When I think of Cuba, cigars is one if not the first thing that comes to mind. So I knew for sure I had to make my way to Viñales while in Cuba. Viñales is 2.5 hours away west from Havana and is where most of the tobacco is grown.
Getting to Viñales is not hard at all there are so many taxis in Havana that are more than willing to do the day trip there or just drive you there. My friends and I decided to stay there for a night, a night is good but I suggest at least two nights it is beautiful and so much to do! After spending 3 nights in Havana we made our way to Viñales. To be honest I had many mix feelings about traveling in taxi but it only took me about 10 minutes to be completely comfortable and enjoy the scenery. Once on the freeway we got to enjoy all the vegetation there are so many fruit trees along the road and a lot of cows! I think it’s not what I expected but to be honest I did not know what to expect after talking to so many people before going to Cuba.
Once we got to the Valle De Viñales I was mesmerized by all the green and nature. The taxi driver pointed out a few huts that are used to dry the tobacco that is used to make cigars. (The leaves are hung to dry from 4 to 8 weeks) We stayed in a very cute house the lady who we rented the house had her friends give us a tour of the Tobacco fields and coffee fields. (Of course this was the only day it poured!) Rain or shine we were determined to see the fields. We took a 3 hour horse tour of parts of Viñales tobacco and coffee fields. To say the least it was breathtaking I felt like I had just stepped into Jurassic Park. There was so much green and mountains. We came across cows (cows with horns! Yes I hadn’t seen female cows with horns before) and oxen. We got to experience the true beauty of nature. The rain made it even that much more amazing and adventures.
Once back in the barn we went inside the tobacco hut. This is where we got to learn about the process of cigar making and for me the first time I realize what it meant for the Cuban people to be Socialist and what laws they have to follow. Our guide told us that the owner of the field have to “sell” (for a very low price) 90% of the tobacco they grow to the government.
After our 3 hours of horseback riding, I was so hungry that walking out of the tobacco hut I saw a cow so I joked with our tour guide and told him that I wanted to eat that cow. The response I got, was a response I was not expecting, he said if you eat that cow you will go to jail for 10 years because it is against the law to kill cows, oxen, and bulls. I was in shock since we were on a farm and there were many cows all around. Since cows are seen as government property the farmers have to sell their cows to the government and then buy back the meat at a much higher price. My tour guide asked me if it was the same law in Mexico and I said No! I told him how every time I went to visit my grandparents in Durango, my grandfather would kill a cow to have fresh meat. He was surprised and said, “Claudia me voy a Mexico contigo a comer carne.” (Claudia I am going to Mexico with you to eat meat) This moment was the moment I saw that people do suffer since they don’t have the money to pay for the meat that they are raising!!! With that said our tour guides were amazing so friendly it was an amazing experience.