Pinar del Rio
Educational Program



  Caridad Miranda, Botanical garden, Vinales, CubaCaridad Miranda, Botanical garden, Vinales, CubaThe Botanic Garden was started by Caridad and Carmen's Chinese-Cuba father in 1918, and they carried on his work for the next ninety year. The three of them collected hundreds of species of endemic and exotic medical plants, ornamentals, tropical fruits, food plants and spices, and an encyclopedic knowledge of all of it. In part, it shows what Cuban agriculture could do if they set their mind to it. At the end of the last end of the century, octogenarian, Caridad Miranda (left, in 1998, and right), still lead tours and was locally known as the fruit lady. Unfortunately, all three have now passed away. The project is now lead by an adopted daughter, who is assisted by several guides..  
  Botanical garden, Vinales, Cuba Botanical garden, Vinales, Cuba Botanical garden, Vinales, Cuba Botanical garden, Vinales, Cuba Botanical garden, Vinales, Cuba  
  Philodendron species, Botanical garden, Vinales, Cuba Botanical garden, Vinales, Cuba Cacao, Botanical garden, Vinales, Cuba Botanical garden, Vinales, Cuba Botanical garden, Vinales, Cuba  
  Caridad and Carmen's house, Vinales, CubaCaridad and Carmen's house, Vinales, Cuba

Caridad and Carmen's house is on the property enveloped in greenery. It can be walked through and viewed. It has been kept pretty much as it was in the last century and reflect well the preference in furnishings and décor by many of their generation.

  Central Square, Vinales, CubaTourist at Wi-Fi hotspot, near the Central Square, Vinales, CubaCentral Square, Vinales, CubaThe public square used to be where people met and discussed the topic of the day. It is still a place for congregating, but because this is the only place that most people have access to the Internet, there are a lot of people but very little discussion. Very few Cubans have access to the worldwide web at home or work, but the national telecommunication company has wired a smattering of public place around the country with Internet connected Wi-Fi. It is pay-as-you-go. The quality is usually descent. Beginning in 2017, the government is beginning to license individuals to have Wi-Fi at their residences. Because of the expense, the expectation is that the first to use the service will be people who rent rooms to foreigners.  
  Church, Central Square, Vinales, Cuba Curio market, Vinales, CubaThe most elegant and prominent building at the central square is the church. It is well maintained, but doesn't seem to be active as a church.

Competing with Communism and Catholicism is entrepreneurism. This is on display at a street market a few blocks from the central square. Most of the product didn't seem to be directed at the Cuban consumer, and most of the shoppers didn't seem to be Cuban.

  Restaurant, main street, Vinales, Cuba Restaurant, main street, Vinales, Cuba Casa Particular, Vinales, Cuba Casa Particular, Vinales, Cuba Casa Particular, Vinales, Cuba  
  local town life, Vinales, CubaThe are two side to Viñales, roughly main street and the back streets. Like so much with real estate, it is location, location, location. On main street, almost ever store front has been converted in to a restaurant, bar, gift shop, or lodging for tourist. The money doesn't filter back too many blocks. People are successful with casa particulars off of main street, and there are a few paladars, but mostly on the back streets is where you see the local town life that has abandon main street.  
  local town life, Vinales, Cuba local town life, Vinales, Cuba local town life, Vinales, Cuba local town life, Vinales, Cuba local town life, Vinales, Cuba  
  After visiting the garden and looking at the culture and economy of Viñales, it was past time for lunch. This was a bit of an education in Cuba’s two currency system. At the restaurant that are oriented towards tourist they only accepted CUC, which is tied to the US dollar so is essentially foreign currency. For five dollars you can get a meal of rice and chicken. A little further a field, in town, there are restaurant that are priced in Cuban pesos. For about a fifth as much you could get a meal of rice and chicken, with the added advantage of being able to watch the street life: students on their way, mothers and baby out on errands, older men bicycling to appointments and couple relaxing on a rocking chair.  
  Beyond the old "village" boundaries of Viñales, it suburbs are developing and sprawling. They lack a vision, design or plan. Stretching out along the main roads, each plot is access by a separate, winding drive. Many of the sites are surrounded by solid walls. The main road lacks pedestrian amenities for student heading to school and others going to work or market. The linear layout and barriers defies the easy formation of "community".  As the development stretches further and further, the residents are going to become increasingly motor-dependent and isolated.  
  At the end of the full day visiting farms, gardens, markets, and schools, we returned back to where we started.  
  Typical kitchen, CubaMojito serving, CubaMojito making, CubaHere is a shout-out to our host in Viñales, Casa Dra. Alicia. Out of this simple kitchen she produced some of the tastiest multi-course meals that you can imagine. There were soups, sea food, vegetables, salads, rice and beans, assorted chips, fresh fruit and fruit juice and marvelous desserts. The kitchen is similar to many we saw. Alicia also makes a highly acclaimed mojito.  And, she has a full time job as an orthodontist.  

In the evening there is the option to return to the town for a performance of culture and folklore: music, dance and culture. The were several cycles of Afro-Cuban drumming and dance, a guitar and singing solo of Spanish origins, and fashion show by local teenagers. Then everyone joined in the dance. Lots of good comradery (and local rum).

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