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In Cuba Viñales eternal heritage
From the emblematic viewpoint, in Los Jazmines hill, the tangle of fallen trees, the devastated royal palms and the debris of the houses and the tobacco drying barns, mist up one of the most representative landscapes of Cuba.

In the main street of the town, the pines have disappeared. Those that survived were chopped down as precaution in order to avoid new damage to the houses or the power grid.

The tourist infrastructure is seriously damaged. Since the hit of Gustav, none of the hotels of the valley have lodged new guests. San Vicente Ranch was the less struck (only seven rooms), and therefore would be the first to start working, but its surrounding forest is demolished.

The power network was so affected that only the main settlements of the municipality have now a few hours with electricity, thanks to the installation of mobile power generators.

However, the condition of National Park and World Cultural Landscape, make of the environmental impact, one of the principal concerns of Viñales.

Nature in the vortex of recovery

A preliminary evaluation gives figures of the destruction. “Seventy percent of the area is damaged. The major harms are in the partially destroyed forests, in the base of the flat-topped hillocks, and in the gallery forests of the hydrographical basin, assures Joel Martínez, assistant director of the National Park.

Reinaldo Fernández, territorial delegate of the Ministry of Science Technology and the Environment (CITMA), explained that after the primary diagnostic, is time to check the state of the endemic species and the fauna.

“Now people are saying that the birds disappeared, but not being visible is not alarming, since as the trees were destroyed they probably emigrated looking for food”.

As many other times, after the passage of similar phenomena, the experience and effort of the man will be present in the recovery phase. “Ecosystems regenerate, but sometimes we have to help them. Besides, we must maximize the protection measures because there is a vegetal mass that will increase the risk of brush fires in the drought period”, specified Reinaldo.

This time, nevertheless, the action of the specialists is not to be focused on the environment. “In Viñales there is a particular feeling for nature. People may be depressed and we have to make them realize how to contribute to revive their milieu”, he added.

In fact, the fury of the wind hit the entrails of the valley merciless. None of its representative places went unharmed. “We have never seen anything like that around here”, says Caridad Miranda, who at her 90 years old is part of the living heritage of this place.

In her 1,04 hectare garden, that have attracted many visitors all over the years, Dora Alonso found the inspiration for her story El valle de la Pájara Pinta. The exuberant vegetation had witnessed immutable the hurricane of 1944, but the blow of Gustav and Ike damaged it seriously.

In spite of that, Caridad is sure that sooner than later the trees and the flowers will grow again. “Nature is very wise. What she takes away, gives it back later”.

Heritage in danger?

Ricardo Álvarez, a local historian, thinks that the blow of the two hurricanes has livened up an old dilemma. Many constructions of the valley -that according to heritage regulations must have tile or guano roofs- did not resist, and the families lost their goods.
“It is necessary to look for alternatives so that the farmers preserve their traditions, and have also security conditions”, he comments.

However, Alvarez affirms that despite the damage, Viñales is in no danger at all to lose the condition of World Cultural Landscape, bestowed by UNESCO in 1999.

“The hurricanes did not commit the factors that made him deserve that category, since the vegetation regenerates and the people remain here, with their ancestral customs”.

Hoe in hand; going to the field, Francisco Hernández assures that the latest rains have brought good news. “The trees, that after the cyclone seemed burnt, are sprouting already. In a year everything will be green again”.

The harmonious coexistence of man with nature, which has always been the major charm of the valley, now is reinforced when its inhabitants join to renew this land surrounded by hillocks that look like a herd of sleeping elephants.


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