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Baracoa’s Nature

07/03/2010 21:37 WebBaracoa webbaracoa@cmdx.icrt.cu Translated by Gladys Carmen Quintana Centeno 6338
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Baracoa is known as the land of mountain cliff tops, marine terraces, tibaracones and El Yunque (the Anvil). It is located on the Eastern Natural Region, on the eastern end of Cuba, which is surrounded by a complicated mountain group called Sagua-Baracoa.

It is characterized as a vast territory intensely broken by abundant and high mountains, covered by densest Cuban forests, where flow major rivers like the Toa, the most plentiful of the country.

Due to the natural richness of these mountain cliff tops and the need to preserve their values as a universal heritage, some places have been declared protected areas under the distinction of "Biosphere Reserves".

The region has a rugged topography, with very few flat areas. About 95 percent of the total area of the municipality has a relief of heights classified as pre- mountainous and with high and small mountains. The relief is characterized by the existence of cliff tops with slopes greater than 15 percent.

The remaining 5 percent is made up by a small-2 kilometers- wide coastline. To the east of the Sierra de Moa is the majestic El Yunque (the Anvil), a mountain of 575 meters. It is distinguished by its peculiar shape. This mountain resembles a large plateau of isolated surface and almost vertical slopes. It is the natural symbol of the city of Baracoa and was declared a Monument of Nature.

Marine terraces, famous formations from the eastern extreme of the island are noted for their uniqueness and beauty. The Maisí Plateau is an interesting region where there are lots of marine terraces which surround the eastern tip of Cuba in a horseshoe-shaped line. The city of Baracoa is embedded in three different levels of marine terraces.

The most distinctive feature of the coastal morphology is the existence of the tibaracones, small islands formed by a large rod or sand curtain, palisade and sediments sent to the mouth of the river by strong sea waves, and which are always parallel to beaches. When the rains begin, rivers descend in water torrents that are temporarily dammed by the curtain mentioned before.

The microclimate of the region is tropical rainforest. There are no definite dry or rainy periods like in other parts of the country. It is the area of maximum rainfall in Cuba with more than 3 thousand millimeters per year in some regions.

Water is a very abundant resource because it is an area traversed by thirteen important rivers and streams that are characterized by having short courses, high water levels and marked slopes. A strong process of erosion and transport has led to the formation of numerous beaches originated from rivers.

Baracoa is surrounded by rivers. On the west the Macaguaniguas river, entering the town along the bay it flows into. A little beyond is the Duaba which has a higher volume of flow. Several kilometers to the west is the Toa, big and beautiful, with its thick-vegetation banks. Towards the east is the Miel, a legend at the entrance of the city; and in the eastern limits is the Yumurí river.

Baracoa has 13.9 kilometers of beach, of river or marine origin, with a capacity for 57 thousand bathers. They all have a high landscape value. The bays are also outstanding features of the coastal area.

Baracoa has abundant waters of low mineralization, dominated by magnesium hydro- carbonate waters which are excellent for the use at tables. Baracoa belongs to the floristic region of eastern Cuba, which is characterized as the richest of the country in forest flora. Nearly 60 percent of its area is devoted to forest plantations, of which approximately 40 percent are forests. Among the vegetable formations stands the mountain plunisilva pluvisilva. This is a natural reserve forest area in Cuba.

Baracoa’s flora is varied and peculiar. You can find extensive areas planted with pines and other trees of different qualities of hardwoods, without missing the tree-like ferns or pure najesí (Carapa guianensis) formations. There are several endemic floral species, many of them endangered like: cuyá (Dipholis salicifolia), azulejo (Talauma oblongifolia), varía (Cordia alliodora), mahogany tree (Swietenia Mahagoni), caguairán (Guibourtia hymenaefolia), jiquí (Pera bumeliaefolia), cedar (Quercus robur) and incienso (Protium fragans).

The town is also recognized for its rich fauna which is characterized by its diversity and high endemism. Several of these species are at serious risk now and they can only be seen in small numbers in remote areas, including some that can only be found in this area of the country like the almiquí(Cuban solenodon,the tocororo(Cuban trogon),the Jutía Conga (Banana rat), the majá de Santa María (Cuban boa) and the Polymita picta (a colourful snail).

A representative site of the richness of the local flora and fauna is the Alexander von Humboldt National Park, which was declared World Heritage by the UNESCO and worthy of the Environment National Award of the Republic of Cuba in 2008.

The city of Baracoa is opposite to the bay with the same name; it is a long strip of land that lies along the sea, almost completely surrounded by high mountains. The sea-mountain-river-town relation offers a delightful view that distinguishes Baracoa.