Manaca Iznaga is a former slave village in the Valley of the Sugar Mills about 12km outside of Trinidad. At the peak of the industry in Cuba there were over fifty sugar cane mills in operation in the three valleys, with over 30,000 slaves working in the mills and on the sugar cane plantations that surrounded them.
In 1988, Valle de los Ingenios and neighbouring Trinidad were declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Although most of the sugar mills are in ruins, intact structures endure at some sites, including Guachinango, where the plantation house remains, and the plantation of Manaca Iznaga, where the owner’s house, a tower and some barracones, the original slave quarters, still stand. Although the barracones are now used as housing and are in poor repair, the house (which has been converted into a restaurant) and the “Iznaga Tower” are well maintained.
Sugar production was an important industry for Cuba from the earliest settlement by the Spanish, who introduced sugar cane to the island in 1512, and trade in the commodity enriched Trinidad and the surrounding areas. The island became the world’s foremost producer of sugar during the late 18th and 19th centuries, when sugar production was the main industry. The climate and soil were perfect for the cultivation of sugar cane, and good ports and interior connections facilitated transport and exportation of the refined sugar. To prevent the sugar from spoiling, rapid transport was necessary, and to this end a special railway line was laid down through the valley in the late 1880s, connecting the Valle de los Ingenios with Trinidad and the port at Casilda, 6 km (4 mi) from Trinidad, on the coast.
“The old laughing lady from Manaca Iznaga” and many other photos from a Cuba that only a few have been seen before at the LEICA gallery Nuremberg until October, 19th: