Las Terrazas is as close as one will get to a kibbutz in Cuba. It is a socialist experiment wrapped in a banner of ecology.
Before deforestation by sugar plantations and other forces it was thought that Cuba was 95% forests, it is now approximately 30%. For this reason, Castro, in 1968, decided to improve the lives of the poor in the Sierra del Rosario mountains by creating this socialized community and have them plant trees.
The work, under architect Osmany Cienfuegos, created 105 miles of roads, built homes, schools, clinics and meeting areas.
More importantly, however, they terraced much of the 845-mile area with six million trees. These included mahogany, hibiscus, and cedar as well as fruit trees such as grapefruit, mandarin, papaya and avocado.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, and with the Cuban economy in complete disarray Cuba opened Las Terrazas to tourism. A hotel was built along with a gathering area where you can receive drinks, listen to music and receive lectures from the guides that will take you around.
This all plays well into the original tourism guidelines of people to people. Most people visit the local school, stop in the studios of local artists and even stop in one of the restaurants that have opened up.
In 1984 this biosphere came under the protection of UNESCO, and now is home to 117 bird species, that can easily be spotted in the forests.
It is interesting to note, that most of Cuba’s recent economic reforms will not be seen in Las Terrazas. Private businesses are not allowed. The homes are owned by the government, so cannot be sold, or used as Casa Paticulars. However, people are better off due to the tourism, and in fact, there are not enough homes to accommodate all that want to live there.
Las Terrazas is approximately one hour outside of Havana, Cuba in the town of Candelaria in the Artemisa Province.