By Pilar Montes (photos:Caridad)
HAVANA TIMES — Guanahacabibes, Cuba’s westernmost peninsula, a place some consider inhospitable, has been an inexhaustible source of legends about treasures buried by corsairs and pirates.
Though land surveys haven’t yielded any promising results, studies conducted in the surrounding waters estimate that some 200 historically and financially-valuable sunken Spanish galleons still await salvage.
This appendage at the extreme end of the “green alligator” (as Cuba is portrayed) is home to immense sea, environmental and animal treasures – the only area in Cuba included in the Especially Protected Areas of the Greater Caribbean Protocol.
Its 1,060 square kilometers of forests (determined to contain the largest number of endemic species on the island) earned it the designation of UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1987.
These designations are also the result of a comprehensive campaign, impelled by 15 State bodies, which has been conducting work since 1990, under the coordination of the Office for the Development of Guanahacabibes, headed by retired general Julio Camacho Aguilera and his wife Georgina. Together, they have devoted 25 years to this work.
The first initiative sought to find fresh water reservoirs. After three years, a well was discovered 1,800 meters from the Roncali light-house. A road hugging the peninsula, a helicopter landing pad and a marina for the supply of vessels that sail across the Yucatan Strait were then built.
Transmission towers were installed to broadcast and receive radio, television and mobile phone signals.
Development Plan Through 2030
An international scuba-diving center has been in operation at the Maria la Gorda beach and Cape San Antonio for a number of years now and capacity for 150 tourists already exists in the latter. The figure could well grow to two thousand when six to seven of the 22 beaches on the peninsula begin to be developed.
The Spanish corporation La Playa Golf & Resorts S.L. will shortly begin to construct a complex that includes a marina, golf courses and exclusive resorts for tourists.
Golf, known as the “sport of the rich” around the world, was once criticized by Cuban leaders and prohibited following the revolution of 1959. Fidel Castro and Che Guevara publicly ridiculed the sport as “bourgeois.”
Today, Cuban leaders regard golf, marinas and exclusive tourist resorts and real estate as a good source of revenues for the socialist State.
Aiming to turn Cuba into one of the world’s main golf destinations, the tourist complex will be fitted with a sporting marina, horse stables, a fishing club and three boutique hotels.
The installation will bear the name of “Guanahacabibes Golf & Marina Resort” and construction, to be undertaken jointly with the Cuban company Palmares S.A. Construction will begin as soon as negotiations between the parties are concluded.
The near-pristine sea-bottom of its privileged fishing areas entices lovers of marine exploration. Next to the Isle of Pines (Isla de la Juventud), the area is considered an excellent scuba-diving site. Its more than 50 scuba sites can be reached from the international scuba-diving center via small vessels.
These projects will be required to meet the regulations established to protect the biosphere reserve.
Other Relevant Facts
Not many know that there’s a settlement in Guanahacabibes named El poblado de Cortes, named after Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes, and that this is the site where he set sail to conquer Mexico.
The settlement was also the stage of Mambi independence army expeditions during Cuba’s wars of independence.