A Repressed Sport / Fernando Dámaso

Canadian guide to climbing in Cuba

The province of Pinar del Rio, broken off from its original province (Artemis), more for political interests and to control the citizens, who by economic necessity, in what is still left to them, possesses natural wealth that intelligently used, could provide development and wealth to its people and the nation. I am not referring to the famous tobacco plantations or mining, but the eco-tourism in its different variants (hiking, observation and photography of wildlife, climbing natural stone walls, etc.).

For years in the municipality of Viñales, where the valley that bears its name is located, climbing has been spontaneously practiced, both by foreigners and nationals, attracted by it. The National Institute of Sports, Physical Education and Recreation (INDER) has never been interested in it (perhaps because it provides no Olympic medals), nor have the tourist or environment bodies.

Aníbal Fernández. Pioneer of Cuban climbing.

For some time now, municipal authorities, with the consent of the province, have been given the noble task to pursue climbers and expel them from the territory, threatening them with fines, detention and other injustices. The reason given for such a course, is that they are predators in the valley, undermine the environment and could be conducting espionage in the caves and mountains.

Climbing is practiced worldwide, where there are natural conditions for it, and climbing walls (artificial walls) are built for this purpose, and there is evidence that its followers are great ecological activists and environmentalists, and preserving the environment in its natural state, without aggressive action against it, which would defeat this activity, which requires climbing stone walls in their natural state without artificial alterations.

The suggestion of espionage demonstrates the technological illiteracy of the authorities and their partners, who know that every inch of the planet’s surface is permanently under observation for the existing satellite systems without the need for shadowy agents, or film or video cameras.

Climbing routes. Viñales

It would be desirable that the responsible entities (sports, tourism, agriculture and environment) regulate these activities, giving them legal status, thus avoiding the hardships of these brave out-dated witch hunters, inventors of nonexistent laws and regulations.

A National Park is not a museum with inanimate objects on permanent display, with a sign that says “Don’t touch,” but a living organism, where fauna, flora and humans interact. At least that is what happens in all National Parks in the world.

To prohibit things, even though it has always been, and is, the most used measure in this country for over fifty years, has never solved anything, and has provided only violations, illegal, misery and discomfort.

The real predators in the valley are those who have destroyed the original caves with dynamite explosions and excavations that have liquidated its flora and fauna, forcing farmers to go deep into the forests and clearings to harvest hidden tubers in order survive, polluting and drying up rivers and streams, attacking the walls with paintings of artificial haystacks, trying to attribute to our indigenous people skills they never had, because of their limited development, and also those who, having to ensure the integrity of the forests, cut down their trees and sell the wood in the black market.

Climber. Viñales.

Once before the authorities banned rock music, pursuing its fans and putting them in forced work camps. Years later, the same authorities, erected a statue to its highest figure — John Lennon — in a central park of El Vedado, and now even organize festivals. Do not make the same mistake with climbing. These past experiences should serve for something, even if they were negative.

January 30 2012