Day 1 :
Welcome to Cuba!
- Depart the United States for Cuba:
- Visit Ernest Hemingway's Home:
On our way to Santa Clara, we will visit Ernest Hemingway's Home, restored to just the way
he left it. Locals respected Hemingway for his desire to live modestly amongst the people
with whom he enjoyed fishing. While here, Hemingway wrote two of his most famous works,
For Whom the Bell Tolls, and The Old Man and the Sea.
- Santa Clara:
Santa Clara was the site of the last battle of the Cuban revolution in December 1958, the
turning point which forced Batista to flee the country.
- Visit Che Guevara's Monument:
Orientated 190 degrees, Che's figure points directly
towards South America - reflecting his focus and outlook. There are many different aspects
of Che's life represented throughout the complex. For example, his time in Guatemala and at
the United Nations is sculpted. His farewell letter to Fidel is inscribed in full. It has more than
2,000 characters chiseled into a six-meter column.
- Dinner in a Local Restaurant:
Day 2 :
Hanabanilla - Trinidad - Cienfuegos
- Valle de los Ingenios:
Drive to the Valle de los Ingenios to see the remains of sugar plantations and the spectacular
landscape of Cuba.
- Climb the Iznaga Tower:
Ascend the Iznaga Tower which was constructed in 1816 by the owner, Alejo Maria Iznaga y
Borrell. A bell from this tower was used to announce the beginning and end of the work day for
slaves in the surrounding sugar plantations. The height and magnificence of the tower served
to display Iznaga's power over his slaves and his stature in the sugar industry and local
society; at one time it was the tallest structure in Cuba.
Trinidad is one of the best-preserved and enchanting colonial towns in Latin America. The
entire city is a national monument, and it is delightful to wander through the narrow cobbled
streets. One can imagine a time when this city was the capital of sugar production and one of
the richest cities in the New World. Nowadays it is a quiet backwater, as if stuck in a time
warp with beautiful colonial buildings and horse drawn transportation.
- Walking Tour of Trinidad:
Enjoy a walking tour through the World Heritage city of Trinidad; beginning at the Plaza
Mayor which is in the center of town and elegantly adorned with glazed earthenware urns.
Around the plaza are the Museo Romântico, the Museo Arqueologí a and the cathedral,
Iglesia Parroquial de la Santísima Trinidad which was built between 1817 and 1892.
- Explore the Cathedral:
Visit the largest church in Cuba, and is renowned for its acoustics.
On the left at the front of the church is a crucifix of the brown-skinned Christ of Veracruz who
is the patron of Trinidad. The altars are made of precious woods such as cedar, acacia,
caoba and grenadine.
- Discover the Palacio Cantero:
Explore the Palacio Cantero which is housed in a mansion that belonged to the Borrell family
from 1827 to 1830. Later the building passed to a German planter named Kanter or Cantero,
and it is still called Casa Cantero. Dr. Justo Cantero acquired vast sugar estates and his
wealth is well displayed in the stylish neoclassical decoration of the rooms. The view of
Trinidad from the top of the tower is wonderful and not to be missed.
- Visit the Home of Julio Muñoz:
One of Trinidad's most dynamic and charismatic personalities,
Muñoz comes from a line of prominent Spanish immigrants and the house has been in his
family for generations, though they lost their other properties and businesses after the
revolution. Today, Julio, is a renowned photographer and a proud Workers Union
representative. However, he has more recently become known for his skills as a "horse
whisperer" - a skill he discovered by chance when he began working with horses on a
photography assignment. He believes passionately that his skills stem from his belief in using
the horses' psychology and observing how horses communicate with each other and their
natural world. He also runs the Diana Project, which promotes better equine care and
educates local farmers and cowboys in humane horse-training techniques. Enjoy a chance to
chat with him and learn more about his life, his role as one of Trinidad's most prominent
- Rural Medical Clinic Visit:
We will stop at a rural medical clinic near Cienfuegos to learn more about the health-care
system in Cuba.
- Dinner in a Local Restaurant:
Day 3 :
- Harvard University Botanical Gardens:
Visit one of the best collections of
palms in the world, and talk with botanists about Cuba's flora.
Cienfuegos is a city with plenty of Cuban charm and character that was nominated as a
World Heritage site a few years ago. In the center of the city is Parque José Martí , where
you will find locals relaxing and chatting under the shade of a tree.
- Parque Martí:
Explore the area around the Parque Martí, the central square. Admire the lavish Catheral and
the town theater that was built with materials and craftspeople sent from Europe.
- Taller Gráfico of Cienfuegos:
Visit the Taller Gráfico of Cienfuegos, a cooperative of young Cuban artists who can be found
working on their lithographs over stone matrices in the large, airy building. The variety of
colors, sizes, and content of the prints are wide and include pieces with recognizable Cuban
icons, bold black and white woodcuts. The artists here work with a local group of Down
Syndrome children and we we assist with the students during our visit.
- Museo Histórico Provincial:
This evening we head to the Museo Histórico Provincial to attend a performance of Cantores
de Cienfuegos, a versatile, 23-member choral group under the direction of Honey Moreira
Abreu. Abreu became their conductor originally as part of Cuba's required community service,
and loved it so much that she stayed on. The choir has an eclectic repertoire, singing
everything from Renaissance to Japanese fisherman's folk music.
Day 4 :
Cienfuegos - Bay of Pigs - Havana
Stop close to Bermejas for a chance to the world's smallest hummingbird who is generally
found in this area in the morning. This area is close to the Zapata Peninsula Biosphere
Reserve, a remote, sparsely populated area of Cuba with a varied landscape. It is one of the
largest and most important wetlands in the Caribbean region with a marine southern
- Museo Playa Girón (Bay of Pigs Museum):
Stop at the Museo Playa Girón (Bay of Pigs Museum) which is dedicated to the Bay of Pigs
invasion. In April 1961, during the Cold War, approximately 1,400 Cuban exiles invaded the
Bay of Pigs - Playa Girón - with the aim of overthrowing Cuban leader Fidel Castro. This
attack failed in its entirety, with most of the force being taken prisoner and around one
hundred being killed. Today, Museo Playa Girón is a small museum near the exiles' landing
site and battle sites. It houses a collection of photographs and other historic pieces relating to
the invasion. On staff at the museum are people who were involved in the Bay of Pigs
invasion and who can talk about what that experience was like.
- Central Australia:
Stop by Central Australia which was once one of the biggest sugar mills in the country. Fifty
years ago this sugar mill was also Fidel Castro's headquarters during the Bay of Pigs
invasion. Now closed it still remains an impressive site and there will be an opportunity to take
some amazing photographs.
Havana is the capital city, major port, and leading commercial center of Cuba. The city is the
largest city in Cuba and the second largest in the Caribbean region. Sitting pretty as one of
the Caribbean's largest and most vivacious cities, its romantic atmosphere and infectious
energy are the stuff of legend. From palaces and museums to music and dance, there is
something new to discover around every corner.
- La Maestra Documentary Discussion:
Before dinner meet with Norma Guillard who is featured in the documentary film La Maestra.
Enjoy a screening of the film (running time 33 minutes) which tells the personal stories of the
youngest women literacy workers who went to the mountains and valleys across the island to
teach, and found themselves deeply transformed in the process.
- Hotel Nacional de Cuba:
Tonight, dinner will be at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba; an historic luxury hotel located on the
Malecón in Havana, Cuba. It was designed by the famous New York firm McKim, Mead and
White, and features an eclectic mix of architectural styles. After admiring the hotels Hall of
Fame view the largest cannon ever built in colonial Cuba and the underground shelter built at
the Hotel during the Cuban Missile Crisis. We will enjoy a traditional dinner in the grounds of
- Visit the Maine Memorial:
This monument to the victims of the USS Maine was built in 1926
in honor of the American sailors that died in the explosion of the USS Maine in 1898, which
served as the pretext for the United States to declare war on Spain thus starting the Spanish-
American War. Havana's monument to the 266 U.S. sailors who died that night was
dedicated 27 years later as a tribute to lasting Cuban-American friendship, a thank-you for
Washington's help in shedding the yoke of Spanish colonial rule.
Day 5 :
- LEAP: Cuban School Visit:
Discover what school is like in Cuba as you visit and interact with local students. We will visit
a local school for a round table discussion with faculty and students.
- Havana Colonial Architecture:
Of all the capital cities in the Caribbean, Havana has the reputation of being the most
splendid, with the finest example of Spanish colonial architecture in the Americas.
Accompanied by our local guide, we will walk to the center of Old Havana to view a scale
model of the area which serves as an excellent introduction to the layout of the city. Close by
is the Plaza de Armas which was built in 1584 for military exercises. Used books are sold
here most mornings; many of which are post-revolution revisions to Cuban history. Here we
will find Havana's town hall, now the city museum. Of special note is the Cathedral of Saint
Christopher located on the cobbled Plaza de la Catedral, described by one Cuban writer as
'music set in stone'. The square is surrounded by some of Havana's oldest buildings, many
former homes of Cuba's wealthiest families. We will conclude at the Plaza Vieja, a stunningly
beautiful old square which has undergone careful restoration.
- Cuban Musical Workshop:
Enjoy an interactive musical workshop and learn more about the Cuban musical tradition.
Afro-Cuban music has its roots deep in history and was never written about but rather lived
through traditions in religion, story, music, song, dance, family knowledge and dates back to
the slave ships and before. There are many different kinds of salsa music and dance in Cuba
but most of these styles are derived from 'Son' which will be our focus this morning. Son
developed in eastern rural areas of Cuba around the turn of the twentieth century, but traces
of it date back to the 1700s. Son is a distinctly Afro-Cuban musical style because it uses an
African rhythm, Spanish poetic styles in the lyrics, and the use of plucked instruments. Son is
very much part of much Cuban music.
- Callejón de Hamel:
Walk along the site of a huge multi-dimensional Afro-Cuban mural. Here
there will be a chance to learn more about the Santería religion when we meet with a
Santerí a practioner, Elias Aseff. Probably the most explicit reference to the African soul in
Cuba is to be found in Santerí a, which represents the synthesis of the cults of African slaves
and the Catholic religion. Santeria conceals great complexity in both active and passive
practice. It represents for its believers a guide and a support to their lives, whose benefits
are to be found in earthly life. A limpieza (cleansing) is a way to get rid of negative influences
and self-purify. An ebbò (offer) to an Oricha (the deity), whether a fruits basket or a ritual
sacrifice, is important to maintain closeness to the deity and receive help against the
adversity. Consulting a santero or a santera is a frequent practice, being primarily a moral
support to the daily difficulties. We will enter a Santerí a home and learn more about this
- Dinner in a Local Restaurant:
Day 6 :
- Viñales Valley:
The Viñales Valley is a breathtakingly beautiful region, famous for its tobacco plantations and
sheer sided mogotes, which are limestone hills rising from a tropical plain rich with hibiscus,
bougainvillea and flame trees, tobacco plantations and rice paddy fields.
- Orchid Farm at Soroa:
Visit the Orchid Farm at Soroa, which is maintained by the University of Pinar del Río. The
hilly grounds contain over 800 species of plants, including 200 endemic to Cuba, all thriving in
the humid climate.
- Viñales National Park:
Stop at the excellent visitor's center where we will pick up a special guide and get an
overview of the Viñales National Park. Admire Cuba's most famous landscape and learn more
about the famous mogotes located in the province of Pinar del Río. These 250-million year old
loaf shaped limestone mounds are usually full of caves. They form the Cordillera de
Guaniguanico, a low range of hills which extend about 40 miles northeast from Mantua and
comprise the Sierra de los Órganos and the Sierra del Rosario range. This area was the last
refuge of the Ciboney, the hunter-gatherers who were pushed here by the more advanced
- Tobacco Farm Visit:
A visit to a tobacco farm provides an opportunity to learn more about the growing of tobacco
and the economics of the tobacco industry in Cuba.
- Finca Ecología:
Enjoy lunch at Finca Ecología, a private farm with beautiful views overlooking the valley. It is
possible from here to appreciate the valley's distinctive landscape, with its steep-sided
limestone mountains rising dramatically from fertile flat-floored valleys where farmers cultivate
the red soil for tobacco, fruits and vegetables.
Spend some time exploring the town of Vinales. The scenes here are timeless and depict
rural Cuba; thatched homesteads, and farmers, known as guajiros riding on oxen-driven carts
with their faithful dogs trotting at their heels.
- Dinner at a Local Restaurant:
Day 7 :
- Round-Table Discussion on US-Cuban Relations:
Enjoy a round-table discussion on US-Cuban Relations to be given by Professor Raúl
Rodríquez from the University of Havana. Dr. Rodríquez has written extensively on US-Cuban
Relations including an article for the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies
Working Papers Series 1-10, Harvard University 2010 entitled Canada, the United States and
Cuba: Triangular Relations as seen in Cuban Diplomatic History 1959-1962.
- Presidential Palace:
Visit the Presidential Palace, an ornate building topped by a dome. The history of Cuban
political development, from slave uprisings to joint missions with the ex-Soviet Union, is
- Granma Memorial:
Walk to the Granma Memorial, located just behind the Museum of the Revolution. The
memorial preserves the vessel that brought Fidel Castro, Che Guevara and other
revolutionaries from Mexico to Cuba in 1956.
- Jaimanitas Service Project:
Spend time at Jaimanitas and meet community residents at the studio of artist José Fuster.
Fuster's artwork ranges from ceramics evoking the nation's African roots, to whimsical
paintings drawn from ordinary life in Cuba. Fuster has turned his neighborhood into one
enormous piece of mosaic art. We will team up with residents of the community to work
together on the neighborhood project.
Day 8 :
- Return to the United States: