Alchemy is the transformation of coal into gold. 

Valle de los Ingenios is eight miles outside of Trinidad de Cuba. This picturesque series of valleys was on of the centres of the sugar industry in the Caribbean from the late 18th century until the late 19th century when slavery was abolished. At its peak, the valley was home to more than fifty sugar mill operations powered by 30,000 slaves imported from Africa. The  sugar cane crop propelled the Caribbean region into prosperity for more than two centuries – All made possible by inhumanity of slavery.

Today, although much of the valley’s sugar mills are in ruins, the watch tower, the original owner’s house and slave quarters on the Manaca Iznaga Plantation remains intact.  Today, the main house functions as a gift shop and restaurant that serves guarapo frio (cane juice with a twist of lime).

Manaca Iznaga Tower
The 45m tall Manaca Iznaga Tower was constructed in 1816 by owner of the plantation, Alejo Maria Iznaga y Burrell. The original bell announced the beginning and the end of the day for slaves and acted as alarm when slaves escaped. The tower also served as the owner’s personification of power and dominance in the sugar cane industry. At the time when it was erected it was the tallest structure in Cuba.

Today, tourists from around the world walk up steep wooden stairs to the top of the tower to capture magical views of the valley below. This tower once served as a symbol of fear for slaves in the area. But 200 years later, it is a place of wonder visited by tourists who are all given the narratives of the enslaved people who made it possible. UNESCO declared the entire Valley de los Ingenios  a World Heritage Site in 1988.

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