Viñales, Cuba

In the summer of 2011 I traveled to Cuba for the first time and spent several weeks in the west, in a small village nestled in the mogotes called Viñales. I was fortunate to meet a beautiful family of farmers who are practicing completely sustainable agriculture and doing so without electricity. They live in the Viñales valley, which was named a UNESCO World Heritage Centre in 1999. Vinales is encircled by limestone mogotes, a mountainous terrain that creates a rich growing environment. It has a unique mix of multi-ethnic culture, traditional agricultural techniques and geologic formations. 'El Cano', the head of the family, and his wife Ana, have 7 children, all adults, 5 of whom still live on or near the farm, in some cases with their own children. The men and male children do almost all of the work of farming while the women take care of the houses, prepare the meals, bring lunches out to the men and help with harvesting some crops. Within this division of labor, there seems to be no hierarchy and a mutual love and respect is always evident. Tobacco, yucca, guava, avocado, rice and coffee are among their primary crops. They welcomed us into their lives and became our family in Cuba. As I arrived they were putting a new roof on the tobacco barn and so I worked daily with them until it was finished, photographing whenever I could. Other farmers would arrive from other farms to help, often on horseback, smoking cigars. Always rum at the end of the day, straight from the bottle, passed around, even the young boys, 12 and 13 would share in small sips of rum. I’m very thankful for the time we had together and look forward to going back again soon.