Cuba's Vinales Valley could become the Caribbean's first UNESCO Geopark

Posted: 02-Jan-18 09:40

Known for its rounded mountains and extensive cave systems, Cuba's Vinales Valley, in the east of the island, is in the running to become the latest UNESCO designated Geopark, a title awarded in recognition of ecological preservation, sustainability, and traditional culture.

Cuba's Vinales Valley could become the Caribbean's first UNESCO Geopark

Cuba and environmentalism go hand in hand, despite the fact most thoughts immediately jump to rum and cigars whenever the Caribbean island springs to mind. Neither of which are particularly green.

Nevertheless, thanks to its relatively isolation in the West – stemming from political allegiance to the Soviet Union as was, and adoption of Communism for much of the 20th Century – Cuba has escaped the ravages of a mass tourism industry that has wreaked havoc on most other neighbours in the region. The result is a huge boon to Cuba’s draw for international visitors now things have begun to open up to holidaymakers properly, and the situation has not gone unrecognised.

UNESCO – or the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation – defines the word "Geopark" as:

“A geographical areas where geological heritage sites are part of the holistic concept of protection, education, and sustainable development. The Geopark should take into account the whole geographical setting of the region, and shall not solely include sites of geological significance.”

Vinales Valley, in Cuba, has been described by UNESCO as a "living landscape" and, according to a report by telesurtv.net, is the most recent area to have been submitted to the judges for a chance at being given the coveted Geopark status. With a local economy largely based on eco-tourism and agriculture. Which seems to fit the bill perfectly.

“Vinales Valley is a living landscape with a high degree of authenticity in terms of location and setting, forms and design, materials and substances, uses and functions, traditions and techniques, and spirit and feeling. It has been able to preserve its specific character, while adapting to modern conditions of life and receiving flows of visitors.”

UNESCO says of the area, which is defined by rounded mountains, and large cave systems, and can be found in eastern Cuba.

If awarded the status, the area would not only be Cuba’s first Geopark, but the first to be designated in the whole Caribbean region. There are a total of 127 Geoparks in 35 countries, the vast majority of which are in Europe and China, with other notable additions in Japan, South Korea, and Mexico. No U.S. areas have been given the title to date.

The awarding body makes the decision on what should and shouldn’t count as a Geopark based on ten "focus areas", these include Natural Resources, Geological Hazards, Climate Change, Education, Science, Culture, Women, Sustainable Development, Local and indigenous knowledge, and Geoconservation, with a heavy emphasis on the location’s ability to increase awareness of issues affecting these focal points.


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