Valley of Viñales.
It is located in the province of Pinar del Río, westernmost area of Cuba, in the Sierra de los Órganos, exactly in the mountainous group of the Guaniguanico mountain range. This Valley and a large part of the mountain range that surrounds it was approved in 1999 as a National Park and, in December of that same year, it was declared by UNESCO a World Heritage Site, in the category of Cultural Landscape. It also has the status of a National Monument, which it received by Resolution on March 27, 1979.
Description of the area.
It is one of the most well-known and attractive areas of Cuba, it presents an exceptional scenario, which, among others, is characterized by the fusion of its spectacular natural beauty, conservation of the environment, the harmonious action of man in the cultivation of minor fruits, forage and essentially the cultivation of tobacco, whose traditional methods of cultivation and production, achieve the universal recognition of the habano as one of the best quality in the world.
There are also constructions in the Valley with indigenous patrons such as the so-called tobacco house, the well-known stick on land and the typical Cuban hut that, when integrated with its natural values, mogotes, differences in relief, contrast between the red of the soils and the green of the crops form an exceptional aesthetic and socio-cultural value, this whole set bases the criterion of Cultural Landscape in evolution where its social activity linked to the way of life is evidenced with an evolutionary process and at the same time, it shows significant material evidences of this evolution over time There are tourist facilities, roads for the tour of the place, viewpoints and a national speleological center.
It is located in the municipality of Viñales, one of the 14 with which the province has, located in the center and north of this territory. To the east, it borders the municipalities of La Palma and Consolación del Sur, to the southeast. To the west with the municipality Minas de Matahambre and to the south with the municipality of Pinar del Río. To the north it coincides with the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the Straits of Florida. Its territory covers an area of 741 square kilometers.
Qualities of the Valley.
The traveler who arrives at the valley from Havana, is enjoying the variety of shades of Cuban green, and when he arrives at the Valley he perceives a drastic and overwhelming change; the complicity between nature and silence makes the visitor feel ownership of a majestic natural beauty, found everywhere, from the Cueva del Indio, with its underground river, to the Mural of Prehistory, the Rancho San Hotel Vicente and the fabulous Mirador de Los Jazmines. There are some mountainous formations, unique on the island, called mogotes. These mogotes constitute very singular geomorphologic formations, of great diversity of forms, that get to measure, in some cases, hundreds of meters of height. They are only comparable to those located in China and the Malay Peninsula.
In the valley there are other elevations, such as Alturas de Pizarras, which are constituted by a variety of rocks, the oldest existing throughout the country and also in the Caribbean area.
Mural of Prehistory.
In the valley of Dos Hermanas, we can find the Mural of Prehistory, painted on the mogote called Pita. This mural shows the evolution of life in a natural sense in Cuba. It can be found on a perpendicular slope, which was cleaned before to perform this work. The rock was washed and drains were made in it to avoid, in the future, erosion due to rain. It extends throughout the Valley by 120 and 160 meters in length. Its author was Leovigildo González Morillo, now deceased, who was Director of Cartography at the Academy of Sciences of Cuba. In it are represented Guanahatabeyes Indians, species of Mammals, gigantic animals, as well as some Molluscs.
In the Mural of Prehistory you can see, in 12 pieces, the evolutionary process of men and animals in the Sierra de los Órganos, in its different stages.
In the Valley you can find several caves, very significant in terms of form and originality, such as “José Miguel” and “Indio”. The last is a cave, which reaches up to 300 meters in length, inside which run 2 underground rivers. There is also the so-called “La reina de las espeluncas”, the Great Cavern of Santo Tomás, characterized and surveyed by Dr. Antonio Núñez Jiménez, third discoverer of Cuba; It is much larger, but not as accessible and perhaps not so attractive to the general public.
Flora and fauna.
With regard to its flora, it is classified as an atypical evolution, very varied in terms of species with characteristics of relics from the past; There are 17 endemic botanical species in the Valley that are not found anywhere else in the world. Its maximum exponent is the Mycrocycas Calocoma, known as Palma cork, the only species declared a National Monument. It is a living fossil of 150 million years old, the oldest palm of the Antilles, which has the botanical peculiarity of fixing nitrogen in the atmosphere due to a bacterium called Beijerinckia, which lives inside this plant. This species of fanerógama of living fossil, is particularly abundant in the territory near the Valley.
The fauna is relevant for its marked differentiation, and it is the union of the different ecosystems that favors its diversity. The greatest specific richness and individuals by species, is found in the ecotones or transition zones. This site has a great variety of birds, reptiles, mammals and mollusks; Among the invertebrates, the presence of endemics can be mentioned, as is the case of the family Papilionidae with the Parides Gundlachianus species.
From the geomorphological point of view in the Valley of Viñales, different types of relief appear where they appear:
Erosive tectonic mountains carved into limestones in the shape of mesas and mogotes. These are impressive and can appear isolated or in groups; Its slopes are vertical and its tops rounded, are generally aligned and separated by deep narrow canyons, with slopes that exceed 25%.
Erosive tectonic mountains carved into terrigenous rocks in the form of hills. These elevations are very dissected, both vertically and horizontally, their slopes are in the range of 15-25%. The heights do not exceed 300 meters, the hills are flattened at the top.
Heights up to 200 meters. They are relicts of Jurassic limestones that are similar to calcareous mountains, differing from these due to the greater degree of erosion and karstification.
Fluvial-marine plain. This plain coincides with the Valley of Viñales. It has a flat to slightly wavy shape, usually develops on carbonate rocks. The heights rarely exceed 120 meters, this plain also corresponds to the marginal poljas.
Tectonic scarring – denudative. The height exceeds 150 meters, between one structure and another can reach a difference greater than 30 meters; the slopes exceed 10%.
In the Viñales area, 47 archaeological sites are known. Of these, 19 are linked to aboriginal communities of the pre-Hispanic era of the History of Cuba, where evidence of their funerary rites can be found, and 28 are related to marooned slaves of African origin. The latter are thought to have been the whereabouts of gangs or true palenques of the 19th century.
Villagers of the valley.
The town of Viñales, located in the Valley, preserves the traditional scenario of a farmers’ settlement, represented by its main street, galleries with columns on its sides and houses with red tiles that favor its climatic conditions, giving it a singular and pleasant appearance. In the Jurassic period this territory was composed of sea, deltas and plains of the disappeared continent, having as basic elements of local geology the limestone, where there are abundant fossils of ammonites, fishes and fossil schists of the terrestrial dinosaur “Diplodocus” and the Marine dinosaur “Ichtyosaurus”.
Its inhabitants are people of friendly character, hospitable and very knowledgeable of their main economic work, that in addition to the agricultural one they dedicate themselves to the tourist service, due to the attractions of the visitors of the landscape beauties of the place.