- Issue: Winter 2016
- Author: Erica Hamann
VIÑALES NATIONAL PARK
Taking in the spectacular view from our table at Finca Agroecologica El Paraiso, it was hard to imagine the day getting any better—until lunch was served.
The waitstaff brought platter after platter—leafy greens, fresh vegetables, savory fritters—and as we ate, we gazed out to where it had all been grown. Nestled in a picturesque valley just outside Viñales, this terraced organic farm was the source of every part of our family-style meal. The food was served with the house “anti-stress” cocktail, which was delicious but hardly necessary; the short hours spent at Finca Agroecologica El Paraiso were some of the most peaceful of our entire trip.
Lunch was followed by a tour of the farm. Stomachs full, we struggled to keep up with our guide Martín, a spry, silver-haired man who continually teased that we’d never be able to guess his age.
“Smell this! Touch this!” he pointed again and again. He deftly maneuvered through row after row, explaining which plants best complement each other and how the farm is irrigated. Pointing to an elevated rabbit pen, he revealed the source of the farm’s all-natural fertilizer.
It was clear that lunch represented one of the ways Cuba has maintained its natural beauty throughout its varied landscapes of rain forests, coral reefs, wetlands, mangrove forests, and mountain ranges. This organic farm demonstrated the will of Cuba’s innovative citizens to proudly care for their environment in ways that translate into abundance. As we ended our tour, Martín implored us one more time to guess his age. Someone finally ventured a number: “Seventy-five?”
He shook his head, beaming. “Ninety-four.”
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