Viñales Valley, one of the star zones of Cuban tourism, is being threatened “by violations, illegal activities and uncontrolled overexploitation,” which has made it necessary to adopt measures for its protection, according to what the Cuban daily Juventud Rebelde warns.
Viñales is one of the sites most visited on the island, which in 2016 received more than 700,000 tourists and some 600,000 last year, according to the Cuban Ministry of Tourism.
Its values include its singular natural beauty, marked by its paradigmatic mogotes (round-top hills), its architectural heritage and the conservation of traditional procedures in agriculture and crafts. Because of this it was declared a National Monument in 1976, a Protected Area in 1998, A World Cultural Landscape in 1999 and a National Park since 2001.
To welcome the flourishing boom of travelers, this town in the province of Pinar del Río currently has 2,300 rooms for rent and more than 130 restaurants that employ around 5,000 private workers, according to José Antonio Valle, president of the municipal government.
Valle explained that the interest awoken by Viñales generates that persons from other regions started to create gastronomic services and accommodations for tourism in the zone of Viñales.
The director of the Technical Office of Monuments of the Provincial Center of Cultural Heritage, Nidia Cabrera, pointed out that the town’s growth “is more in homes than demographic, since there are campaigns that incite to visit Viñales,” and that, in her opinion, “has exceeded all the capacities.”
“Not all the persons seen are locals, but rather personnel attracted by commerce, since the destination is a source of employment. There are those who work in construction, those hired to serve, wash and clean,” she said.
It’s not tourism, it’s the illegal activities
The Viñales authorities are of the opinion that tourism in itself does not report as much risk for the place as the illegal activities linked to services, in “precipitated” expansion, in order to respond to the visitors’ demands.
The increase in constructions has favored violations in urban organization, heights and expansion of oversized homes, paved patios over garden areas and the remodeling done with forms and materials that do not correspond to what is established.
To stop the illegal actions and preserve the heritage site the authorities are promoting the rescue of the parterres, the use of the color palette approved for the place, the reforestation of the principal streets, the homogenous painting of buildings and the use of lighting according to the site.
“Viñales has to remain with the identity values that have given it that importance worldwide, especially in relation to the care of the landscape,” affirmed the president of the Provincial Commission on Monuments, Juan Carlos Rodríguez.
It has been previewed that for this month specialists from the Institute of Physical Planning and the National Heritage Council make a “meter by meter” list of the anomalies, with the collaboration of the zone’s workers, to take the pertinent measures, Juventud Rebelde noted.
The text also mentions among the violations associated to the activities of the tourists the uncontrolled exploitation of the paths for trekking which are used for horseback riding, which is why it was decided to organize in a more controlled way the renting of horses.
EFE / OnCuba