Where to begin? I haven’t traveled in a while so please excuse my excessive gushing about how good it is for the mind & soul! I came home inspired, motivated to make art. I loved it and here are some of the things I learned:
1. Cuba is a beautiful country with decaying Colonial Spanish architecture, undeveloped rural land, blue ocean, sunny skies and beautiful, creative people.
2. People to people which is one of the required travel visas, is something I excel at, I was told. I would talk to anyone. I started many of my interactions with Cuban people by saying, “Trump es diabalo.” To which they would smile and we would both shake our heads in agreement. Then I would say, “I hope it doesn’t change here.” Many said, “We don’t want it to change.” Others said, “It will take a long time to change.” (Just today someone told me about what it was like there 15 years ago. A lot has changed!)
Sylvia and Jorge huddle over ice cream discussing our next move in Cienfuegos
3. The group I went with was lead by Syliva of Colibri Travel out of Cambridge MA. She is an awesome person & tour guide. Our Cuban guide, Jorge was also awesome and very guapo.
Everyone make a funny face now!
It was really nice to be in a small group of eight. We began to act like a family, with Tlak and Iruna as Mom & Dad, I was always running to catch up with the group. There were the girls, Diana, Joan and Cindy; and Linda & Dick, who I coincidentally know from Cambridge.
Sorry we couldn’t bring the puppy home.
For my travel partner, I had the honor of being accompanied by one of my oldest and best friends, Karen R. Even though Karen and I first became friends on a 10 day bike trip when we were 13. It took some getting used to the close quarters. I haven’t shared a room with anyone (of my own gender)… since my sister moved out to college in 1974! Thanks for coming KR.
In the 3 days we spent in Havana, we visited National Museo of Fine Art & Revolution Museums, “Squares” of Old Havana (De Armas, de la Cathedral, de San Francisco, Vieja). I attended a Flamenco performance at the beautifully restored Teatro de la Habana. We walked to Hotel National along the Malecón the 5 mile long seawall which stretches from Old Havana to the Vedado neighborhood where we stayed at the awesome Vintage Casa.
We then drove east to the rural area where we visited a Tobacco Farm, we ate the most amazing vegetarian lunch in history at a “finca” farm. Not only did we count 45 different vegetables but the view was breath taking. Coconut drink with herbs, magical! The largest flan ever! Literally 12″ in diameter!
A night in Vinales at a Casa where we ate breakfast on the roof terrace.
Diana, Jean on roof of Casa in Vinales
A night at the amazing Moka hotel at Las Terrazas, eco community, artists, swimming, trees growing thru the hotel!
Artists and Farmers, Las Terrazas
Its hard not to take a good photo in Cuba. Note to self: don’t delete folders trying to make more room – due to lack of internet, they haven’t been backed up. Thankfully, my travel mates shared their best photos which I were way better than ones I lost.
We then headed west, our tour bus sharing the highway with horse and buggies. After visiting Che’s memorial in the heat, we headed to Unesco-protected town of Trinidad. Our final day was spent in Cienfuegos.
Stone streets of Trinidad
Post Script: I’ve been back in Trumpland for two weeks – what a contrast. And to dampen my mood even more, I just watched the documentary, “Cuba Fatherland or Death: Unvarnished look at contemporary Cuba through the eyes of its people” by Patria O. Muerte, which shows Cuba very differently from the one I saw as a tourist. Especially shocking were images of people being taken away by police, as Obama disembarks from his plane. In the film, Fidel triumphantly announces “Cuba is not under anyone else’s sovereignty!” This was a great accomplishment but what followed did not provide the strong foundation, spirituality or shared values needed to succeed.Cuba is now faced with the challenge of building a society & economy to support their people. In that sense it is time for big change.
On a positive note, Cuban artist, Tania Bruguera has started the INSTITUTO DE ARTIVISMO HANNAH ARENDT . Perhaps the arts will help Cubans have a say in what’s to come. “Here Cubanos de a pie (everyday Cubans) will use Art-activism to wish, think and do, in order to build a real democracy in Cuba.”