Cuban Town Forced Back to Its Roots as The Pandemic Bites

Published February 23rd, 2021 - 07:58 GMT

Townsfolk in a small village in Cuba have had to return to an age-old means of survival, growing their own food as the coronavirus pandemic has robbed them of holidaymakers.

Until the global health crisis, tourism provided income for about 80 percent of residents of the town.

Just a decade ago, Vinales's economy was an agrarian one based largely on tobacco farming. But when the tourist dollars started flooding in people turned their attention away from farming to the services industry. The porches of the town's famously multi-colored wooden homes -- many turned into guesthouses, restaurants, cafes, and shops, today are heartbreakingly empty.

The Vinales Valley from which the town takes its name was declared a heritage site in 1999 by UNESCO, which describes it as "an outstanding karst landscape in which traditional methods of agriculture (notably tobacco growing) have survived unchanged for several centuries."
 

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Eduardo Hernandez, owner of a private restaurant and a tobacco cultivator, smokes a cigar in his house in Vinales, Cuba, on January 28, 2021. At the foot of the majestic rock formations of Vinales, the terraces of the restaurants look empty and the lodgings have closed. With the arrival of COVID-19, the incipient prosperity of this Cuban town came to a halt and people abandoned tourism jobs to return to work the land. YAMIL LAGE / AFP

Eduardo Hernandez, owner of a private restaurant and a tobacco cultivator, smokes a cigar in his house in Vinales, Cuba, on January 28, 2021. At the foot of the majestic rock formations of Vinales, the terraces of the restaurants look empty and the lodgings have closed. With the arrival of COVID-19, the incipient prosperity of this Cuban town came to a halt and people abandoned tourism jobs to return to work the land. YAMIL LAGE / AFP

Eduardo Hernandez, owner of a private restaurant and a tobacco cultivator, smokes a cigar in his house in Vinales, Cuba, on January 28, 2021. At the foot of the majestic rock formations of Vinales, the terraces of the restaurants look empty and the lodgings have closed. With the arrival of COVID-19, the incipient prosperity of this Cuban town came to a halt and people abandoned tourism jobs to return to work the land. YAMIL LAGE / AFP

Eduardo Hernandez, owner of a private restaurant and a tobacco cultivator, smokes a cigar in his house in Vinales, Cuba, on January 28, 2021. At the foot of the majestic rock formations of Vinales, the terraces of the restaurants look empty and the lodgings have closed. With the arrival of COVID-19, the incipient prosperity of this Cuban town came to a halt and people abandoned tourism jobs to return to work the land. YAMIL LAGE / AFP

Eduardo Hernandez, owner of a private restaurant and a tobacco cultivator, works in his land in Vinales, Cuba, on January 28, 2021. At the foot of the majestic rock formations of Vinales, the terraces of the restaurants look empty and the lodgings have closed. With the arrival of COVID-19, the incipient prosperity of this Cuban town came to a halt and people abandoned tourism jobs to return to work the land. YAMIL LAGE / AFP

Eduardo Hernandez, owner of a private restaurant and a tobacco cultivator, works in his land in Vinales, Cuba, on January 28, 2021. At the foot of the majestic rock formations of Vinales, the terraces of the restaurants look empty and the lodgings have closed. With the arrival of COVID-19, the incipient prosperity of this Cuban town came to a halt and people abandoned tourism jobs to return to work the land. YAMIL LAGE / AFP

Carlos Millo, owner of a lodging for tourists, works on his plot of land in Vinales, Cuba, on January 29, 2021. At the foot of the majestic rock formations of Vinales, the terraces of the restaurants look empty and the lodgings have closed. With the arrival of COVID-19, the incipient prosperity of this Cuban town came to a halt and people abandoned tourism jobs to return to work the land. YAMIL LAGE / AFP

Carlos Millo, owner of a lodging for tourists, works on his plot of land in Vinales, Cuba, on January 29, 2021. At the foot of the majestic rock formations of Vinales, the terraces of the restaurants look empty and the lodgings have closed. With the arrival of COVID-19, the incipient prosperity of this Cuban town came to a halt and people abandoned tourism jobs to return to work the land. YAMIL LAGE / AFP

Yusmani Garcia, a blacksmith and tour guide, makes a horseshoe at his house in Vinales, Cuba, on January 28, 2021. At the foot of the majestic rock formations of Vinales, the terraces of the restaurants look empty and the lodgings have closed. With the arrival of COVID-19, the incipient prosperity of this Cuban town came to a halt and people abandoned tourism jobs to return to work the land. YAMIL LAGE / AFP

Yusmani Garcia, a blacksmith and tour guide, makes a horseshoe at his house in Vinales, Cuba, on January 28, 2021. At the foot of the majestic rock formations of Vinales, the terraces of the restaurants look empty and the lodgings have closed. With the arrival of COVID-19, the incipient prosperity of this Cuban town came to a halt and people abandoned tourism jobs to return to work the land. YAMIL LAGE / AFP

Yusmani Garcia, a blacksmith and tour guide, puts a horseshoe on a horse at his house in Vinales, Cuba, on January 28, 2021. At the foot of the majestic rock formations of Vinales, the terraces of the restaurants look empty and the lodgings have closed. With the arrival of COVID-19, the incipient prosperity of this Cuban town came to a halt and people abandoned tourism jobs to return to work the land. YAMIL LAGE / AFP

Yusmani Garcia, a blacksmith and tour guide, puts a horseshoe on a horse at his house in Vinales, Cuba, on January 28, 2021. At the foot of the majestic rock formations of Vinales, the terraces of the restaurants look empty and the lodgings have closed. With the arrival of COVID-19, the incipient prosperity of this Cuban town came to a halt and people abandoned tourism jobs to return to work the land. YAMIL LAGE / AFP

A man walks by a closed private restaurant in Vinales, Cuba, on January 28, 2021. At the foot of the majestic rock formations of Vinales, the terraces of the restaurants look empty and the lodgings have closed. With the arrival of COVID-19, the incipient prosperity of this Cuban town came to a halt and people abandoned tourism jobs to return to work the land. YAMIL LAGE / AFP

A man walks by a closed private restaurant in Vinales, Cuba, on January 28, 2021. At the foot of the majestic rock formations of Vinales, the terraces of the restaurants look empty and the lodgings have closed. With the arrival of COVID-19, the incipient prosperity of this Cuban town came to a halt and people abandoned tourism jobs to return to work the land. YAMIL LAGE / AFP

A man passes by a closed handicraft shop in Vinales, Cuba, on January 28, 2021. At the foot of the majestic rock formations of Vinales, the terraces of the restaurants look empty and the lodgings have closed. With the arrival of COVID-19, the incipient prosperity of this Cuban town came to a halt and people abandoned tourism jobs to return to work the land. YAMIL LAGE / AFP

A man passes by a closed handicraft shop in Vinales, Cuba, on January 28, 2021. At the foot of the majestic rock formations of Vinales, the terraces of the restaurants look empty and the lodgings have closed. With the arrival of COVID-19, the incipient prosperity of this Cuban town came to a halt and people abandoned tourism jobs to return to work the land. YAMIL LAGE / AFP

Eduardo Hernandez, owner of a private restaurant and a tobacco cultivator, smokes a cigar in his house in Vinales, Cuba, on January 28, 2021. At the foot of the majestic rock formations of Vinales, the terraces of the restaurants look empty and the lodgings have closed. With the arrival of COVID-19, the incipient prosperity of this Cuban town came to a halt and people abandoned tourism jobs to return to work the land. YAMIL LAGE / AFP
Eduardo Hernandez, owner of a private restaurant and a tobacco cultivator, smokes a cigar in his house in Vinales, Cuba, on January 28, 2021. At the foot of the majestic rock formations of Vinales, the terraces of the restaurants look empty and the lodgings have closed. With the arrival of COVID-19, the incipient prosperity of this Cuban town came to a halt and people abandoned tourism jobs to return to work the land. YAMIL LAGE / AFP
Eduardo Hernandez, owner of a private restaurant and a tobacco cultivator, works in his land in Vinales, Cuba, on January 28, 2021. At the foot of the majestic rock formations of Vinales, the terraces of the restaurants look empty and the lodgings have closed. With the arrival of COVID-19, the incipient prosperity of this Cuban town came to a halt and people abandoned tourism jobs to return to work the land. YAMIL LAGE / AFP
Carlos Millo, owner of a lodging for tourists, works on his plot of land in Vinales, Cuba, on January 29, 2021. At the foot of the majestic rock formations of Vinales, the terraces of the restaurants look empty and the lodgings have closed. With the arrival of COVID-19, the incipient prosperity of this Cuban town came to a halt and people abandoned tourism jobs to return to work the land. YAMIL LAGE / AFP
Yusmani Garcia, a blacksmith and tour guide, makes a horseshoe at his house in Vinales, Cuba, on January 28, 2021. At the foot of the majestic rock formations of Vinales, the terraces of the restaurants look empty and the lodgings have closed. With the arrival of COVID-19, the incipient prosperity of this Cuban town came to a halt and people abandoned tourism jobs to return to work the land. YAMIL LAGE / AFP
Yusmani Garcia, a blacksmith and tour guide, puts a horseshoe on a horse at his house in Vinales, Cuba, on January 28, 2021. At the foot of the majestic rock formations of Vinales, the terraces of the restaurants look empty and the lodgings have closed. With the arrival of COVID-19, the incipient prosperity of this Cuban town came to a halt and people abandoned tourism jobs to return to work the land. YAMIL LAGE / AFP
A man walks by a closed private restaurant in Vinales, Cuba, on January 28, 2021. At the foot of the majestic rock formations of Vinales, the terraces of the restaurants look empty and the lodgings have closed. With the arrival of COVID-19, the incipient prosperity of this Cuban town came to a halt and people abandoned tourism jobs to return to work the land. YAMIL LAGE / AFP
A man passes by a closed handicraft shop in Vinales, Cuba, on January 28, 2021. At the foot of the majestic rock formations of Vinales, the terraces of the restaurants look empty and the lodgings have closed. With the arrival of COVID-19, the incipient prosperity of this Cuban town came to a halt and people abandoned tourism jobs to return to work the land. YAMIL LAGE / AFP
Eduardo Hernandez, owner of a private restaurant and a tobacco cultivator, smokes a cigar in his house in Vinales, Cuba, on January 28, 2021. At the foot of the majestic rock formations of Vinales, the terraces of the restaurants look empty and the lodgings have closed. With the arrival of COVID-19, the incipient prosperity of this Cuban town came to a halt and people abandoned tourism jobs to return to work the land. YAMIL LAGE / AFP
Eduardo Hernandez, owner of a private restaurant and a tobacco cultivator, smokes a cigar in his house in Vinales, Cuba, on January 28, 2021. At the foot of the majestic rock formations of Vinales, the terraces of the restaurants look empty and the lodgings have closed. With the arrival of COVID-19, the incipient prosperity of this Cuban town came to a halt and people abandoned tourism jobs to return to work the land. YAMIL LAGE / AFP
Eduardo Hernandez, owner of a private restaurant and a tobacco cultivator, smokes a cigar in his house in Vinales, Cuba, on January 28, 2021. At the foot of the majestic rock formations of Vinales, the terraces of the restaurants look empty and the lodgings have closed. With the arrival of COVID-19, the incipient prosperity of this Cuban town came to a halt and people abandoned tourism jobs to return to work the land. YAMIL LAGE / AFP
Eduardo Hernandez, owner of a private restaurant and a tobacco cultivator, smokes a cigar in his house in Vinales, Cuba, on January 28, 2021. At the foot of the majestic rock formations of Vinales, the terraces of the restaurants look empty and the lodgings have closed. With the arrival of COVID-19, the incipient prosperity of this Cuban town came to a halt and people abandoned tourism jobs to return to work the land. YAMIL LAGE / AFP
Eduardo Hernandez, owner of a private restaurant and a tobacco cultivator, works in his land in Vinales, Cuba, on January 28, 2021. At the foot of the majestic rock formations of Vinales, the terraces of the restaurants look empty and the lodgings have closed. With the arrival of COVID-19, the incipient prosperity of this Cuban town came to a halt and people abandoned tourism jobs to return to work the land. YAMIL LAGE / AFP
Eduardo Hernandez, owner of a private restaurant and a tobacco cultivator, works in his land in Vinales, Cuba, on January 28, 2021. At the foot of the majestic rock formations of Vinales, the terraces of the restaurants look empty and the lodgings have closed. With the arrival of COVID-19, the incipient prosperity of this Cuban town came to a halt and people abandoned tourism jobs to return to work the land. YAMIL LAGE / AFP
Carlos Millo, owner of a lodging for tourists, works on his plot of land in Vinales, Cuba, on January 29, 2021. At the foot of the majestic rock formations of Vinales, the terraces of the restaurants look empty and the lodgings have closed. With the arrival of COVID-19, the incipient prosperity of this Cuban town came to a halt and people abandoned tourism jobs to return to work the land. YAMIL LAGE / AFP
Carlos Millo, owner of a lodging for tourists, works on his plot of land in Vinales, Cuba, on January 29, 2021. At the foot of the majestic rock formations of Vinales, the terraces of the restaurants look empty and the lodgings have closed. With the arrival of COVID-19, the incipient prosperity of this Cuban town came to a halt and people abandoned tourism jobs to return to work the land. YAMIL LAGE / AFP
Yusmani Garcia, a blacksmith and tour guide, makes a horseshoe at his house in Vinales, Cuba, on January 28, 2021. At the foot of the majestic rock formations of Vinales, the terraces of the restaurants look empty and the lodgings have closed. With the arrival of COVID-19, the incipient prosperity of this Cuban town came to a halt and people abandoned tourism jobs to return to work the land. YAMIL LAGE / AFP
Yusmani Garcia, a blacksmith and tour guide, makes a horseshoe at his house in Vinales, Cuba, on January 28, 2021. At the foot of the majestic rock formations of Vinales, the terraces of the restaurants look empty and the lodgings have closed. With the arrival of COVID-19, the incipient prosperity of this Cuban town came to a halt and people abandoned tourism jobs to return to work the land. YAMIL LAGE / AFP
Yusmani Garcia, a blacksmith and tour guide, puts a horseshoe on a horse at his house in Vinales, Cuba, on January 28, 2021. At the foot of the majestic rock formations of Vinales, the terraces of the restaurants look empty and the lodgings have closed. With the arrival of COVID-19, the incipient prosperity of this Cuban town came to a halt and people abandoned tourism jobs to return to work the land. YAMIL LAGE / AFP
Yusmani Garcia, a blacksmith and tour guide, puts a horseshoe on a horse at his house in Vinales, Cuba, on January 28, 2021. At the foot of the majestic rock formations of Vinales, the terraces of the restaurants look empty and the lodgings have closed. With the arrival of COVID-19, the incipient prosperity of this Cuban town came to a halt and people abandoned tourism jobs to return to work the land. YAMIL LAGE / AFP
A man walks by a closed private restaurant in Vinales, Cuba, on January 28, 2021. At the foot of the majestic rock formations of Vinales, the terraces of the restaurants look empty and the lodgings have closed. With the arrival of COVID-19, the incipient prosperity of this Cuban town came to a halt and people abandoned tourism jobs to return to work the land. YAMIL LAGE / AFP
A man walks by a closed private restaurant in Vinales, Cuba, on January 28, 2021. At the foot of the majestic rock formations of Vinales, the terraces of the restaurants look empty and the lodgings have closed. With the arrival of COVID-19, the incipient prosperity of this Cuban town came to a halt and people abandoned tourism jobs to return to work the land. YAMIL LAGE / AFP
A man passes by a closed handicraft shop in Vinales, Cuba, on January 28, 2021. At the foot of the majestic rock formations of Vinales, the terraces of the restaurants look empty and the lodgings have closed. With the arrival of COVID-19, the incipient prosperity of this Cuban town came to a halt and people abandoned tourism jobs to return to work the land. YAMIL LAGE / AFP
A man passes by a closed handicraft shop in Vinales, Cuba, on January 28, 2021. At the foot of the majestic rock formations of Vinales, the terraces of the restaurants look empty and the lodgings have closed. With the arrival of COVID-19, the incipient prosperity of this Cuban town came to a halt and people abandoned tourism jobs to return to work the land. YAMIL LAGE / AFP