Las Terrazas (pop. 1200), though not significant in terms of size, it is certainly one the area's most interesting towns.
The area's history of poverty began in the late 18th century when coffee crops planted by French exiles from Haiti began to fail. After that, the locals relied on sales of charcoal to feed and clothe their families. Not only did they become appallingly poor, but much of the area had been clear-cut, and was ecologically dead. This area became one of the poorest in the province of Pinar del Rio.
Even for years after the Revolution, the area was still impoverished and fully reliant on charcoal exports. The people of this area were still isolated from the health care and education that would be necessary to escape the cruel cycle of poverty. In 1967, noting the area's horrid conditions, the government established programs of rural development and ecological restoration in an attempt to renew the community.
Similar to the Agrarian Reform laws, and other projects around the country, the people were provided with housing and employment. In return, they were given the responsibility of working to replant the area's forests. The area's export of charcoal can now be considered a renewable resource, as only those trees which are sick, dying, or overcrowded are used for charcoal, and much replanting is done.
The town of Las Terrazas was founded in the early 1970's to provide housing for the area's families. The town was designed with good taste in mind, certainly a welcome change from the functional but ugly Eastern bloc architecture (example) found in many recent housing projects.
Besides acting as a model community for progressive land uses and ecological study, Las Terrazas has recently adapted itself to host tourists. The type of tourism that this community hopes to attract is different from that of other parts of the country, however. The goal is to provide tourists with an enjoyable stay at the park but not to surround them with luxury. Thus, the biosphere provides many ways for tourists staying at hotels near the town to enjoy the area's natural beauty, such as hiking through the extensive network of trails, and swimming in los Baños de San Juan. The model of tourism for Las Terrazas also encourages interaction between tourists and the people of the area. The overall effect is to create an enjoyable tourist experience that is not loud, nor obnoxious, and does not leave the Cubans feeling like second-class citizens.