Cuban Agriculture, French coffee plantation Cafetal Buenavista

Coffee bean drying beds at Cafetal Buenavista, Artemisa, Cuba.
Photo Pam Dawling

Cuban Agriculture, Tour of a restored historic early 19th century French coffee plantation (Cafetal) Buenavista, worked by 100 enslaved Africans, Las Terrazas Ecovillage, Artemisa.

This is an episode in the tales of my Agroecology Tour of Cuba in January 2020 with the Organic Growers School. Click the category Cuban Agriculture to see more posts in the series. In particular, refer to my most recent post on Las Terrazas. The Cafetal Buenavista is on the land of that ecovillage and bioreserve.

The master’s house at Cafetal Buenavista coffee plantation, now used as a restaurant.
Photo Pam Dawling

Buenavista is Cuba’s oldest coffee plantation, built in 1801 by French refugees from Haiti. The attic of the master’s house (which is now a restaurant) was used to store the beans until they could be carried down to the port of Mariel by mule.

Cafetal Buenavista plantation final drying floor and sheds.
Photo Pam Dawling

The coffee beans were sun-dried on huge drying beds during the day (top photo), then piled up every night in the center of the drying bed, and covered. If it rained, the beans were bagged up and stored in small low sheds, shown above.

The mill building at Cafetal Buenavista plantation.
Photo Pam Dawling
The coffee mill inside the thatched building at Cafetal Buenavista.
Photo Pam Dawling

The huge tajona (grindstone) that cracked the coffee beans is well restored and does move!

The coffee bean mill at Cafetal Buenavista plantation.
Photo Pam Dawling

Ruins of the quarters of some of the enslaved people held there can be seen alongside the drying beds. They were chained up at night in tiny 8-12 person stone cells built onto the walls of the coffee drying beds.

Cafetal Buenavista plantation. Cells where enslaved coffee workers were shackled at night.
Photo Pam Dawling

We had a talk about slavery with our Cuban tour guide Josetti. A study of the DNA of 2000 Cubans showed widespread genes from indigenous people, Africans, Chinese, Spanish and other Europeans. It’s impossible to tell ancestry from skin color. General guide: “Our mothers were Africans, our fathers European.” There is still individual racism, but it is not institutionalized as it is in the US, Josetti thinks. Slavery was abolished in Cuba in 1865, earlier than in Brazil, for example.

Photo Pam Dawling

The view from the top of the plantation is breathtaking!

For more, see and listen to:

Insight Cuba blog post on Las Terrazas

http://www.touristinyourtownpodcast.com/tag/buenavista-coffee-plantation/ Podcast

Shade-grown slavery

Slavery and Spatial Dialectics on Cuban Coffee Plantations, Theresa A. Singleton

I got a tick bite (was it one of the sterile ones Cuba has introduced to defeat tick-borne diseases? I didn’t get sick, so I don’t know that it wasn’t)

We got back on the bus to return to Havana for our last 3 days. Everyone wanted to stay in beautiful Viñales. We have a farm work project on Monday and a free day Wednesday (we might go to the beach). We returned to Havana, registered at our casas. I went with four others of the group to a small corner café, and spent 3 CUC on pizza and 2 CUC on a beer. The pizza was so big I still had leftovers to take home after I gave one piece away.1 CUC=$1 US.

 

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