a mixture of dinosaurs and early man, but not a particularly compelling or quality rendering. The Cubans with us took little notice of it and I never heard them mention it. Instead everyone spent the afternoon around the swimming pool.|
|Here we have opportunities for better view and to learn about the contrasting red soil and the white limestone mogotes (hills) of the Sierra de los Órganos and Sierra del Rosario. These mountains parallel the coastline. There formation is from a fold and thrust of the Guaniguanico Terrace. The Sierra de los Órganos displays a sequence of exposed Mesozoic marine limestones and Paleogene marine to continental sedimentary rock. In the 1800, Manual Fernandez de Castro first found Jurassic marine invertebrate fossils on a mogote 10km north of the town of Pinar del Rio (Abra de Ancón).|
|The is so much detail to be absorbed about how the Cubans live in this area. Contrasting the more traditional bohio (rural house, traditionally with a thatched roof) (left) and hauling loads on skids pulled by cows or ox (left), there is cement block and metal structures. This building (right) has solar voltaic panels on the roof.|
|The land use represents a fairly ecologically aware compromise betweens the needs of people and preservation of the natural beauty. It may be because there aren't the economic resources to do otherwise, but the outcome leave great opportunities for the next century: There is a lot of agriculture on the valley floor and the mountains have been left forest and natural.|
|Gran Caverns de Santo Tomas (Moncada) provides a lesson on Cuba geology and plate tectonics, from a local expert. It is the second largest cavern formation in Latin and South America. The program covered the salt intrusion of the base basalt magmatic rock, fractures and cracks that occurred a during a subaqueous period and cave fauna; fish, shrimp, crabs and bats. After the base formation was pushed above sea level, the overlying limestone/calcium dissolved and seeped through the fracture to form stalactite and stalagmites, columns, unique helictite (horizontal structure in the center of the photo to the right), calcium ribbon wall, and dozens of other forms of mineral crystal formations.|
|Other scouring by the ocean and rivers etched and carved the walls and floor of the cave. In different geological periods the river that eroded the tunnels through the lime stone hills was at different levels. There are now seven levels of tunnels. We climbed up to explore level five, from the Jurassic Period. It is fascinating how, in some situation, lime and water can create massive structures, and in other situation, create intricate and delicate structures and patterns. A lot of this is the product of tiny drips of water (left) and millions of years (and no interference by humans). The interior has plenty of stalactites and stalagmites, but also its own zoology with blind or eyeless mammals and amphibians (right).|
|The Malagones Memorial recognizes a 12 man militia that form in Pinar del Rio, 1959, to support Fidel Castro's revolution. It was the first rural militia to form after the revolution. The fought counterrevolutionary bands that hid in the areas mountains. Each member of the group has their own memorial. The large statue is Leandro Rodriguea Malagon, the leader. To the side is a relief of the fighters.|
Near Moncada is a 2-meter-thick section of marine sandstone-claystone from the Chicxulub asteroid’s impact on the Yucatan Peninsula 65 million years ago. The deposit records impact-related features like abundant shocked quartz fragments, tsunami deposits, and high iridium concentrations.
town of El Moncada was another of Fidel's ideas. The streets are
suppose to be laid out to form a C, U, B, and A. From an aerial view,
looking south, if you consider the connection between streets, houses,
vegetation and land use you can imagine this design. The housing has a
distinctly suburban feel, for an otherwise very rural area.
One of the houses is a paladar, serving meals on demand.
|On the edge of Moncada is an Escula el Campo (Campemento). Escula el Campo is a program that moves students and professors to the dorms in the countryside, for not more than a month a year, to learn about different types of agriculture production and to help a variety of farmers (state or private) with production. This is a principal from Jose Marti that students should combine study and work for the best development and to learn the values of working. We met students and teachers working on the coffee harvest.|
|Spathodea is a monotypic genus in the flowering plant family Bignoniaceae. The single species it contains, Spathodea campanulata, is commonly known, in English, as the African tulip tree, fountain tree, Nile flame, Uganda flame, squirt tree, pichkari or Nandi flame. Common Spanish names are: amapola, espatodea, mampolo, tulipán africanoThe tree grows between 7–25 m (23–82 ft) tall. It is native to tropical dry forests of Africa, but because of its beauty it is used as an ornamental all over the tropical world. There are hundreds in this part of Cuba.|
|Turkey vultures are present almost every place in Cuba. This one was kind enough to pose. S/he seemed to be enjoying the same morning scenery that we were.|
If your timing is right, lunch can be a cyclist’s dream and set the standard for future lunches. We found 8-inch cheese "peso-pizza" that is pizza that is priced in pesos: four for a dollar. And, across the street was a guarapo stand (a drink made from sugar cane) with twenty glasses for a dollar. For the afternoon we seemed to cycle from guarapo stand to guarapo stand.
The pinar in Pinar del Rio is for “pine”. A driver of the local economy is derived from vast areas of natural pine forest, farmed pine plantations, and pine forestry. The sawmills are small and simple, and lack most of the large characteristics of an old growth Douglas fir sawmill.
|One of my favorite towns is Minas de Matahambre. It sits in the hills with the main parts of towns follows a series of wooded ridges that provide views of other sections of town and the surrounding forest. Quaint, beautiful, delightful and a gem are not usual adjectives for a mining town, but I would use them to describe Minas de Matahambre.|
|This is an old copper mining towns. At the time of the revolution the mining company virtually, and sometimes literally, worked their employees to death. Because of this, the local citizen saw great opportunity in the Revolution. Though the mines in town have closed, the town still has a noticeably high concentration of signs, big and small, with revolutionary slogans, plus an abundance of murals, statues, memorials and other public art to demonstrate its spirit.|
|The economy and curb appeal doesn’t reflect past hard times. The most prominent building in town is the Catholic church, which is open and in excellent condition. There is a library on main street. Forestry is now the largest part of the local economy and new copper and gold mines have opened in the area.|
|From the ridges above the town you can see the ocean, and new strip mines.|
|Guane town seems to have a spring and energy to
it. Along the main street are dollar stores, book stores, a library, hotel, museum and
assorted other dry good stores. The only place I spent much time was the museum. The
director there clearly had a lot of pride in their small but well displayed collection and
enjoyed sharing it with visitors. Piece by piece she went through the history of island
from the indigenous population through the revolution. Most striking to me were the
pictures of housing before the revolution and what we were seeing now, riding at will all
over town. Even later in the day when I saw some less well kept houses, even the worse
werent at the level of a barrio or the condition generally seen in other less
Cubas multiracial history is apparent everywhere, but elements of its racist legacy are no where. On the streets, on the job, on the dance floor there seems to be no reference to heritage. "African", "European", "white" and "black" are used to describe people but with no implications. I ask one of the "African-Cubans" who was part of the group, in a couple of different ways, whether is she identifies herself as "African-Cuban", whether whites felt like they had a different cultural as "European-Cubans" or whether white and black Cubans looked at themselves as being culturally different. She, with great politeness and poise seemed to be trying to figure out what the heck I was talking about. From the stratified and polarized society Cuba had thirty-five years ago, a "non-racial" society seems to be one of the great successes of the revolution.
|Having been here for a week, had a few discussions, observed some behavior, seen a bit of at least Pinar del Rio, and dozen of hours of think while cycling rural roads give me a chance to reflect a bit about Cubas environmental practice. On some tallies Cuba ranks high on environmental policy. But what part of their success is a default not initiative? In sectors where the U.S. embargo or inept development policy might have had a role there seems to be greater level of environment-friendly practice: lot of organic fertilizer and a wide variety of non-motorized transportation. But less obvious are any widespread positive environmental initiatives. There is little use of: solar power (photo-voltaic, water heating) and wind power (a few rural wind mill for drawing water, but more in disrepair). Use of fluorescent lighting (especially in the light-intensive tourist hotels) is irregular. And recycling of aluminum cans (they are not using reusable glass for soft drinks and beer) and waste paper is unfortunately nil.|
One of the great part of the day was cycling along with our Cuban colleagues, have discussions about politics, history, current affairs and society. The offered thoughtful response through all phases of the conversation.
In the evening the Cubans continued the dance lessons. They are determined that we all be able to salsa before we leave Cuba.
Please write if you have questions, comment, criticism, praise or additional information for us, find a bad link or would like to be added to IBF's mailing list. (Also let us know how you found this site.)
DreamHost - earth friendly web hosting"