Manaca-Iznaga Tower

16km north of Trinidad lies Manaca-Iznaga estate. Once the site of a thriving sugarcane plantation, the Manaca-Iznaga Tower is the estate's striking centrepiece. Built in 1816 by one of Cuba's wealthiest sugar plantation owners, the tower served as a lookout post - allowing the estate owners to keep watch over the slaves who toiled in the surrounding fields. A place to visit in Cuba if you want to experience a piece of Spanish colonialism history.

Manaca-Iznaga Tower was constructed in 1816 by Alejo María del Carmen e Iznaga – a prosperous sugar plantation owner and slave trader. Manaca-Iznaga Tower served as a lookout post - a place the Iznaga family could keep watch over their slaves and sprawling sugarcane empire.

When it was originally built, Manaca-Iznaga Tower was the tallest tower in the island’s interior. Standing 44m tall, the stone and brick tower still features its original seven-storey design, which has stood the test of time through its 200 year history.

A rickety 184-step wooden staircase leads upwards through the seven storeys and each level has been designed with a different geometric shape. Those brave enough to scale to the summit will be rewarded with stunning views of the surrounding valley, which was declared a UNESCO Cultural Heritage Site in 1988.

One of the tower’s most interesting features is the use of the separate bells that were originally used to communicate to both the slaves and the members of the Iznaga family. The largest of the three bells was rung at the start and end of the working day. The medium-sized bell was used to signify a holiday, while the smallest was rung to signal the start of Easter. But the bells are also said to be have been rung in different variations to communicate additional information - from a slave escape or a slave rebellion to signalling an impending pirate invasion.

The largest bell has since been removed and can now be seen resting on a timber base near the front of Casa Hacienda - the former colonial mansion that once served as the Iznaga family home. The mansion itself has since been converted into a restaurant-bar and also features its own gift shop.

At the rear of Casa Hacienda, visitors are able to produce their own freshly made cane juice using a traditional sugarcane press. The mechanism requires a bit of arm work – turning a large wooden handle in a circle motion as cane stalks are fed through the machines iron gears. Suffice to say, the resulting juice is refreshing and delicious.

In 1978, Manaca-Iznaga Tower was declared a national monument and the site continues to draw tourists to the remains of this once thriving sugarcane empire.

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