Manaca Iznaga, Trinidad, Cuba
The community of Manaca Iznaga is a place known for its historical architecture, including the infamous Valle de los Ingenios (Valley of the Sugar Mills), which was once a slave watchtower over what used to be one of the largest sugar plantations in the Caribbean. This community maintains a traditional way of life and are dedicated mainly to agricultural activities. These historical buildings in the area are now a large draw for tourists. However, many women and small businesses are struggling to gain access to the tourism market in the area.
Proyecto Manacú is a women- led initiative that promotes textile art to youth and children in the community. Yanely Soris Quesada set up the small business to teach and run a training program for youth and children about textile making, art and dance. The initiative also sells handicrafts to the public. Despite Proyecto Manacú’s close location to the tourist area, the initiative had not yet been noticed by many tourists.
In 2019, Planeterra helped create a textiles centre, enabling local women to sell traditional textiles to travellers, and helping them gain access to the tourism market. This project has also been incorporated on travel itineraries which allows travellers to learn and experience handicraft making. Visitors get to see first-hand the local embroidery techniques used to create garments and souvenirs, and learn how the local women’s organization has impacted the community and those who visit.
Additionally, Planeterra has helped develop the experience by funding capacity building for the women involved in the program and by helping Proyecto Manacú obtain a formal small micro-enterprise licence in order to sell their products.