Cuba's Viñales Valley is encircled by mountains and its landscape is interspersed with dramatic rocky outcrops. The quality of this cultural landscape is enhanced by the vernacular architecture of its farms and villages, where a rich multiethnic society survives, illustrating the cultural development of the islands of the Caribbean and of Cuba.
Viñales Valley (Valle de Viñales) in the Sierra de los Organos near the western end of the island of Cuba is an outstanding karst landscape encircled by mountains and dotted with spectacular dome-like limestone outcrops (mogotes) that rise as high as 300 m (980 ft). The valley is home to an original culture, a synthesis of contributions from indigenous peoples, Spanish conquerors and African slaves who once worked the tobacco plantations.
Colonized at the beginning of the 19th century, the valley has fertile soil and a climate conducive to the development of stock-raising and the cultivation of fodder and food crops. Traditional methods of agriculture have survived largely unchanged on this plain for several centuries, particularly for growing tobacco.
The quality of this cultural landscape is enhanced by the vernacular architecture of its farms and villages, where a rich multi-cultural society survives, its architecture, crafts and music illustrating the cultural development of Cuba and the islands of the Caribbean.
The village of Viñales, strung out along its main street, has retained its original layout and many interesting examples of colonial architecture, mostly one-story wooden houses with porches. The lush landscape is largely rural in character. Most of the buildings scattered over the plain are simple, built of local and natural materials and used as homes or family farms.
The Viñales Valley is also significant for its cultural associations, particularly its traditional agricultural practices related to growing tobacco. Because mechanical methods of cultivation and harvesting lower the quality of tobacco, time-honored methods such as animal traction are still used.
The Viñales Valley is home to an original culture, a synthesis of contributions from indigenous peoples, Spanish conquerors and African slaves who once worked the tobacco plantations. An excellent illustration is the musical expression of the field worker (veguero), of which Benito Hernández Cabrera (known as the Viñalero) was the main interpreter. Traditional crafts also flourish here.
Cubans identify strongly with the Viñales Valley because of the beauty of the site and its historical and cultural importance. In the visual arts, the valley has been transformed into a symbol of the Caribbean landscape by various artists.
The karst landscape of the Viñales Valley is also part of Viñales National Park. The high authority responsible for management is the Consejo Nacional de Patrimonio Cultural (National Council of Cultural Heritage).