Located about a half-hour outside of the cobblestoned tourist trap of Trinidad, Cuba, in the rolling hills of Sancti Spiritus province is an old, slightly crooked structure than even I have had the nerve to climb on more than one occasion. The Manaca-Iznaga sugar plantation is in the “Valle de los Ingenios” (Valley of Sugar Mills) and was once part of an industry that produced 16 million pounds of sugar annually a hundred years ago.
One thing to keep in mind here is that stories about this stuff vary widely. For instance, the owners, Alejo and Pedro Iznaga, were supposedly in love with the same girl. So, in 1816, in order to settle the score, the brothers (supposedly) had a competition. One would build a tower, the other a well. Most sources agree that Alejo built the 45-meter tower, that’s pretty obvious, while Pedro dug a 28-meter well. However, some say the well is nowhere to be found, while others say “both are still in use today.” Apparently, in the end, the chica wasn’t impressed and neither got her.
Despite the fact that, on a good day, you’ll have to dip and dodge a gauntlet of vendors, and climb seven flights of rickety stairs, the view is well worth it all. It was from this vantage point, which, for many years, was the tallest building in Cuba, the slave drivers could keep an eye on the ill-gotten “help.” At the height of the sugar production frenzy in the late 1800s, it is said that more than 30,000 African slaves toiled in the sugar cane fields creating incredible wealth for the land owners.
The “Pact of Zanjon” officially ended Cuba’s 10-Year War with Spain in 1878, but it would be another 10 years before indentured servitude ended. Slavery was officially abolished on the island in 1886.