Vinales History Facts and Timeline

(Vinales, Pinar del Rio, Cuba)

The town of Vinales and the scenic valley in which it is located has been a favoured location for living from the earliest days of human settlement on Cuba.

Rich fertile soil, a good climate and dozens of natural caves made the valley ideal for both inhabitation and agriculture. Since its proper establishment as a town, the history of Vinales has been shaped first by tobacco and now by tourism.

The Taino

For centuries prior to the arrival of the Spaniards in Cuba, the numerous caves in the Vinales Valley were inhabited by Taino tribes. The Tainos were related to the Arawak people who populated most of the Caribbean and parts of Latin America. Their population was boosted by runaway slaves, known as Cimarrones, who lived in the caves and interacted with the Taino people. Remnants of their presence can still be seen in some of the caves that are open to the public today.

Spanish Conquerors

In the beginning of the 1800s, Spanish tobacco farmers from the Canary Islands migrated to the Vuelta Abajo region nearby. The soil and climate were ideal for tobacco, which became the primary industry in the early history of Vinales. The earliest ranch in the Vinales Valley was established in 1871, being owned by one Don Andres Hernandez Ramos.

Becoming a Town

As the growth of the tobacco industry boomed in the region, a small village called Vinales emerged in the middle of the 1870s. Its location on the road from Pinar del Rio (the main town) to Puerto Esperanza (the main sea port) made it the ideal stopover along this vital trade route from tobacco plantation to the sea. By 1882, the Western Railroad made it to the Vinales Valley, building a station at the town that still stands.

Several buildings from the early Spanish colonial years still line the main street in the centre of Vinales. Its history is very much alive and preserved in sites like the Pan de Azucar hacienda and the Casa de Caridad. The Municipal Museum on the Calle Salvador Cisneros also showcases the rich cultural and agricultural heritage of the Vinales Valley.

Tourism Boost

During Cuba's War of Independence and later during the Cuban Revolution, Vinales was the site of several military operations. However, once Fidel Castro laid eyes on this scenic valley, he realised its importance both as a centre of Cuban pride and culture, as well as a natural treasure.

Castro often boasted that this town was his favourite place in the whole of Cuba. The outstanding beauty of the Vinales Valley, complemented by a rich heritage of arts and crafts, as well as traditional tobacco farming, convinced UNESCO to name it a World Heritage Site in 1999. Since then, the town has experienced a major influx of tourism, both Cuban and foreign.

Many visitors come simply to soak in the timeless ambience of the town's tobacco plantations and to enjoy the traditional music and crafts that abound in this town. Others include rock climbing and caving to their agenda. Yet at its core, Vinales continues to grow tobacco as it has for centuries, and this adherence to its heritage is what makes the valley truly special.