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Archaeological Landscape of the First Coffee Plantations in the South-East of Cuba

Archaeological Landscape of the First Coffee Plantations in the South-East of Cuba

The remains of the 19th-century coffee plantations in the foothills of the Sierra Maestra are unique evidence of a pioneer form of agriculture in a difficult terrain. They throw considerable light on the economic, social, and technological history of the Caribbean and Latin American region.

Paysage archéologique des premières plantations de café du sud-est de Cuba

Les vestiges des plantations de café du XIXe siècle, au pied de la Sierra Maestra, constituent un témoignage unique d'une forme novatrice d'agriculture en terrain difficile. Ils éclairent l'histoire économique, sociale et technologique de la région Caraïbes-Amérique latine.

منظر أثري لمشاتل القهوة الأولى في جنوب شرق كوبا

تشكّل بقايا مشاتل القهوة التي تعود الى القرن التاسع عشر والواقعة عند قدم سييرا مايسترا البرهان الوحيد على نمط مبتكرٍ للزراعة في أرضٍ صعبة. وهي تسلط الضوء على التاريخ الاقتصادي والاجتماعي والتكنولوجي لمنطقة الكاريبي وأمريكا اللاتينيّة.

source: UNESCO/ERI

古巴东南第一个咖啡种植园考古风景区

这个座落在喜瑞拉梅斯特拉(the Sierra Maestra)丘陵间的19世纪咖啡种植园遗迹见证了在不规则土地上进行农业种植的创新形式,清晰地展示了加勒比海地区和拉丁美洲地区经济、社会和技术发展的历史。

source: UNESCO/ERI

Археологический ландшафт первых кофейных плантаций на юго-востоке Кубы

Остатки кофейных плантаций XIX в. у подножия гор Сьерра-Маэстра – это уникальное свидетельство ранних форм сельского хозяйства, развивавшегося на сложной для освоения территории. Они помогают значительно лучше понять экономическую, социальную и технологическую историю Карибского региона и Латинской Америки.

source: UNESCO/ERI

Paisaje arqueológico de las primeras plantaciones de caféen el sudeste de Cuba

Los vestigios de las plantaciones de café del siglo XIX, situados al pie de la Sierra Maestra, constituyen un testimonio excepcional del uso de técnicas agrícolas precursoras en terrenos difíciles. Estos vestigios aclaran aspectos de la historia económica, social y tecnológica del Caribe y América Latina.

source: UNESCO/ERI

キューバ南東部のコーヒー農園発祥地の景観

source: NFUAJ

Archeologisch landschap van de eerste koffieplantages in het Zuidoosten van Cuba

De resten van de 19e-eeuwse koffieplantages bestaan uit de overblijfselen van 171 historische koffieplantages op de steile en ruige hellingen van de bergvalleien in Sierra Maestra regio. Ze zijn het unieke bewijs van een pioniersvorm van landbouw op een moeilijk terrein. De koffieproductie werd in de 18e eeuw gestart op het eiland Santo Domingo door de Franse kolonisten. Zij waren met hun slaven gevlucht naar Cuba vanwege de opstanden in 1790 en de jaren daarna. Het archeologisch landschap werpt veel licht op de economische, sociale en technologische geschiedenis van het Caribisch gebied en de Latijns-Amerikaanse regio.

Source: unesco.nl

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Archaeological Landscape of the First Coffee Plantations in the South-East of Cuba © Ko Hon Chiu Vincent
Justification for Inscription

Criterion iii The remains of the 19th and early 20th century coffee plantations in eastern Cuba are unique and eloquent testimony to a form of agricultural exploitation of virgin forest, the traces of which have disappeared elsewhere in the world. Criterion iv The production of coffee in eastern Cuba during the 19th and early 20th centuries resulted in the creation of a unique cultural landscape, illustrating a significant stage in the development of this form of agriculture.

Long Description

The remains of the 19th- and early 20th-century coffee plantations in eastern Cuba are unique and eloquent testimony to a form of agricultural exploitation of virgin forest, the traces of which have disappeared elsewhere in the world. The production of coffee in eastern Cuba during the 19th and early 20th centuries resulted in the creation of a unique cultural landscape, illustrating a significant stage in the development of this form of agriculture.

Coffee production was established in the island of Saint Domingue (Hispaniola) by French settlers in the 18th century. The uprisings from 1790 onwards, culminating in the establishment of the independent state of Haïti in 1804, resulted in the flight of French plantation owners, accompanied by many of their African slaves, to the neighbouring island of Cuba, then under Spanish rule. They were to be joined by other coffee planters, from Metropolitan France and elsewhere, throughout the 19th century. In the late 19th century coffee production began in other parts of Latin America, such as Brazil, Colombia and Costa Rica. New techniques were introduced, based on developed agricultural systems; the early plantations in eastern Cuba found themselves unable to compete in the growing world markets and they gradually closed down.

The site consists of the remains of 171 historic coffee plantations on the steep and rugged slopes of mountain valleys in this region of the Sierra Maestra. The traditional plantation consists of a number of basic elements: its centre is the residence of the owner, surrounded by much more modest accommodation for the slaves, both domestic and agricultural. The owner's house always dominates the main industrial element, the terraced drying floor (secadero ), on which the coffee beans were spread and steeped in water in preparation for subsequent processing. On the larger plantations are to be found workshops for working wood and metal, and sometimes lime-kilns (as at San Luís de Jacas).

The plantations are linked by clearly defined roads, fully metalled within the boundaries of the plantations themselves. Elaborate channels, often built as arcaded aqueducts (as at San Luís de Jacas), and sluices conduct water from natural streams and springs for irrigation and process purposes; many of the plantations that have been studied have large stone-built cisterns for water storage.

Coffee trees require shade, and so they were planted under the cover of the natural forest trees. In addition, cleared areas were interplanted with coffee and fruit trees, such as citrus fruits, guava and other tropical fruits, which provided a source of food for the plantation owners and their slaves. In plots attached to the houses vegetables and other crops could be raised for the use of the owners' households.

The owners' houses were substantial structures adapted to the requirements of a tropical climate. Constructed largely in wood, on stone foundations and with shingled roofs, they had rooms for living and sleeping, often decorated according to prevailing fashions. A number were equipped with fireplaces (e.g. Jaguey) and rudimentary sanitary facilities. They were usually surrounded by a ditch of some kind, for protective purposes. Their kitchens were sited in separate structures, close to the main house. Less is known about the huts of the slaves. Evidence in the form of postholes and beaten floors indicates that they were flimsy structures of wood and branches, probably roofed with branches and leaves. Scanty finds from excavations give an indication of the very low standard of living of these workers.

The secaderos are immediately recognizable, in the form of large sunken areas surrounded by low walls and linked with cisterns or water channels. Clever use is made of the natural topography so as to minimize physical labour in the production process and facilitate water handling.

Apart from the restored buildings (La Isabelica, Ti Arriba) and the garden at San Juan de Escocia, where every care has been taken to ensure that authentic materials and techniques are based on meticulous site survey and archival research, the authenticity of the ruined cafetales is total.

Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC
Historical Description

Coffee production was established in the island of Saint- Domingue (Hispaniola) by French settlers in the 18th century. The uprisings from 1790 onwards, culminating in the establishment of the independent state of Haiti in 1804, resulted in the flight of French plantation owners, accompanied by many of their African slaves, to the neighbouring island of Cuba, then under Spanish rule. They were granted lands in the south-eastern part of the island in the foothills of the Sierra Maestra, at that time largely not settled and eminently suitable for coffee growing because of its climate and natural forest cover.

They quickly established coffee plantations (cafetales) over a very large area, introducing and improving the techniques and layouts developed in Haiti and elsewhere. They were to be joined by other coffee planters, from Metropolitan France and elsewhere (Catalans, English, Germans, and North Americans, as well as criollos from other parts of the region), throughout the 19th century. There was extensive physical and cultural intermingling with the criollo population, of Spanish ethnic origin, in the region, and a vigorous multiethnic culture developed.

The plantation owners created an elaborate infrastructure of roads and water management in this difficult physical environment, in order to service their enterprises. Much of this survives to the present day, in the form of mountain roads and bridges.

From the late 19th century onwards coffee production began in other parts of Latin America, such as Brazil, Colombia, and Costa Rica. New techniques were introduced, based on developed agricultural systems, and the early plantations in eastern Cuba found themselves unable to compete in the growing world markets. They gradually closed down, and now only a handful survive in production using the traditional techniques in the region.

Source: Advisory Body Evaluation