Pinar del Rio
Educational Program


Agrarian Culture and Economy

  rural farm, Pinar del Rio, Cubabohio, rural farm, Pinar del Rio, CubaThis page covers a distance of about 25km (15 miles). The journey tells a lot of the nuts and bolts agricultural and rural story of Cuba. What it misses nuts and bolts is the hundreds of greetings and dozen of conversation that were also part of the experience. And, as multifaceted and thorough as it was, if we did it again on another day, and especially in another seasons, we would come away with a wealth of additional impressions and knowledge.

Just in this first picture we see a classic bohio (house), bananas and beans and other crops and a variety of vegetation.

  One characteristic of homes in Pinar del Rio is color and gardens. Most rural houses have a covered porch with two large rocking chairs. It is a bit of a surprise when they don't. Most house also have electricity, piped water, and solid floors.  
  Bohio, traditional rural house, Pinar del Rio, Cuba House in rural Pinar del Rio, Cuba House in rural Pinar del Rio, Cuba Houses in rural Pinar del Rio, Cuba House in rural Pinar del Rio, Cuba  
One of the first commodities we pointed out was coffee and coffee dry in yards and along the road, but there is no pictures of it along this section. Perhaps because it was too common. Coffee is the primary cash crop in some communities, especially those more in the hills. It is often grown right around the house. A fine Arabica varietal is cultivated here. Most of it is shade grown so is mixed in with a canopy of other trees and can be hard to spot. The harvest season is from July to February. As an agricultural crop, it is second only to tobacco in this district. Coffee is grown in all of the mountain regions of Cuba.

It only became legal to export Cuban coffee to the USA in 2016. This should lead to a surge in demand, which should lead to new planting. It take about five years for a coffee plant to mature so it should be a sellers market for a few years.

  young mango orchard, Pinar del Rio, CubaA young mango orchard (left). They are generally ripe in the spring. The mango is an excellent nutritional source, containing many vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, as well as enzymes such as magneferin and lactase which aid in digestion and intestinal health.  
  Yucca, cassava, manioc, Pinar del Rio, CubaLike much of the topical world, cassava (English) or manioc (French) is grown and eaten in Cuba (right). The Spanish name is yucca. It is favored because it yields a large amount of carbohydrate per area cultivated, can be left in the ground for years and harvested when alternatives are not available. There are several very delicious Cuban of yucca, all of which seem to feature a generous amount of garlic sauce.  
  Turkey, Pinar del Rio, CubaChicken, Pinar del Rio, CubaTurkeys are a north American bird, and chickens were domesticated in Asia. Both can be found in Cuba. Turkey (left) is rarely on restaurant menus. But chicken is at least, if not more common than pork. These chickens were free range, but large numbers of  chickens are raised by agro-industry in large complexes of chicken houses. Cuba also imported $147.5 million worth of chicken from the USA in 2014 -- over 300 million kg.  
  Rice, Pinar del Rio, CubaRice, Pinar del Rio, CubaRice and beans are a mainstay of the Cuban diet. Worldwide, rice provides more than one fifth of the calories consumed by humans. Rice cultivation is well-suited to countries and regions with low labor costs and high rainfall, as it is very labor-intensive to cultivate and requires plenty of water for cultivation. Mechanical harvesters are few and far between in Western Cuba.  
This is a common style of sign in rural Pinar del Rio. ANAP is the Asociación Nacional de Agricultores Pequeños (National Association of Small-holder Farmers). CCS (Cooperativas de Créditos y Servicios) is an ANAP program. The black lettering at the top is the name of the community, and the lettering at the bottom is the district. ANAP was formed in 1961 and its membership was limited to farmers whose land holdings were less than 67 hectares. The government supported ANAP by providing interest-free loans to its members. In 1977, ANAP supported the gradual transformation of the private sector. Individual farmers were encouraged to voluntarily join production co-operatives. By 1987, co-operative farms were accounting for 63% of private land holdings nationally. Altogether 1,400 co-operative farms had 68,000 co-operative members. These numbers have since grown considerably.  In 2007, ANAP members produce 52% of the vegetables, 67% of the corn, and 85% of the tobacco grown in Cuba.
Cow and cattle egret, Pinar del Rio, CubaFrom the time of the revolution to the first decade of the century, Cuba lost more than two-thirds of its cattle population. Beef are still quite rare but can be found in the market. But there seems to have been more success at reversing Cuba's legendary milk shortage. Dairy products (milk and cheese) have become regularly available. Pregnant woman and children under 7, still get extra milk rations at a hugely subsidized price. It should be noted that the scarcity of cattle here is understandable because this is not a primary cattle raising area.

Nationally, cattle are a serious issue. A person can get almost as much jail time for killing a cow as killing a human. Under Cuban law, cow killers can get four to 20 years in prison.

It has been said that developing a healthy livestock industry requires the hard work of thousands of farmers, but that, to ruin it, one inept official will suffice.

The cattle egret, with the cow, is a bird that seeks out cattle (and other large grazing mammals) to opportunistically feed on the insects they carry and disturb. Originally native to parts of Asia, Africa and Europe, it has undergone a rapid expansion in its distribution and successfully colonized much of the rest of the world in the last century.

Very young tobacco, Pinar del Rio, Cuba Young tobacco, Pinar del Rio, Cuba Mature tobacco plant, Pinar del Rio, Cuba Mature tobacco plant, Pinar del Rio, Cuba Tobacco drying shed, Pinar del Rio, Cuba
  Rolling cigar, Pinar del Rio, Cuba Moving tobacco on ox drawn sled, Pinar del Rio, CubaPinar del Rio is known for the quality of its tobacco. Tobacco quality is a function of the soil, climate, care and curing. To cure the leaves are tied in small bunches, hung over poles in the fields. The poles are then transported to the curing shed, sometimes on animal drawn sleds (right). In the sheds, which often have a thatched roof, the poles are hung on scaffoldings, that reach from floor to ceiling. The goal is for the tobacco to cure slowly so that it is as soft as fine suede. If it dries too much it becomes crisp and brittle, and can't be rolled into cigars.

The region is not as famous for its cigars, but there are a few cigar factors.


Tobacco harvest, Pinar del Rio, CubaThis region is known for its other agriculture, as well. The variety is astonishing. Part of the impression comes from the lack of homogeneous, large, industrial farming. Most of the crops are in relatively small plots so there can be a lot of diversity of crops in a short distance. There were gardens of flowers and small plots of corn, tomatoes, cabbage, carrots, beans, bananas, coffee, cassava, malanga (taro, edo, coco yam in other places), oranges, grapefruit, and a few other vegetables. Scattered about there were also some bee hives, fish ponds, goats, sheep, pigs, chickens, ox and horses. The ox and horses were used to plow and pull carts. Not many tractors. There were private automobiles at a few of the houses. Some of the farms look big, probably cooperatives or state-owned farms, but there were also some farms that looked like small holders.

Malanga (taro, edo, coco yam in other places)Sweet potato leaf, Pinar del Rio, CubaMalanga (left) and sweet potato leaf (right)
Pine forest Pineapple field, rural Pinar del Rio, CubaPine forest (left) and pineapple (right)
Rural school, Pinar del Rio, Cuba  Rural school teachers on lunch break, Pinar del Rio, CubaRural school playground, Pinar del Rio, CubaMost of the schools in rural areas are primary schools. Many are much more robust than you might expect for the location. It is another demonstration of Cuba's nationwide commitment to education. Many of the schools have creatively designed play equipment (right) because development of the whole body is emphasized, as well. It might be a product of circumstance, but at least on this day the teacher's lounge / lunchroom was outside.
Horse cart, rural Pinar del Rio, Cuba Horse cart, rural Pinar del Rio, Cuba Ox cart, rural Pinar del Rio, Cuba Horseman, rural Pinar del Rio, Cuba Horseman, rural Pinar del Rio, Cuba
Inventorying the rural transportation options, a lot of people are moved on foot. Of the intermediate options, horses and horse carts seem to be the most prevalent. Trailing in popularity, by a lot, are bicycles and ox cart. There are pockets of greater bicycle us.
Horse cart, rural Pinar del Rio, Cuba Horse cart, rural Pinar del Rio, Cuba Bicyclist, rural Pinar del Rio, Cuba Bicyclist, rural Pinar del Rio, Cuba Horse cart, rural Pinar del Rio, Cuba
Water tank on sled, rural Pinar del Rio, Cuba Ox, rural Pinar del Rio, Cuba  Horses, rural Pinar del Rio, CubaHorses, rural Pinar del Rio, CubaA few more related observation: A horse parking lot (far left), horse taking a shortcut across a lake (left), ox chilling (right), and a water tank on a sled (far right).
Family medical clinic, rural Pinar del Rio, CubaAlmost every town, even quite small towns, have a family medical clinic. These are distinctive and discernable by their identical design. The clinics are on the ground floor, and the second floor has two separate apartments, one for the doctor and one for the nurse.

Soviet-era housing block, Republic de Chile, Pinar del Rio, CubaThe housing is mostly detached, single-family housing. It is modest, well kept, and nearly everyone has electric service. Nothing is a "rickety shack." Certainly, on the whole, it is much better than I have seen in rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa or on other islands of the Caribbean. Land reform and housing were two other priorities of the revolution. Even with several explanation of land reform and the land tenure structure, it is still difficult to identify the status of land just in passing.

Not as universal, but still fairly common, are one to a cluster of Soviet-era housing block, in towns that are otherwise single-family houses. These too all seem to have identical architecture.


Art studio: Miguel Antonia Remedio, painter, Pinar del Rio, CubaArt studio: Miguel Antonia Remedio, painter, has mastered several styles of painting and uses a variety of media, and teaching local kids and secondary students art.

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