Cuba: A Mosaic of Cultures
When: November 09, 2013 - November 16, 2013 (iCal)
“Did not know what to expect – it is a beautiful, interesting, sad experience.”
Travel with us on a specially crafted journey to an island rich in rhythm, history, and culture close to home, and yet a world away. In a country of picturesque colonial towns, magnificent 20th century architecture, and spectacularly beautiful landscapes virtually unexplored by U.S. citizens, we will unravel the richness of Cuba and explore the island’s intriguing Afro-Cuban culture. During our stays in Havana, we will meet with Cubans of varied backgrounds, from economists and foreign policy experts to contemporary artists, and gain a new understanding of Cuban life and history.
Activity Level: Please note; this is a rigorous, fast-paced program. Participants must be in good physical condition and be able to walk for long distances over uneven cobblestones and up and down stairs without problems.
Our trip is limited to 28-30 travelers; we recommend that you reserve your space as
soon as possible. Click Here to Download an Early Interest Form
Includes land, and round trip air from Miami to Havana; per person, based on double occupancy.
To avoid the disappointment of a sold out program, Register Now!
Usha Nand Sellers Ed. D., Director Tufts Travel-Learn Program, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 617-627-5323.
Day 1 – Meet in Miami; Depart U.S. for Havana, Cuba
This morning we will depart early from our Miami airport hotel, The Crowne Plaza, and check in for our ABC charter flight operated by American Airlines at Miami International Airport. Our Cuba Tour representative, Duniesqui (Duny) Bauta, will meet us at our hotel and accompany us to the airport. He will also be with us throughout our stay in Cuba. Upon arrival in Havana, we will meet our local tour guide and will be escorted to drop off our luggage at the Hotel Parque Central - our hotel for the duration of our stay, and perfectly located in the central part of the city.
We will begin our Cuban journey with a mid-afternoon lunch at La Torre. The restaurant is housed on the top floor of the 36-story FOCSA building with city views. The FOCSA building was considered an innovative technological sensation upon completion in 1956 since concrete structures higher than 18 stories had previously been considered unfeasible. We will find that the cuisine at La Torre includes a variety of imported meats and offers a high-quality dining experience.
We will stop at the historic Hotel Nacional; with a view overlooking the ocean and the Straits of Florida, it is a notable landmark located on the Malecón. It was designed by the famous New York firm McKim, Mead and White, and features an eclectic mix of architectural styles. The Hotel opened in 1930 when Cuba was a prime travel destination for US travelers.
We will then check into our hotel rooms. We will conclude our evening with a welcome dinner on the leafy veranda of Doña Carmela, located near the historic castles of El Morro and La Cabaña. Dinner will be followed by a cannon ceremony at La Cabaña Fortress, a magnificent fortress and lighthouse guarding the entrance to Havana harbor.
Day 2 – Havana
Throughout our stay, complimentary breakfast will be served at the Miramar restaurant located in the lobby level of the hotel. This morning we will meet for a walking architectural tour guided by architect Maria Elena Martin. We will visit Havana’s Central Park to take in the historical buildings that surround it and visit the first monument erected in Cuba, dedicated to national hero Jose Marti. Our stroll through the park will be followed by a visit to the Capitolio Nacional, a monumental building inspired by the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. and built by Cuban and international artists. The building’s gardens were designed by the famous French landscaper, Jean Claude Nicolas Forestier. We will then walk along the Paseo de Marti (Paseo del Prado), a tree-lined pedestrian promenade leading to the sea also designed by Forestier. This will lead us to the recently restored Palacio de los Matrimonios, built in 1914 by Luis Dediot and formerly the Casino Español of Havana, now hosting civil marriages. We will also see the Sevilla Hotel, remodeled in 1923 by the U.S. firm of Schultze & Weaver, and the Bacardi Building, an iconic example of art deco in Cuba.
Today our lunch is at the casual restaurant La Terraza, a block away from our hotel. We will be seated on the third floor covered terrace and sample various meats, seafood, and vegetables grilled on an open flame. After lunch, we will walk to Museo de Bellas Artes for a guided visit with curator Nelson Herrera, who will highlight some of the permanent collection of Cuban art in the museum. Señor Herrera will recount the earliest days of colonialism to the latest generations of Cuban artists. Next, we will visit the University of Havana. We will have a tour of the campus and learn about the fascinating 400 years of history associated with the institution.
Next, we will visit the art studio 7 y 60, a studio of 4 young, talented Cuban artists, Adrian Fernandez, Alex Hernandez, Frank Mujica, and Maria Cienfuegos. By media of photography, painting, and drawing, the artists explore the conflicts and aesthetics of Cuban life, including how self-expression fits into the equality and ideals of Cuba, and the challenges of a working artist in Cuba. Tonight we will dine at Café del Oriente. Located in the heart of Plaza de San Francisco, this restaurant features international cuisine in an elegant setting.
Day 3 – Havana
This morning we will attend a briefing at the United States Interests Section (USINT Havana), which represents U.S. interests in Cuba. Staffed by United States foreign-service personnel employed by the State Department, USIN Havana and its counterpart for Cuban interests in Washington, D.C. are formally sections of the respective Embassies of Switzerland. They operate independently of the Swiss in virtually all respects, except protocol. Cuba and the U.S. do not have formal diplomatic relations, but their respective Interests Sections function as de facto embassies. A USINT staff member will brief us on the USINT’s role in Cuba and U.S.-Cuba relations.
Next, we will be received by Adela Dworkin, lifelong resident of Havana and active leader within the Jewish community, at the Patronato del la Casa de la Communidad Hebrea. She will speak about the history of Jews in Cuba and the Jewish community’s experiences since the revolution. The Patronato was once Havana's upscale shul, built by affluent Cuban Jews in the early 1950s. Today, the synagogue is affiliated with the Conservative 4 movement in the U.S. and currently serves as the focal point for most Jewish activities in Havana.
Today’s lunch will be at El Aljibe, a restaurant featuring Cuban food. We will then visit the Iglesia de la Merced (Church of Mercy). In 1637, the “Monks of Mercy” began construction on a church that would require over 100 years of effort. This magnificently ornate cathedral, cloaked in a 300 year old patina, serves as a potent reminder of the immense influence the church once held in Cuba. We will be received by Fr. Gilbert Walker, originally from Chicago, who will talk about the various community activities and charities organized by the church. After our visit, we will spend time in the Arts and Crafts Market, an inviting place to interact with local artisans.
Tonight we will dine at the trendy Le Chansonnier. The dimly lit dining room of a faded mansion in the neighborhood of Vedado features a French menu and excellent wine choices.
Day 4 – Havana
This morning, we will attend a lecture on gender issues in modern Cuba by Professor Marta Nuñez of the Sociology Department at Havana University. She will discuss women’s role in Cuban society, sexuality, and domestic violence, among other topics. Our subsequent walking tour of Havana Vieja led by our Cuban guide will start with a walk down Obispo Street, a pedestrian promenade, with stops at some of the significant buildings such as the Art Deco style La Moderna Poesia, the Ambos Mundos Hotel, and the banks of the former Havana Wall Street. We will also see the Plaza de la Catedral and the Catedral de San Cristobal de La Habana.
Our next stop will be the Taller de Grafica Experimental, where we will be welcomed by artist Yamilis Brito. The Taller is Havana’s premier printmaking workshop, and also a studio, a school, and more importantly, an art institution that preserves and develops the art of print making with relative freedom of spirit and form. Afterwards, we will continue on to the Plaza de Armas, a scenic tree-lined plaza formerly the center of influence in Cuba. It is surrounded by many historic buildings as well as important monuments. We will also visit the Palacio de los Capitanes Generales. The palace, former residence of the Spanish captains, currently houses the Museo de la Ciudad.
Our lunch is at Conde de Villanueva located inside a hotel with the same name, a tastefully restored 18th-century mansion with rustic colonial charm and a courtyard. After lunch, we will visit the Plaza Vieja, dating from the 16th century. Then we will head to the Plaza de San Francisco, a cobble stoned plaza surrounded by buildings dating from the 18th Century, dominated by the baroque Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco dating from 1719. The remainder of our evening will be at leisure. Dinner is on your own, and recommended dinner venues will be provided.
Day 5 – Havana
We will start the day with a lecture on Ecomomics and foreign relations with Carlos Alzugaray, former Cuban Ambassador to the European Union and former Director of the Institute of Foreign Relations. After the lecture, we will attend a private performance by the Compañía Irene Rodríguez (flamenco) at Centro Andaluz. Irene Rodriguez, considered by many to be the finest flamenco dancer in Cuba, will introduce us to the dancers and discuss the cultivation of artistic talent in Cuba.
Today’s lunch will be at El Gijones, an elegant and top-rated Cuban paladar (privately owned restaurants). After lunch we will attend a lecture on Cuban music by Professors Alberto Faya and María Córdova. Married since 1973, the couple works together as musicians, professors, and researchers within the Cuban musical world. Both have received national awards. They will be joined by a quartet of musicians who will take us on a musical journey through the history of Cuba.
Next, we will drive to the picturesque fishing village of Cojimar to visit Ernest Hemingway’s former home. Hemingway used this village setting for his story “The Old Man and the Sea”, which won him the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954. On our drive back, we will visit the Christopher Colon Cemetery, an elaborate necropolis covering nearly 8% of the city, with numerous memorials, architectural jewels, and stories of human interest.
This evening’s dinner will be at paladar L’Atelier, renowned for its atmosphere and cuisine. The lighting and textures of the house, walls adorned in contemporary art, and wonderful cuisine are the makings of a memorable ambiance.
Day 6 – Viñales Valley
This morning, we will depart for a day trip to Viñales Valley, a beautiful agricultural valley with spectacular scenery and some of the most interesting and varied geological formations on the island. The valley is renowned for its free standing rock formations called mogotes, reminiscent of mountains in Vietnamese or Chinese paintings (especially when shrouded in early morning mists). The area is considered to be one of the premier tobacco growing regions in the world. Since our visit falls within the November to March tobacco season, we will visit one of the local farmers for a tour.
We will also visit the location where tobacco leaves are processed, called Despalillo, and see the home and family farm of Concha and Paco Ramirez. Their forefathers farmed on the same plot of land for many generations, and their land is involved in the production of fruits, vegetables, grains, and tobacco. Family members will accompany us on a tour of their 40-acre farm and discuss farming techniques.
Our lunch today is at El Palenque de los Cimarrones, a restaurant specializing in slow-roasted chicken fare. To reach the restaurant, we will walk through a narrow cave that bisects one of the area's signature mogotes, and at the end of the path, we will see a re-creation of one of the nomadic homes set up by runaway slaves who lived and hid in these caves.
After lunch, we will visit a small country town where a remarkable Cuban, Mario Pelegrin has created a charming community project dedicated to local children. In this tranquil setting, rustic cabins serve as a home for amateur art programs. Local children are provided with the space and resources needed for artistic creation in music, dance, theater, and visual art. After the visit, we will return to Havana. This evening we will attend a dance or music performance at the Garcia Lorca Theatre (schedule permitting; a list of cultural events will be available one month before the date; curtain time is usually 8:00 PM)
Day 7 – Havana
We will begin the day with a socio-political lecture by Rafael M. Hernandez, a historian, author, and editor of Temas, a Cuban quarterly in the field of social sciences and humanities. Rafael co-authored “The History of Havana” and has recently returned to Cuba after serving as an adjunct professor at Columbia University.
After the lecture we will visit the home of a Santeria priest and Parque Trillo, a park in Centro Habana that is popular with followers of the Santeria religion. Our host and guide will be the local scholar Elias Aseff, who will explain the role of African religion and its influence on Cuban culture as well as the importance of Santeria in everyday life. Next, we will attend a rumba street performance at Callejon de Hammel.
Continuing on, we will visit the whimsical neighborhood of artist Jose Fuster, who has made major contributions to rebuilding and decorating the fishing town of Jaimanitas on the outskirts of Havana. Jaimanitas is now a unique work of public art where Fuster has decorated over 80 houses with colorful ornate murals and domes. A homemade lunch of fish, rice, beans, and other Cuban staples will be served at Fuster’s home and studio.
The remainder of the afternoon will be at leisure until our farewell dinner at La Guarida, famous for its fine dining, and also as the location for the film “Strawberry and Chocolate.” It is housed on the third floor of an old town house that will take us back to the charming ambience of the 1920s as we dine and reflect on our time in Cuba.
Day 8 – Depart Havana for U.S.
This morning we will depart Havana for Miami on our ABC charter flight operated by American Airlines, and then onwards to connections for our return flights.
*Price and itinerary are tentative and subject to change.