Valle de los Ingenios, Trinidad, Cuba October 2017 (19 photos)

This is part 4 of my Cuba 2017 photo series.

In my previous post I showed you glimpses of Trinidad in central Cuba which lies close to the beaches along the Caribbean coast.

About 12 km out of Trinidad is the historic region known as the Valle de los Ingenios or The Valley of the Sugar Mills. It is in fact a series of three interconnected valleys named San Luis, Santa Rosa, and Meyer. Sugar production was an important industry for Cuba from the earliest settlement by the Spanish, who introduced sugar cane to the island in 1512. Cuba was the world’s foremost producer of sugar during the late 18th and 19th centuries, when sugar production was the main industry. The Valle de los Ingenios was a major centre for Cuba’s sugar production. At its peak, there were over fifty sugar cane mills in operation here.

The dark part of this period in history is that most of the local Cubans living in this region before the Spanish arrived died from diseases introduced by the Spanish. As a result, the plantation owners were heavily reliant on slaves from Africa.

Centrally located in the Valle de los Ingenios is the Manaca Iznaga Estate and one of its dominant preserved features is the Bell Tower which you see above, built in 1816. It is 45 metres (147 ft) high and naturally I climbed it after paying the CUC$1 fee. According to historians, the bell that formerly hung on top of the tower announced the beginning and the end of the work day for the slaves that worked the fields, as well as the times for prayers to the Holy Virgin in the morning, midday, and afternoon. The tower was also used to sound an alarm in case of fire or slave escape.

A view across the valley with the original plantation owner’s house in the foreground. It’s now been transformed into a restaurant.

A view across the valley overlooking some of the original barracones (slave quarters).

A local in the field.

In 1988, Valle de los Ingenios and neighbouring Trinidad were declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

At the Manaca Iznaga Estate there is now a small village. As you might imagine, I couldn’t resist the desire to take a wander through it.

Continuing with my experiment in asking before taking photos, I asked this man if I could take his photo. He nodded in agreement and just sat still for me.

A roadside butcher.

A working horse and cart and a classic car. Only in Cuba?

I walked up to this woman and asked in Spanish if I could take her photo. She shrugged and just held her pose whilst I went crazy with my camera. By the way I was shooting a manual focus 28mm lens on a small rangefinder camera.

The road less travelled.

This man was in his yard sweeping the ground. I walked up to his fence and asked, “Puedo tomar te foto, por favor?”
He gave me a perplexed look and then nodded. He kept (kind of) sweeping whilst watching me intently. He must have thought I was crazy. After all, who takes photos of people sweeping the ground.

Me! That’s who! 🙂

I came across the local primary school…

… and the local playground.

I called to this woman from across her yard and she agreed to my request for a photograph and just sat there silently.

Then this other woman appeared from behind the door wanting some of my camera action. I obliged.

Could this be anywhere but Cuba?

This is part 4 of my Cuba 2017 photo series.

Click here for part 1 of my Cuba 2017 photo series, as featured on WordPress’ discovery site.

This is part 4 of my photo series of my 2017 trip to the USA, Mexico, Cuba, and Canada.

Leica Etcetera, Photography Etcetera

Valle de los Ingenios


96 thoughts on “Valle de los Ingenios

  1. Your Cuba’s series is a great mix of people and landscapes, spiced up with the background of the scenes and historical facts.
    All the ingredients for an interesting post put together.
    I’m enjoying your experimentation; talking to people and being allowed to shoot them, has given us amazing images, as they seemed at ease and spontaneous. Their beaten up expressions are perhaps revealing the hardworking and simple lifestyle of people who have experienced a lot more hardship than we do in modern cities.
    That’s an excellent post. Thanks, Draco.

    • Thank you very much, lucile. I think a little background history/story helps with the understanding of the region and photos.
      Honestly, I was incredibly surprised how many people simply agreed to being photographed. It certainly eased my nerves and hopefully that allowed them to be more comfortable being photographed from up close. I just found their faces and expressions so interesting. I really enjoyed this experience.

    • Thank you very much. Yes, it’s a mix between stopping and ignoring/continuing on. I’ll take whatever I can get after they agree. There’s a case for taking a candid shot first before asking. 🙂

      However, many of the people I photographed on the streets in Cuba were doing nothing, so continuing to do nothing for my photo increases my strike rate, doesn’t it? LOL

  2. Your four series blew me away!
    Their facial expressions are telling some stories behind the scene. Great captures, Dragon!
    Thanks for including the historical info. 🙂

    • Thank you very much, Amy. Cuba has a fascinating history and it helps to know the context, so I drop some information when I have it. I’m still surprised that so many people agreed to let me photograph them.

  3. J.D. Riso says:

    “Who takes photos of people sweeping the ground?” People who recognize the beauty in the mundane. Another fabulous series, sir.

  4. Loved the trip as always. As it’s Thanksgiving here in the States, I’ll let you know that I’m thankful I found your blog. I enjoy the trips and beautiful photos, many in places I’m unlikely to visit. (Not complaining, BTW, as I’ve done a lot of traveling in the States and in Europe.) But getting to some of the places you go is much easier from Australia and New Zealand than from the US. 🙂


  5. Yeah, who takes photos of people sweeping the floor? You do 😊 It may seem like something small, sweeping, but it speaks volumes about work ethic if you do it over and over. The locals don’t have any airs about them. Wonderfully done.

    • I was documenting life in Cuba. The simple photo of a man sweeping will revive many memories in years to come. Somehow, sweeping the ground doesn’t seem so mundane simply because I was overseas. 🙂

  6. Mis saludos LD. Tengo que escribirte en español para que no se pierda la esencia de lo que quiero decirte: has logrado convertir en arte la naturaleza virgen y multicolor de Cuba, los rostros de personas comunes que reflejan el duro trabajo y las necesidades insatisfechas, las paredes con sus múltiples colores mostrando el paso del tiempo y su necesidad de renovación, pero a su vez la benevolencia de esa naturaleza hermosa y de esos rostros ingenuos y cándidos. Pero sobre todo, gracias una vez más por poder disfrutar de esas imágenes maravillosas.
    PS: Excuse me, you need to use google.translate

    • Gracias por tu generoso comentario, Juan. Me siento honrado de que vea tanto en mi fotografía y de que el pueblo de Cuba fuera tan amable y honesto conmigo. Hay cosas malas y buenas en todos los países, pero también hay tanta belleza en Cuba. Estoy feliz de haber visto una pequeña parte de esto.

      I used google translate to reply. I hope it makes sense.

  7. Felt hot and humid here just looking! Think the Pink Horseman shot is fascinating – the sweep of the road … two dogs and three pedestrians. Just drew me right in.
    Thanks Draco. M

  8. The silhouette of the tower is brilliant. I happen to love silhouette pictures…. that one almost looks like art!

    People seem to really like posing for you… you capture their personality very well indeed! 🙂

  9. I love the background detail in your photos LD. The man sweeping, the broom is straight out of the middle ages with the witches style broom made of sticks, and the one with the classic car and horse cart also has a bike propped up and was that a train line in the background and then a few photos on there is the man on the horse I think still in the same area as I think I see the train sign again. So with walking that is 5, plus maybe the train, forms of getting around.

    • Thank you. I just took a closer look at my photo. That broom is a branch of a tree with sticks tied around it. He’s made that broom himself.
      Yes, that is a trainline. It was an important link in transporting the sugar crop to the world. I was told that Cuba was the 5th country in the world to develop a train system. They were quite advanced before things turned for the worse.

  10. Indeed the road less travelled imbued with captivating historic and cultural features.I loved the bell tower in b/w and all the characters and the scapes of your photo series,dear Draco!

  11. Hiya! Ages ago you let me share the tower image on my blog. On Sunday I’m giving a talk to a small group of people at a Dunedin art gallery about Colour and about my experience blogging. No internet connection. Is it ok for me save the b&w tower image to my laptop to show; and also for contrast the slave quarters through the pipe – if I may? Please let me know Lignum, thanks!

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