Dominican University will be the first university in the country to send students to Cuba on a short-term program since President Barack Obama lifted travel restrictions to the country in January. Led by Dr. Christina Perez, associate professor of sociology, 23 students and faculty will leave on May 13 and return June 3. During their three-week trip, they will study the culture, history and politics of the country while visiting the capital city of Havana; Baracoa, the northeastern city where Christopher Columbus first landed; and Santiago de Cuba, a 500-year-old city which played a central role in the Cuban Revolution.
Dominican University was able to quickly organize the trip following President Obama’s announcement on January 14 because of Dr. Perez’ long-term relationship with the University of Havana. She started planning the trip in 2009 but was stymied by the American government’s travel ban. Perez’s academic research has focused on Cuba for the past decade and she is an active participant in the Cuba section of the Latin American Studies Association. Last month she participated in an international symposium on Cuba
sponsored by the City University of New York. In addition, she once worked at the University of Havana coordinating a study abroad program for US students visiting Cuba.
“Dominican truly values global citizenship and intercultural learning,” said Perez. “One way that we can create a more just and peaceful world is by having dialogue with people outside our borders. I want Dominican students to really learn about the country from the inside out—to be able to see things that a tourist wouldn’t have the opportunity to see.”
While in Cuba, the students will learn about the country’s pre- and post-colonial and revolutionary history, contemporary political and economic systems, and social institutions such as schools, hospitals and agricultural cooperatives. They will also experience Cuba’s rich cultural heritage through visits to churches, art galleries, museums and music venues.
Highlights of the trip will include visits to San Juan Hill, where Teddy Roosevelt led US troops in a famous battle during the Spanish-American War; the home of Diego Velasquez, the Spanish conquistador who served as the first governor of the Spanish colony; the grave of Jost Marti, the Cuban poet and independence fighter; the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Center in Havana; and Hemingway’s home, Finca Vigia.
Students will receive six college credits for work leading up to the trip as well as a comprehensive paper following the trip. Dominican is joining institutions such as Harvard, Princeton and Sarah Lawrence in sending students to Cuba this year.