Saturday, May 28, 2011

Updated Flyer on Legal Travel Options

Who can go to Cuba now?

Americans still don’t have freedom to vacation in Cuba, but travel for a purpose has been restored by President Obama.  Anyone with a serious interest in learning and engaging can find a legal way.

General Licenses

A general license does not have to be applied for.  There is no paper work with the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) in Washington before or after the trip.  The only action necessary is internal to the institution, based on its own good faith judgment and practices.

Any higher education institution can create a one or two week intercession, spring break or summer program that provides one credit toward graduation for its own students and those from other schools.  The only requirement is to obtain the normal standing for any academic course.  Also covered is Spanish language and other “study at a Cuban academic institution, provided the formal course of study in Cuba will be accepted for credit toward the student’s graduate or undergraduate degree.”  Schools that offer independent study may see that also as, “a structured educational program in Cuba as part of a course offered for credit.” 

Each student, teacher, adjunct or full or part-time staff simply has to “carry a letter on official letterhead, signed by a designated representative of the sponsoring U.S. academic institution.”

Graduate students can travel with a letter from a responsible university official stating that the trip is for research in Cuba that will be accepted for credit toward a degree. 

A travel agent or tour operator can assist a school in developing a course, but only licensed Travel Service Providers or third country agents at present can book flights and accommodations.

Religious Groups

Any “religious organization” at a local, regional or national level can easily authorize a trip.  Participants “must carry with them a letter on official letterhead, signed by a designated representative of the U.S. religious organization, confirming that they are members or staff and are traveling to Cuba to engage in religious activities under the auspices of the organization.”

Under the US Constitution, the definition of “religious organization” or “religious activities” by a government agency is problematic.  The faith and practice of established groups and communities should enable substantive trips with a broader focus than conventional worship with coreligionists.

A travel agent or tour operator can assist members of a local religious organization, or of a recognized body within it, to organize a trip to Cuba (and participate if personally affiliated). 

Specific Licenses

A specific license requires a written application to OFAC.  Depending on guidance from the White House and State Department, this can be a routine process for purposes of registration and general oversight, as during the Clinton Administration, or a time consuming obstacle course designed to politically shape or limit authorized travel, as under President Bush.  OFAC has published guidelines and new licenses have begun to be issued.

People to People Travel 

The category of “educational exchanges not involving academic study” should be the same umbrella that enabled a wide range of professional and shared interest groups to travel to Cuba before 2004 under their own or other’s license.  That included trips ranging from high schools to elderhostel, world affairs councils to bird watchers, alumni to dance aficionados.  Licensed travel providers will serve as intermediaries with both OFAC and Cuba for groups like museums, lawyers, doctors, and business people that don’t want to obtain their own licenses or lack experience and contacts in-country.  (Awaiting clarification is whether groups must have a history of organizing exchange programs or qualify on the basis of the trip for which they are seeking the license.) 

Specific licenses can also be obtained for workshops, clinics, performances and sports program.


Persons wishing to visit Cuba can either organize their own qualified trip or join an open enrollment program that fits their interest, schedule and budget.  Groups with general or specific licenses at present must either use one of 250 licensed US Travel Service Providers to book flights and programs or a company located in a third country.  In either case only three ground operators can provide programs for Americans within Cuba:  Havanatur, San Cristobal and Amistur.

For latest information on regulations and their implementation, contact or go to

Cuba/US People to People Partnership

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

New Rules Opening Door for Serious Travel to Cuba

May 21, 12:15 PM EDT

New US rules promise legal Cuba travel for many

HAVANA (AP) -- The forbidden fruit of American travel is once again within reach. New rules issued by the Obama administration will allow Americans wide access to communist-led Cuba, already a mecca for tourists from other nations.

Within months or even weeks, thousands of people from Seattle to Sarasota could be shaking their hips in tropical nightclubs and sampling the famous stogies, without having to sneak in through a third country and risk the Treasury Department's wrath.

"This is travel to Cuba for literally any American," said Tom Popper, director of Insight Cuba, which took thousands of Americans to Cuba before such programs were put into a deep freeze seven years ago.

But it won't all be a day at the beach or a night at the bar. U.S. visitors may find themselves tramping through sweltering farms or attending history lectures to justify the trips, which are meant, under U.S. policy, to bring regular Cubans and Americans together.

So-called people-to-people contacts were approved in 1999 under the Clinton administration, but disappeared in 2004 as the Bush administration clamped down what many saw as thinly veiled attempts to evade a ban on tourism that is part of the 49-year-old U.S. embargo.

Some familiar voices on Capitol Hill are already sounding the alarm about the new policy.

"President Obama and the administration continuously say they don't want more tourism and that's not what they're trying to do. But that's exactly what's happening," said Miami Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, who was born in Ft. Lauderdale to a prominent Cuban-exile family. He argued that more travel does nothing to promote democracy on the island.

"The only thing it does is provide hard currency for a totalitarian regime," he said.

Insight Cuba is one of at least a dozen travel groups that have applied for a license to operate on the island since details of the change were issued in April. If permission comes from Washington, it could begin trips in as little as six weeks, Popper said. Based on previous numbers, he believes he could take 5,000 to 7,000 Americans each year.

In the past, people-to-people travel has included jazz tours, where participants meet with musicians during the day and take in jam sessions at night. Art connoisseurs could visit studios, galleries and museums. Architecture aficionados could explore Havana's stately, but crumbling cityscape.

"Soon Americans can go salsa dancing in Cuba - legally!" trumpeted a recent press release for one would-be tour operator.

"You can go on forever," said Robert Muse, a Washington lawyer who represents several groups that have applied for licenses to operate the trips. "The subject matter is virtually limitless."

Many approved tours will likely be run by museums, university alumni associations and other institutions. They will target wealthy, educated Americans who can afford to spend thousands of dollars on a 10-day tour.
Tens of thousands went each year under people-to-people licenses from 2000 to 2003. Anyone is eligible if they go with an authorized group.

Cuban officials say privately they expect as many as 500,000 visitors from the United States annually, though most are expected to be Cuban-Americans visiting relatives under rules relaxed in 2009. That makes travelers from the United States the second biggest group visiting Cuba after Canadians, with Italians and Germans next on the list.

Academic and religious travel from the U.S. is also increasing.

The guidelines published by the U.S. Treasury Department say people-to-people tours must guarantee a "full-time schedule of educational activities that will result in meaningful interaction" with Cubans.
But a previous requirement to file itineraries ahead of time is gone, possibly making it difficult to police whether tours will follow the spirit of the law.

"It's more liberal than in 2000-2003 in a lot of senses," Popper said.

Still, it's a far cry from the pre-revolution days when Havana's mob-controlled nightclubs and casinos were a playground for the likes of Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and Greta Garbo. Back then, cheap ferries and flights from Florida meant tourists could party through the night and leave in the morning without bothering to rent a room.

Academic visits already under way give an idea of what may be allowed.

A recent group of Iowa State University students who came to study sustainable food and development had an itinerary packed with activities like visits to farms, a coffee plantation and an environmental reserve. They also managed to stroll Old Havana on a guided tour, visit an art museum and take in a performance of "Swan Lake" by Cuba's acclaimed National Ballet.

Agronomy professor Mary Wiedenhoeft said the cultural experiences were key for students to understand Cubans and therefore an integral part of their study.

"We didn't come here to be on a Caribbean beach; we came to be on farms," Wiedenhoeft said. "I didn't even pack a bathing suit."

When the Bush administration shut down people-to-people visits in 2004, it cited allegations the rules were being abused.

"You had these groups going down and they would miraculously end up in Varadero (a popular beach resort) or at Hemingway's home, or they'd end up at cigar factories," said John Kavulich, senior policy adviser to the nonpartisan U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council. "It wasn't something that was easy to defend when the State Department made inquiries."

The Obama administration would almost certainly come under pressure from anti-Castro members of Congress if a rash of Americans start posting Facebook photos of themselves smoking Cohibas and sipping Havana Club on the beach, Kavulich said.

So college kids looking for a bacchanalian spring break should probably stick to standbys like Cancun and Daytona Beach.

U.S. officials vow to weed out frivolous trips.

"If it is simply salsa dancing and mojitos, no. That doesn't pass the purposeful-travel criteria," a State Department official involved with the policy said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

If the new travel rules are politically sustainable, they have the potential to be "a big business opportunity," said Bob Guild, vice president of Marazul Charters, which offers licensed flights between Miami and Cuba and is expanding in anticipation of a surge of travelers.

"Hopefully (the U.S. government) will be issuing the licenses in a timely way and processing them quickly, and people will be able to begin going down. And we hope we can help them," Guild said. "It's a significant change."
Associated Press writers Paul Haven in Havana and Laura Wides-Munoz in Miami contributed to this report.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Tufts Adjusts Program to New Regulations

Faculty seeks approval for study abroad program in Cuba

By Daphne Kolios, Tufts Daily

Students and faculty are working to overcome administrative hurdles to gain approval for a non-Tufts study abroad program in Cuba in an effort to align student travel and study in the country with recently passed federal law.
Several Tufts faculty members conceived of the study abroad program in conjunction with members of the Juan Marinello Cuban Institute for Cultural Research, a postdoctoral research institute focused on the social sciences of culture and culture policy. The institute would serve as the host for the program and local professors would teach courses.
With travel restrictions to Cuba easing since 2001, Tufts students have been able to study in the country for short periods of time under the university's license for academic travel to Cuba.
Recent U.S. legislation, however, has necessitated that students studying abroad must now demonstrate that classes taken while in Cuba are accepted for credit by their university, according to José Antonio Mazzotti, chair of the Department of Romance Languages. The legislation holds that American students interested in studying abroad in the country are now not allowed to do so unless they can show that they are sponsored by an accredited university to receive academic credit.
Tufts faculty members conceived of the program last year as a fundamentally non-Tufts program after requests to start a Tufts program in Cuba were denied by the administration, according to professor emeritus Claudia Kaiser-Lenoir, a former associate professor in the Department of Romance Languages, who was one of the main faculty members involved in the program's inception.
Under the proposed program, students would take classes through the Juan Marinello Institute, an organization for which there is no equivalent in the U.S. education system, according to Kaiser-Lenoir, who has served as the primary liaison with the institute.
"[It's] a mix between a think tank within a field of expertise and an institution for advanced research within the university," she said.
Questions regarding the research-oriented nature of the institute, however, have complicated the approval process. Tufts' policy requires that study abroad programs be offered through accredited degree-granting institutions, according to Dean of Academic Affairs for Arts and Sciences James Glaser, and the Cuban institution does not meet this requirement.
The policy ensures the legitimacy of students' study abroad requests, Glaser said.
"The fact that it's … an accredited degree-granting [institution] gives us some assurance that certain requirements have been met, and so we don't have to go into every university and know every detail of how they're operating," Glaser said. "The accreditation tells us that this has been looked up by people who are knowledgeable and it's been given their stamp of approval."
Kaiser-Lenoir explained that the institute was chosen as the host institution because of its broad research in the social sciences and because professors for the courses offered come from Cuban universities.
"In several trips, we contacted the [Institute] and they were very open to holding meetings with our students … so when we starting thinking about what kind of place we could find to have a program that would offer this kind of very interdisciplinary environment, we thought about [it]," Kaiser-Lenoir said. "There are many others … but the Juan Marinello was the one that had the intellectual range that seemed to fit the students that we would take."
Since the institute does not grant degrees, discussion is ongoing about changes that would have to be made to the program to align it with university standards and allow Tufts students to attend, according to Glaser.
Thus far, the program's supporters have worked to demonstrate that the Juan Marinello Institute is comparable to a graduate school under the U.S. higher education system.
If the program is not approved for Tufts students in its proposed form, an alternative would be to seek an affiliation with another institution, according to Mazzotti.
A future possibility would also be to open the program to students from other universities.
Mazzotti emphasized that those involved are receptive to making the necessary alterations to ensure the program's viability and compliance with university standards.
The International Relations Program, the International Letters and Visual Studies Program, the Latin American Studies Program, the Department of Romance Languages and the Institute for Global Leadership have endorsed the program and are involved in getting administrative support, he added.
Students have also been working to demonstrate interest in this proposal, initiating a petition in mid-April once they learned of the logistical issues that had arisen, according to rising junior Rosario Dominguez, one of those involved.
"What [we're] trying to do is show the administration that there's a lot of student support for this, there's a lot of interest," rising junior Miguel Zamora-Mills, another petition organizer, said. "We're trying to show that this would be a fantastic opportunity for Tufts, even if it's not a Tufts program."
Dominguez considered a Cuba study abroad program beneficial as a way to educate students about the country.
"This would provide a wonderful opportunity for Tufts students to be in Cuba at a very interesting time in Cuba's history," Dominguez said. "Most importantly, as active citizens, we should be responsible … and knowledgeable of relations with Cuba, because … we don't have this past of the Cold War and Fidel [Castro]. It's turning a new page in U.S.-Cuba relations, which could potentially be very interesting."
Kaiser-Lenoir noted that if the program is approved for Tufts credit, it would build on a legacy of student involvement in Cuba starting in 2001.
The program's organizers, however, are committed to ensuring the program's availability to Tufts students for credit.
"[That's] part of what we do here as faculty," Mazzotti said. "We open possibilities, a place for Tufts students to learn different ways to approach social, cultural and political issues while, in this specific case, taking a first-hand look at historical experiences on environmental care, public health issues, ethnic diversity — in this case Afro-Cuban — and many other aspects of this particular and unique Latin American country."

Friday, May 20, 2011

Cuba at NAFSA

NAFSA's 2011 Annual Conference & Expo
Vancouver, Canada

Two key people from the University of Havana will participate:

* Dr. Lourdes Alicia Diaz Fernandez, Director of International Relations
* Dr. Mayra Heydrich, Coordinator of Programs with U.S. Universities

Expo Booth 2207

Cuba/US People to People Partnership with information from C & T Tours, Cuba
Educational Tours, Fund for Reconciliation and Development, Global Exchange,
Holbrook Travel.  A contact point with the Cuban participants.

Tuesday, May 31

12:30 pm - 1:45 pm
Pan Pacific Hotel Crystal Pavilion BC

Academic and Scholarly Relations with Cuba

Dr. John Coatsworth, dean of the School of International and Public Affairs at
Columbia University, provides a big-picture view of where Cuba stands in the
international education community and of the international political context of
educational exchange with Cuba.  $65 fee includes lunch.  register at


2 pm - 4 pm
Pan Pacific Hotel Crystal Pavilion A

A panel discussion will follow the luncheon. A Cuban representative will discuss
Cuba’s exchange profile and the purposes that Cuba seeks to achieve through
these exchanges, and representatives from Canada, the United States, and
Mexico will discuss their countries’ exchange relations with Cuba and what
national purposes are served through these relationships. The seminar is open
to all conference attendees.

Chair: Everett Egginton, PhD, Professor, College of Education, New Mexico
State University

Panelist: Mayra Heydrich, PhD, Coordinator of Programs with U.S. Universities,
University of Havana; Catherine Schittecatte, Chair, Political Science
Department and Global Studies Program, Vancouver Island University; The
Honorable Lázaro Cárdenas, Senior Fellow, Washington Office on Latin America
Former Governor of Michoacán, Mexico; Eric Popkin, PhD, Associate Professor of
Sociology and Dean of Summer Programs, Colorado College

All registered attendees are welcome to participate in this seminar.


Wednesday June. 1, 2011

Open Meeting, Knowledge Community, Education Abroad

12:30 pm - 1:30 pm
Vancouver Convention Centre West, Education Abroad Networking Center,
Room 214

Given that academic travel to Cuba from the United States has reopened,
expand your network to include Cuban colleagues interested in exchanges.

Lourdes Alicia Diaz Fernandez - University of Havana
Mayra Heydrich - University of Havana

LACSIG Annual Meeting

1:45 pm ­ 3:00 pm
Mackenzie 1 Room, Fairmount Waterfront Hotel

15 min. presentation by and discussion with Cuban participants; update on US
travel regulations


Thursday, June 2

5 - 6 pm
Vancouver Convention Centre West, Education Abroad Networking Center,
Room 214

Roundtable discussion on undertaking short term student and other educational
programs in Cuba for third party providers and secondary schools using people
to people licenses and higher education institutions with general licenses. 
Resource persons from Cuba and current providers of licensed travel.  Update
on US travel regulations.


The Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE) is pleased to support the participation of Dr. Mayra Heydrich Perez and Dr. Lourdes Alicia Diaz Fernandez of the University of Havana at the NAFSA conference in Vancouver and, in particular, at key events engaging Cuba with Canada, the USA and Mexico. Karen McBride, President of CBIE, will offer remarks during the luncheon on Tuesday, May 31.

Havana: Restoration as a Social Issue

Apr 14th, 2011 

Restoration projects in the historic district of the Cuban capital are helping to perfect an urban development project that prioritizes patrimonial and social interests.

In an interview with Prensa Latina, Havana City Historian Eusebio Leal explained these projects are focused on the human aspect, not just the restoration of the city´s architecture and beauty.

“I think it would be contradictory to highlight only (restoration) and ignore vital questions such as housing, the environment and public opinion about the city,” he said.

Restoration projects prioritize elementary and secondary schools; school/workshops; women; the gender issue; children´s issues, and at-risk groups such as the elderly and people who live alone.

A newly-created maternity home, mental health and addiction treatment center, and center for children with disabilities are examples of the social work carried out by the City Historian´s Office.

Old Havana has received national and international recognition, as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, for example, and its restoration projects have received a numberof awards.

The City Historian´s Office has also made incursions into other parts of the capital, specifically those that are historically valuable for the city or the nation.

Leal mentioned projects on the Paseo del Prado promenade, such as the restoration of the Gran Teatro, or Grand Theater, and recently-begun work on the Capitolio building.

A subjective factor is also important: that of raising awareness about protecting the environment, Leal said, referring to a project at the Quinta de los Molinos natural park, which includes efforts by all organizations involved in environmental issues.

One of the goals for 2011 is to continue restoration work at the University of Havana and at Colon Cemetery, and housing construction in the Havana neighborhoods of Alamar and Capdevila.

Work also constinues on the Havana seawall, the Malecon, both on the wall itself and on the drainage system, in the context of the direct influence of climate change on that historic site, Leal noted.

With respect to an environmental strategy, the office is part of a working group for the Port of Havana overseeing efforts to clean up the bay, and results are already being seen in lower contamination levels, he said.

The historian also mentioned the Mariel Bay project, which would bring back more tranquil times to Havana, making the port chiefly a touristic destination instead of a shipping dock.

What is important today is not just restoration, but also the civic conduct of citizens, because along any given street, one can see litter thrown from car windows or damage to the urban environment and its monuments.

Throughout the city, but particularly in Havana and Cuba today, “we are going to suffer the sadness of losing many buildings and architectural elements, because adverse circumstances have taken us to that threshold,” Leal said.

The historian noted the current conditions of Cuba, subjected to an economic, commercial and financial blockade by the United States, and emphasized that the idea is to make restoration projects sustainable whenever possible.

Leal, who has been recognized for his work to preserve heritage, said that a series of presentations is being made nationwide on restoration experiences in the capital, taking into account other historic centers such as Camaguey and Cinefuegos.

This year, the Conference on the Management and Administration of Historic Districts will be held, attended by architects and other experts from Cuba and other countries, and will address both architectural and social aspects.

For the Cuban people, their capital, whose urban landscape and social aspects have suffered the impact of the U.S. sanctions, is aiming to become an increasingly inhabitable city, little by little, and as economic resources allow.

Meanwhile, foreign visitors walk through its streets and contemplate the old military architecture that survived the era of Spanish colonization, and other buildings and plazas built so many years ago, which continue to amaze us with the dazzling traces of other times.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

New rules usher in a tasty comeback for Cuban food

HAVANA (AP) — Ramon Menendez went to his grave in the 1980s believing that his family grocery, shut down by Fidel Castro's revolution, would one day rise again. In January it finally happened.
La Moneda Cubana, which sold groceries, snacks and liquor, is back in business in the heart of Old Havana. But now, under the management of grandson Miguel Angel Morales Menendez, it's an elegant restaurant, one of dozens that have sprung up as the country struggles to adapt its communist system to modern economic realities.
"My grandfather would be proud," Morales said. "I kept telling people it's not a dream! It's not a dream! One day it will be possible. One they have to let us."
After years spent working in dreary state-run restaurants and hush-hush culinary speakeasies, restaurateurs and chefs are operating under a set of new, less exacting rules that allow their talents freer reign. There are brand new places such as La Moneda Cubana, and splashy reopenings such as La Guarida, made famous by the Oscar-nominated 1993 movie "Strawberry and Chocolate."
The boom runs the gamut from La Pachanga, which serves guava shakes and towering $4 burgers, to Cafe Laurent, a converted penthouse where the mostly foreign clientele can easily drop $30 a head — more than Cuba's average monthly wage.
If the restaurants are successful, they could generate badly needed tax revenue and provide a model for how to shrink the bloated state-employed sector by absorbing hundreds of thousands of bureaucrats into the private sector.
"This was long overdue," said Jose Antonio Figueroa, 39, a partner in Cafe Laurent. "This is a chance to achieve what we always wanted."
After six years working at El Templete, one of the more highly regarded government restaurants, he, another manager and an assistant chef quit to start their own place as soon as the rules were announced last fall.
At Cafe Laurent, they have the freedom to set their own prices, experiment with the menu, handpick employees who care about service — and pay them enough not to pilfer food for their families.
The new eateries are a boon for well-off residents and tourists tired of the bland fare at many government restaurants.
"It's a lot better food, better service," said Simon Castellani, a 21-year-old visiting student from Copenhagen who was dining on fresh shrimp at Cafe Laurent.
Authorities first let private restaurants open in homes in 1993 during the austerity that followed the collapse of Cuba's lifeline, the Soviet Union. But just months later they slammed on the brakes. In 1995 they rolled out strict rules: Paladars (the word is Spanish for "palate") were limited to 12 seats and prohibited from serving steak or seafood. Live music was banned. Employees had to be family members or registered as residents of the home.
The restaurant scene peaked in 1996-1997, when the government decided the economic crisis was easing. It sharply raised the restaurateurs' taxes and stepped up enforcement.
"They began to phase this experiment out," said Ted Henken, a professor of sociology and Latin American studies at Baruch college in New York. "I think that was mostly due to Fidel's ideological aversion to this kind of thing."
Only a handful of the most successful survived. Even La Guarida, whose A-list of past guests ran from Jack Nicholson to Queen Sofia of Spain, shut down in 2009. Its owner was quoted as saying the laws made it too tough to operate.
The new rules allow the independent restaurants to seat up to 20 people. Gone is the ban on seafood and steak, as well as the rule on hiring only family members.
"That was always absurd," said Morales. "No family is entirely made up of gastronomes and chefs."
Since then 60 to 100 restaurants have been launched in Havana, including new, reopened and clandestine ones that went legit. They're also opening in lesser numbers in cities on the tourist route. In blistering hot Santiago de Cuba, the island's second largest city, a number of homes now have improvised ice cream and fruit shops.
In interviews with The Associated Press, the new restaurant owners said getting a license is now quick and easy, and government inspectors are professional and helpful.
While Fidel Castro admitted that he opened the economy in the 1990s only grudgingly and out of desperation, his brother and successor, Raul Castro, stresses that the island must change its ways.
"They really feel like this is different from Fidel," Henken said. "There is a new sheriff in town, and that sheriff sees these people not as illegitimate but as legal, honest workers — who should follow the rules and be controlled."
Still, running a restaurant can be brutal even in a thriving economy. In Cuba, there's an array of taxes that one restaurateur estimates will take at least 60 percent of his earnings this year. Supplies of fresh ingredients are unreliable and credit is often unobtainable. The government is developing plans to extend loans, but for now, many entrepreneurs have gotten startup capital from relatives overseas.
Foreigners and well-heeled Cubans are too few to support all the new restaurants that have opened, and some restaurateurs are already scaling back operations or giving up.
Raul Castro has said he has no intention of dismantling socialism or letting individuals accumulate too much wealth, and there's no guarantee that the rug won't be yanked out again.
"They've been through this before," said Rafael Romeu, president of the Washington-based nonpartisan Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy. "Cuba has a flexible boundary that moves back and forth in terms of the public sector's tolerance for private sector activity."
So restaurant owners are tempering their expectations for now.
"We don't anticipate people lining up outside the house to eat," said Niuri Ysabel Higueras Martinez, 36, one of a trio of seasoned restaurateur siblings. They operate stylish L'Atelier, perched on the top floor of an 1860s mansion in El Vedado district and serving experimental Cuban-fusion fare, everything from ceviche and clams au gratin to falafel and babaganoush.
"We're not trying to get rich or become millionaires," added her brother, Herdys Higueras Martinez. "We just want to have a good time with the customers and have something left over for ourselves without making a big show of it."
That could change if there is further economic opening — and if Washington lifts its decades-old ban on travel to the island. Some here consider the latter an inevitability, and say the paladars can absorb the flood.
"At some point there will be brand new tourism from America." said Figueroa of Cafe Laurent, "and it's good to be prepared."