Las Terrazas A Singular Community in Western Cuba

By Sissi Arencibia Photos: Jorge Pérez a Ferval, on: Attractions & Excursions
Las Terrazas A Singular Community in Western Cuba

Las Terrazas is a community of little more than 800 inhabitants in the centre of an environmentally rich area known as Sierra del Rosario, a massif in the Cuban west which was declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.

Its origins date back to the 1970's when it was conceived as part of a comprehensive program for the redevelopment of the area which included the reforestation on terraces and the rescue of its natural, historical, and cultural values.

Featuring a singular design and only 45 minutes from Havana, the town is built in a narrow valley on the banks of the San Juan Lake forming a harmonious and coherent pairing and has a pleasant vista of the surrounding landscape.

Las Terrazas A Singular Community in Western CubaIn this community one can breathe the hospitality of the Cuban country people. A walk along the Callejón de Moka, where the Fonda de Mercedes and the Café de Maria can be found, are enough for you to see for yourself the customs and traditions of rural Cuba. Mercedes and María were famous for the traditional cuisine offered in their establishments. Travelers would arrive in search of roast pork, white rice and black beans, and the good tasting coffee from these mountains.

This area is the birthplace of the late singer and composer Polo Montañés and his old lakeside home is now a museum honouring him. A number of artists work in the area, including Jorge Duporté, the watercolour painter who has dedicated the past four decades to capture the botanical universe of Cuba. Fellow painter Lester Campa is a young man whose sublime handling of the landscape has brought world wide attention to his art as well as to his part of Cuba where social development respects the natural criteria.

Ecologically-oriented, the community is part of a complex where a research centre operates and is in charge of the study and monitoring of the ecosystem which reportedly has 900 species of flora, 35% being endemic to the area, and over 80 species of birds. The Centre for Ecological Investigation provides the services of specialized guides and governs multiple scientific programs that are conducted in this protected area.

Man, Nature and Tourism

Oriented towards the protection and management of the environment, the human activity of this settlement is never in conflict with this project whose idea was for the community, nature and tourism to coexist.

This is a destination where harmony sustains the system, as in the case of the Moka Hotel, built on the top of a hill, as an intimate, elegant and ideal place for being in contact with nature.

Its building respected the whimsical growth of a hundred year old carob tree and adjoins the forest that surrounds the community. Four-star service is offered in its 26 air-conditioned rooms with all the amenities for tourists The design of EI Moka is exclusively Cuban and the place's name is identified with the history of coffee, whose introduction boosted the economy or the region during the first half of the 19th century.

The production of the red bean at more than 50 coffee plantations throughout the Rosario mountain area left a rich historical and cultural heritage. This was highlighted by the settlement of French colonists as a result of the Revolution in Haiti.

Las Terrazas A Singular Community in Western CubaThe coffee boom not only brought about population settlements in the valleys which were bathed by the tributaries of the San Juan and Bayate Rivers but also aided the development of tourism in this area.

Ruins of estates such as Buenavista, Santa Serafina, San Pedro and Catalina, some of which still preserve the tools used by their employees for the processing of the coffee beans, are included in the tours of the area.

Other sites of interest include the area baptized Canada del Infierno, or "Hell's Ravine," and the rapids, waterfalls and swimming holes formed in the Baños del San Juan or the San Juan Baths.

The principle of tourism developed in this area is to share the benefits generated with the community while respecting the environment. On all fronts, this project has been a success.



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