This historical area in Cuba was turned into in the course of four centuries. It achieved its greatest splendor in the XVII and XVIII centuries when 77 ingenios where active here. A “ingenio” or “engenho” is a sugar cane plantation and mill. The term is specially related to the colonization process of Latin America and Africa. San Luis Valley huge production of sugar cane brought richness to the island, mainly to the colonizers, but at least enough to build the first railway of America for the locals. This train goes across the island to a large extent, carrying the production of the Ingenios to the Habana port and making the job easier.
The huge properties built for the families running the sugar mills were abandoned in the XIX century. The decline in the area came when in Europe sugar began to be obtain from beets and slavery was abolished. Most of the people from the valley move to Cienfuegos, a relatively close city which port was becoming powerful. Upon being restored in 1955, San Luis Valley was promoted as a touristic destination. Many house are turned into hotels and museum in which visitors can discover the real life of the countryside in Cuba.
One of the most beautiful of this properties or mills called “Ingenios” or “Haciendas”, belong to the Iznagas and the Borrell landlord’s families. The Iznagas mills has a lot of legends that will captivate the visitors. One of the brothers took it into his head to complete and see which of them bored the deepest well and built up the highest tower. The tower is 65 meters high and was used as a platform to guard the family properties, but also to defenestrate the unfaithful wife of the constructor.
Nearby, the Ingenio of Guachinango, is one of the most visited. The house faded paintings allusive to biblical passages on the walls and some pieces of furniture and appliances of its owner Don Mariano Borrell a Catalan immigrant. The garden is a cozy space with a huge amount of indigenous plants, including a rare “winner” or “plant of luck”. Its leaves grow in variable shapes, those that have three well defined loves are kept by people in a similar manner as four-leaf cloves.
San Luis Valley has a sweet-sour history. During four centuries, the wealthy people of Trinidad -a city nearby- changed the countryside, destroyed the jungle and built up the sugar mills and tobacco factories that turn Cuba into the biggest producer of sugar. Today, this area is a must-to visit for those travelers interested in Cuba beside the beaches and the resorts.