Vinales
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Tobacco farming in the cigar capital of the world
Havana has many iconic features: the 1950s cars, the Che Guevara murals, the wave-washed Malecon. But to get to the heart of Cuba's most famous industry, you need to abandon the city and head out into the lush, tropical countryside. Vinales is a sleepy, welcoming town with one plaza and a couple of bars selling cheap rum - surrounded by bizarre rock formations, fertile farmland and oxen-pulled carts. Deep in the verdant valleys are the tobacco farms, barns filled with drying leaves, and sombrero-clad farmers with robust moustaches and yellowing fingertips. Other than the seasons of the plants, time means nothing here; we could be in the 1950s or the modern day. There are no cars out here, we arrive on horseback. There are no mobile phones, no TV and water is pumped from the ground. We are taken into a little wooden hut to see how the cigars are hand rolled, after the dried leaves have been infused with rum, vanilla and honey for the distinctive Cuban taste. I snapped this photo as our host lit a cigar for another guest - backlit, smoky. Bar the baseball cap, this could have been one of Castro's comrades during the revolution. The government takes 90 percent of what this farmer grows, the rest is his to sell or smoke as he pleases. Smoked by wealthy capitalists around the world, even cigars cannot escape communism's chilly grip.
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