Saturday, March 31, 2012

University of California Santa Barbara Alumni

Alumni association offers trip to Cuba
The UCSB Alumni Association has received its People-to-People License from the Office of Foreign Asset Control allowing travel to Cuba for its guests based on its itineraries.
Space is available on the May 1-9 and May 3-18 excursions.
The 15-night itinerary includes Havana, Trinidad, Cienfuegos, Camaguey, Holguin, Baracoa and Santiago. The eight-night itinerary includes Havana, Trinidad and Cienfuegos.
The programs will allow the group to meet with economists, educators, business owners, artists and historians.
The trips are limited to 34 guests.
For more information call 893-4611 or email All Cuba departures are open to the public.

Read more:

Friday, March 30, 2012

Law Students from Hofstra University

Hofstra Law taking field trip to Havana

The National Law Journal
March 30, 2012
A group of would-be lawyers from The Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University are going where no American law students have gone before, at least in any official capacity: Cuba. 

Thirty Hofstra students will make the trek on March 31 from New York to Havana, where they will spend their spring break studying U.S. export laws and controls. Hofstra is the first law school to apply for accreditation from the American Bar Association for a study abroad program in Cuba. 

The trip is made possible by the U.S. government's decision to lift its ban on educational travel to Cuba. (Tourists are still prohibited from traveling there from the United States.) 

"Hofstra law is excited to be one of the first law schools to take advantage of the government's endorsement of educational exchange with Cuba, and we hope that our program will provide students with an academically and culturally enriching experience," said Dean Nora Demleitner. "This expansion of our study-abroad offerings also responds to the complexities of the legal field, which increasingly demands future lawyers to be prepared for an ever-more interconnected world." 

The program is the result of a 2011 trip to Cuba that Demleitner took with assistant professor Juli Campagna and Jeffrey Dodge, assistant dean for global initiatives and multicultural affairs. That foray was intended to spur educational exchange programs. Campagna, who is leading the field study, said it's an opportunity for students to gain practical legal knowledge and to experience a very different culture. 

"Most of our students have never seen a communist country before, and the cultural differences between the U.S. and Cuba certainly will add another dimension to their learning experience," Campagna said. 

The students will learn about a variety of export laws and regulations. The students will take field trips and hear from guest lecturers while attending classes in the National Museum of Fine Arts of Havana — a building that formerly housed Cuba's Supreme Court of Justice. 

An inspector from the ABA will accompany the group to ensure that the program fulfills the requirements for study-abroad accreditation. 

Meanwhile, Hofstra is launching a spring break study-abroad program in Ecuador. That program will focus on international environmental law. 

Contact Karen Sloan at    

Leading Florida Newspaper Calls for End of Travel Ban

South Florida

Lift Cuba travel ban

March 30, 2012

Pope Benedict XVI concluded his three-day visit to Cuba with a call for "change" on the island, which gratifyingly elicited chants of libertad, or freedom, after the Wednesday mass in Havana concluded.

The pope pressed for greater room and space for Cuba's Catholic Church, including asking that the Castro regime declare Good Friday a holiday. Cuba's Catholic institutions clearly benefited from a 1998 papal visit by John Paul II, and it's expected the faithful will also gain more room to worship from Benedict's support.

Whether Cuba's secular pro-democracy activists have reason to expect the papal visit will generate more freedom for them is another matter. The pope didn't meet with dissidents or the Ladies in White movement, and there were reports of stepped up arrests and detentions of opposition members.

The pope made time for Cuba's erstwhile dictator, Fidel Castro, who among other things, asked Benedict what a pope does. Oh, to have been a fly on the wall of that encounter.
There might be some left disappointed the pope did not condemn Cuba's dictatorship in harsher terms, or offer, in person, support for dissidents and the regime's opponents. Those aspirations, however, were unrealistic.

From the start, Pope Benedict XVI's purpose was to bolster the standing of Cuba's Catholic Church. That in itself is a significant challenge.

Decades of repression and government-imposed atheism have eroded the Church's standing. Catholics are now a small percentage of the island's population.

We hoped he would make a case for secular-based freedoms, and he did. But it would have been an extremely difficult feat for the pontiff to have prodded for greater religious acceptance while also uttering even stronger and overt political themes.

Now, going forward, those who advocate for a transition to democracy in Cuba — and we are among those — must understand and accept that process requires a different strategy, different tools.

For decades, pro-democracy advocates, including South Florida Cuban Americans, have looked to a parade of world leaders and dignitaries to travel to Cuba and talk sense to the Castro brothers. It's time to seek a course correction of sorts.

What's a better idea? Rely more on people, and less on world leaders.

We will again argue, as we have in the past, that the United States should lift its travel bans so that U.S.-Cuba travel is as accessible as travel is to the majority of countries in the hemisphere. We have argued, and will do so again, that lifting the travel ban would, over time, break the isolation of Cuba's citizenry and lessen its dependency on the Castros' regime.

Few policies serve the Castro brothers' interest, and the interest of their dictatorship, better than the travel ban.


My comment:

In summarizing the Pope's message, you neglected his call for an end to the embargo:

"May no one feel excluded from taking up this exciting task because of limitations of his or her basic freedoms, or excused by indolence or lack of material resources, a situation which is worsened when restrictive economic measures, imposed from outside the country, unfairly burden its people."

Regarding ending travel restrictions, you are 100% correct but the Cuban American caucus will bitterly fight against any and all travel because it undermines their propaganda.

Unfortunately action by Congress is required to end travel restrictions which can't happen unless the Democrats control both Houses of Congress, and even then is not certain.

However the President could substantially make Cuba more accessible to average Americans by enabling a general license for all people to people travel.  That would allow self-directed independent travel by families and back-packers who could rent cars, use the public bus and train, and stay in privately owned casas particulares. 

John McAuliff
Fund for Reconciliation and Development

Monday, March 26, 2012

Andrea Mitchell Interviews American Students on Cuban Life

A year ago President Barack Obama relaxed some of the travel rules that were tightened by the Bush White House allowing American college students and other cultural tourists to visit Cuba. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell spoke with some American students studying at the University of Havana.


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Thoughts From an American Studying Medicine in Cuba

An Open Letter to Americans Traveling to Cuba on People-to-People tours
Posted By Graham On March 25, 2012 @ 8:42 am In Graham Sowa's Diary 

author photo
Graham Sowa: I am about to complete my third year living away from my home (Grapevine, Texas, USA) and my first of six years living in Cuba. My enrollment in the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) has begun a major change in my adventure in obtaining an education. I enjoy listening to insightful stories and well-formed opinions; similarly, I enjoy the opportunity to share mine. I am consistently amazed at how little material and social culture separates me from my peers, no matter where they hail from. My current hobbies include reading, fishing and debate.

Graham Sowa 
Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES, March 25 — My dear compatriot: Recently we have been receiving several visits a week from People-to-People exchange tours at the Latin American School of Medicine in Havana, Cuba.  As the number of these tours is likely to increase I’d like to say a few words to those of you making the trip across the Straits of Florida.
I am delighted that you have decided to visit Cuba.  I know it wasn’t easy to make the decision to come here, and some of your friends might have looked at you funny when you told them where you were going.  I also know that the trip didn’t come cheap.  But despite those obstacles you are on your way.
Because of current travel restrictions to the island you are probably coming on a specific travel license that allows People-to-People exchanges.  I also have to use a travel license to make my journey home from Cuba.
Likewise, Cubans must also get permission from their government to travel outside their country.  My point is that all of us coming and going from Cuba have restrictions imposed from one side or another.  Keep this in mind as the first of many areas of solidarity you can use to relate to your Cuban hosts.
When you arrive to Havana and board the tour bus you will be embarking on a busy and somewhat rigid schedule.  I encourage you to keep two things in mind:
The first is that the United States State Department continues to forbid “tourism” to Cuba.  Therefore your travel provider, in cooperation with a Cuban government travel company, has gone to great lengths to abide by these rules to avoid legal problems for everyone involved, especially you.  This is done by scheduling your time around cultural exchanges and informational tours while avoiding “touristy” things like mojitos on the beach.
The second thing you need to remain cognizant of is that your Cuban tour guides are paid to give you a tour of their country.  No one wants to talk badly about their home to strangers.  Would you expect to go on a group tour of Washington D.C. and the guide say something like “this is the White House, it is the home base of an evil empire perpetuating capitalist globalization”?  No, you would not hear that from your tour guide.  Similarly expect your Cuban tour guide to be respectful and proud of their country.
Photo: Caridad
Now, my dear compatriot, I fear I may have you worried.  You might be questioning whether or not you should come to Cuba if you are not going to be able to get a “down to earth” or “real life” experience of the Cuban situation.
So to lay those fears and frets at ease I will offer a few ways you can make your highly regulated trip a bit more…free.  (At least in spirit if not actually cost.)
- Get to know your guide right away by asking them about their family.  Tour guides will spend 20 hours a day, or more, working for you the entire time you are in Cuba.  That means they won’t be around their family.  Show them you recognize that.
- Ask people in the tourist industry where they work when they are not giving tours.  You are likely to meet an engineer, a linguist, or a professor.  You might find someone who has the same profession you have back home.  Don’t be afraid to “talk-shop” while on vacation.
- Buy people drinks.  Don’t be afraid of getting into a conversation with a stranger.  Remember that even if it is boring or difficult to communicate your busy travel schedule will pull you away soon enough.  Use this to your advantage and be outgoing without fear of getting bogged down for the whole day or night talking with the same person.
- Sneak away.  You need to do this without making the bus wait on you so as to be respectful to the other guests and the host.  One way around this is to excuse yourself to go to the bathroom and then show up on schedule when the bus is supposed to pull away.  This will give you a chance to get away from the group for an hour or two without having to make them look for you.  Remember forgiveness comes easier than permission.
- Tip.  Tip.  Tip.  I don’t know why we Americans assume no one needs a tip outside of our country.  Some people working in the Cuban tourist industry had to pay money to get their job.  The only way they put food on the table is with your Convertible Pesos.  Tip.
So, fellow American, I hope after reading this you have some ideas on how to get the most out of your trip to Cuba.  If you find yourself frustrated try to remember the context that you are traveling in is highly regulated, mostly from our government.   Perhaps use that frustration back home by expressing your concerns about travel regulation to Cuba with your elected officials.
I will close with an invitation.  If you find yourself at the Latin American School of Medicine ask to go to the bathroom as soon as you arrive.  If you see a tall, lanky guy with an American flag sewn onto his coat sleeve at the top of the stairs ask for a personalized tour of the campus.  I’ll make sure to get you back to the bus on time.
Happy trails! 

Report from a Newark Museum Trip

Montclair couple celebrates 50th wedding anniversary in Cuba

THURSDAY MARCH 22, 2012, 2:37 PM
'It's been forbidden fruit for so long, and now we're allowed to go and see the people and see what's going on.'
Clarence and Lois Crawley soaked up art and music, sun, fun, food, and friendships, and returned with memories and a few souvenirs of their latest trip, a week in Cuba with the People to People exchange program. They bought ceramic tile during a studio visit with nationally acclaimed artist Jose Fuster.
Clarence and Lois Crawley soaked up art and music, sun, fun, food, and friendships, and returned with memories and a few souvenirs of their latest trip, a week in Cuba with the People to People exchange program. They bought ceramic tile during a studio visit with nationally acclaimed artist Jose Fuster.
- Merle Lomrantz

Ask Clarence and Lois Crawley if they like to travel, and they will pull out a manila folder containing notes, itineraries, and paperwork documenting their adventures.

Together, the Montclair couple have been all over the world - Spain, Africa, Greece, Italy, China, France, to name a few places.
But they hadn't made any major travel plans to celebrate their Jan. 20 golden anniversary.
That was until the Newark Museum offered an opportunity to go to Cuba with a group of about two dozen people from Jan. 21 through 28. And this would be quite a different experience from most of the couple's previous trips. For the ordinary American, going to Cuba is more involved than just booking a trip.

Last year, President Obama lifted certain restrictions on travel to Cuba, and Americans are now allowed to visit with "People to People" educational exchange programs.

"The museum, they offer so many different trips, and when I saw this one ... I thought, this isn't some place we can go to every day. I knew we couldn't get in on our own," Lois Crawley, 71, said.

Merle Lomrantz, director of Member Travel Services at the Newark Museum, said she immediately thought of the Crawleys, given how much they love jazz, and how jazz is "part of the spirit of Cuba," noting, "They went and they loved it. Their enthusiasm is contagious."

The museum has been offering People to People trips since October, Lomrantz said. "It's been forbidden fruit for so long, and now we're allowed to go and see the people and see what's going on. Their arts are thriving. Their culture is thriving ... Cuba right now is on the tip of everybody's tongue."

The Museum, of which the Crawleys are members, offered the trip through California-based Cuba Cultural Travel, which was granted a People to People license by the U.S. Treasury Department.

"You can go, but you need to find a tour company to get you there," said Michael Sykes, president and owner of the company.

"The idea is not to take them down the tourist trail," said Sykes, noting that groups of only about 20 people go at a time.

"They [Cuba] have well over 2 million tourists a year in a country that has 12 million people," he said.

The Treasury Department has issued about 120 People to People licenses since regulations were announced by Obama in 2011, according to John Sullivan, spokesperson for the U.S. Treasury Department.

Another way to travel to Cuba is under a general license, which covers purposes such as religion or journalism, or if an American has a close relative living there, Sullivan said.
Clarence and Lois Crawley, who have been living in Montclair for 41 years, said they were not hesitant about traveling to Cuba.

"We just felt good about it," said Clarence Crawley, 74.

"The nature of a vacation is not to have questions over your head," he added. "Why would I pay an amount to go to a location where there's a question mark in terms of us being in harm's way. There are a lot of other places we can visit. We haven't even scratched the surface.

"We were just looking for that day to come."

They stayed at the five-star Hotel Parque Central, where they were greeted upon arrival by an anniversary acknowledgment, champagne, and cake.

The next day, they participated in a walking tour of Old Havana.

Lois observed beautiful old buildings, nice places to eat, and cultural shows. "They had a fabulous ballet that had just come back from touring," she said.

The couple saw jazz performances, visited two synagogues, and went to a maternity hospital for at-risk women. They went to a children's after school program, and took gifts of pencils and paper.

They also felt safe. "There's like no crime," Clarence said. "There's no thought about any harm." Lois added, "I was just as safe as I would be in Montclair."

She said it was fun to see old American cars, some of which are used as taxis. "Old classic cars like you would see in a parade in Montclair," she said.

The couple also took in an art history lecture, and one about the complexities of present-day Cuban society.

"It's important for Cubans to know what we are like, and conversely it was important for us to know what Cubans are about," Clarence said.

They observed many little bodegas on the streets, and an air of friendliness and relaxation. "You hear music coming from their houses, and people would bring their chairs out at night and sit on their porches," Clarence said.

And they weren't the only lovey-dovey couple in Havana.

"We saw a lot of lovebirds," he said. "Young people were very affectionate toward one another, whether they were sitting in a park ... or out by the water."

According to information he received during the trip, Clarence said, there's an energy among young people.

"There is that feeling that something's on the horizon.

"The young ones are looking to the future ... They're not aspiring to go to Miami. They want to stay and develop what they have there."

Because of some restrictions, some items could not be brought back to the United States, Clarence said. "I could buy all the rum I wanted, but I had to drink it there, as well as the cigars," he said.

But they were able to bring back pieces of art, clothes, books, and shirts for their grandchildren.

While neither speak Spanish, they were comfortable traveling with a group, which is how they have always preferred to travel when going outside the country.

"There's that comfort and there's that relying on the professionals," Clarence said.

The couple met at a friend's party in Newark in 1961, said Clarence, a retired IBM Corporation business planner who also is an actor, performing in commercials for companies like McDonalds and American Express. Lois is a retired Pezro company merchandiser, he said.

To do all the things they've dreamed of, they have always been good about managing money.
"Life is precious. You have to have a financial base," said Clarence, adding that he hopes he and Lois can serve as a model of success.

"There are black middle-class persons who stay married. Are married 50 years. Let's get it out there," he said.

"This is something where they can say, wait a minute, we can work toward this ... We don't have to have a life full of problems.

"We were able to work and develop, and build."

Daytona Group Offers Trips With Casas Particulares

A street in Havana, Cuba, has not changed much through the years. (Photo | Hot Cuba Travel)
A worker in Cuba rolls a cigar for tourists. (Photo | Hot Cuba Travel)
John Notaras of Port Orange enjoys a cigar during a visit to a crocodile farm in Cuba. (Photo | Hot Cuba Travel)
Paul Prewitt, left, and Charley Gonzalez have launched Hot Cuba Travel, one of the first companies in the area to offer cultural trips to Cuba. (N-J | Skyler Swisher)
DAYTONA BEACH -- When John Notaras was growing up during the Cold War, Cuba conjured up images of an island fortress populated by communists bent on destroying America.
That vision stayed with him until Charley Gonzalez, a Daytona Beach businessman, talked him into visiting the island nation on a humanitarian trip.
When Notaras stepped foot on Cuban soil, he found the people welcomed him with open arms rather than clenched fists.
"My eyes were completely opened to what a beautiful country it is," Notaras said. "People will invite you into their house. They offer you food. They offer you coffee. The people are just phenomenal."
Others could be joining Notaras in traveling to Cuba legally. A policy change by President Barack Obama this past year opened the door to tour operators to offer cultural travel to Cuba under a program known as people-to-people.
With the looser rules, Gonzalez and Daytona Beach videographer Paul Prewitt launched Hot Cuba Travel, one of the first companies in the area to offer cultural trips to Cuba. Only 120 operators hold licenses, said John Sullivan, a spokesman for U.S. Department of Treasury.
Starting at $2,000, Hot Cuba Travel will organize visits based on travelers' interests.
While it's now easier to experience the sights and sounds of Havana, visiting Cuba on a people-to-people license isn't the same as an island-resort vacation, Prewitt said.
"This travel isn't about going to the beach and sipping a rum drink," he said.
People-to-people licenses require visitors to stick to itineraries and experience the island's culture. Visitors stay in casas particulares, which are private homes -- similar to a bed and breakfast -- permitted by the government to accommodate visitors.
Unfettered travel remains effectively illegal under the embargo. American tourists can technically visit Cuba, but it's against the law for them to spend money there.
President Bill Clinton created people-to-people licenses in 1999, but the government stopped issuing them in 2003 when President George W. Bush was in office.
In January 2011, Obama renewed the program, citing the need to enhance the free flow of information to the Cuban people.
Not everyone has embraced the policy change. Critics, such as U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, argue the tours will help to prop up the communist dictatorship in Cuba.
In a statement, Ros-Lehtinen said allowing more travel to Cuba is "filling up the coffers of the Castro dictatorship so it can improve its repressive machinery against the Cuban people." Under the new rules, anyone with a U.S. passport is eligible to travel to Cuba for cultural exchange purposes, Gonzalez said. Travelers must obtain a visa from the Cuban government, along with health insurance. Both of those tasks are handled by Hot Cuba Travel.
Chartered flights to Cuba -- a roughly one-hour trip -- leave from Tampa and Miami.
Travelers who have accompanied Gonzalez on his trips say there are plenty of reasons to visit the island nation. Dome-like mountains called mogotes tower over some of the world's best tobacco plantations. The house where Ernest Hemingway penned his novels and the bars where he drank still stand. Buildings dating from the 1700s beckon to passersby. Antique cars patched together through the years because of the embargo cruise the streets of Havana.
Then there is the food. That was one of the best parts of Cuba for Fred Kaiser, an auto dealer from DeLand.
"I'd go again for the food," he said. "They can do something with pork that no one else in the world can."
Under U.S. law, visitors can only return with art, music and literature. Packing away cigars, rum or other items is prohibited.
Both Prewitt. 54, and Gonzalez, 53, have a special relationship with Cuba.
Prewitt spent a decade filming a documentary called "Viva Cuba" about the island nation's people and its culture. The film is set to be released in the fall.
Gonzalez, who owns the audio store Stereotypes, was born in Daytona Beach to Cuban parents who immigrated to America before the revolution.
He visited Cuba when he was an infant in 1959. Because of the embargo, he didn't return until 20 years later after spending his entire childhood without having ever seen his grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins and other relatives.
Gonzalez said his business isn't political, but he hopes that one day tourists and goods will be able to flow freely in and out of Cuba.
"There should be no walls," he said.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

College Baseball Renews After 16 Years

Posted: Tuesday March 20, 2012 5:51 PM

College baseball players to face Cubans in July

HAVANA (AP) - U.S. college baseball players will face a Cuban team this summer, renewing play after 16 years with a five-game series between nations with bitter relations.

The games between college national teams will be played July 5-9 in Havana's Latino Stadium as a warmup for the Haarlem Baseball Week tournament in the Netherlands that month.

"We could not be more excited or proud,'' USA Baseball executive director Paul Seiler said in Havana, where officials signed a letter of agreement.

Little League exchanges between the countries are common, and in 1999 the Baltimore Orioles became the first major league team to play in Cuba since the 1959 Cuban Revolution. Now, the Cuba-college agreement re-establishes what was an annual series between 1987 and 1996.

"Today is a day of happiness for baseball,'' said Antonio Castro, vice president of the Cuban Baseball Federation and a son of Fidel Castro.

"It is very important for the U.S. team, and for Cuba it's beyond explanation what it means to enjoy this kind of warmup,'' Castro said during a news conference at the stadium. "It is important for our athletes to have matches at another level of baseball.''

Cuba and the United States see eye-to-eye on very little, but do share a deep passion for baseball. At times, baseball diplomacy has been used to try to bridge the gulf.

Seiler and Castro declined to comment on whether the series could help improve strained ties between Havana and Washington, saying the focus of the day was baseball not politics.

The last time Cuba and USA Baseball played was 1996, a particularly bad year for relations. On Feb. 24 of that year, the Cuban Air Force shot down two Cessna planes piloted by an anti-Castro exile group that Havana accused of entering Cuba's airspace to drop leaflets on the island. Later that year, President Clinton signed the Helms-Burton Act, toughening the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba.
USA Baseball said in a statement that Cuba would bring its national college team to the U.S. in summer 2013. U.S. college players last visited the island in 1993.

The U.S. team will be coached by Tennessee's Dave Serrano. Players will be invited over the course of the college baseball season.

Cal State Long Beach Cross Department Collaboration

CSULB Students, and Faculty Members Set To Take Historic Visit to Cuba

Four Cal State Long Beach (CSULB) faculty members will lead 25 students on a historic visit to Cuba from March 23 to April 1 as part of a collaboration between the university’s Department of  Romance/German/Russian Languages and Literatures’ (RGRLL) Spanish program and the Department of Chicano and Latino Studies.

The first visit to the country by a CSULB class since 2006, the trip will include a tour of Havana that will feature visits to the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, the Centro Memorial to Martin Luther King and the Escuela Latinoamericana de Medicina.

“Trips to Cuba had been cancelled by many educational institutions, including CSULB, because of very strict conditions issued by the Department of the Treasury,” explained RGRLL Professor Claire Martin.  “Since the rules have been relaxed, we are conducting our first trip (with) 25 CSULB students who will be able to experience and witness the interesting changes taking place in Cuba as it opens its economic system.”

Interest in the Cuba trip began when Victor Rodriguez, associate professor of Chicano and Latino studies, approached Martin and RGRLL Professor Bonnie Gasior with the idea of promoting a Cuba trip to their Spanish majors and minors.

“I am the director of a program that used to be supported by IRA funds, ‘The Latino Transnational Experience in the Caribbean.’   Under this program, we carried out four previous trips to Cuba, but our last trip was in 2006.  Since then, we have been traveling to the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico,” noted Rodriguez, who will be joined on the trip by fellow Chicano Studies Professor Jose Moreno.  “Since the regulations were relaxed earlier this year, we decided to resume the travel to Cuba.  We thought this would be a great opportunity to extend our collaboration with the RGRLL Department, and we decided to make it a joint effort.  The response has been overwhelming.”

Gaisor added, “We realized immediately that going to Cuba represented a great opportunity for our students and for us.  As advisors, we know our students well, and we’re eager to share this experience with them,” she said.  “This is the kind of trip they will remember for the rest of their lives.”

The braiding together of the two courses carried special challenges.  Two classes were scheduled at the same time on Mondays so that both cohorts of students could work together.

“When Dr. Rodriguez lectures about the historical context of the Cuban revolution, both groups will get a chance to hear it,” Martin said.  “They will both read foundational literature about Cuban culture such as Columbus’ first descriptions of Cuba.  The two groups will meet and discuss the texts together and read secondary sources.  Unfortunately, not all the students enrolled in the two classes will go on the trip because Cuban accommodations offer space for just 25 students – period.”

Martin also pointed out that all participating students are bilingual.  “They all speak Spanish,” she said.  “They will be able to have direct communication with the people of Cuba without any kind of mediation or interference by government or media.  There is the possibility of real, unfiltered communication between the students and Cubans.

“Their perspective on the country will carry the authority of someone who has actually been to Cuba and who has seen firsthand how people live,” she continued.  “I’m sure our students will be critical of what they see in Cuba.  There’s plenty to be critical of.  But the goal of this university and of this course is to promote critical thinking, and I am certain the students will come back with a critical eye, both for Cuba and for their own country.”

Both Martin and Gasior are pleased with what the students will see in Havana, believing the students will be interested in these sites because of their cultural and historical significance.

“Look at the significance of the Escuela Latinoamericana de Medicina to the Cuban people.  The school offers free medical instruction for all Latin Americans who must then return to their countries of origin and practice for two years,” Martin noted.  “The Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes is one of the best museums of its kind in Latin America.”

This is the first visit to Cuba for both faculty members.  Gasior has traveled extensively through Latin America and anticipates a degree of culture shock in separating the media images of Cuba from the real thing.

Cuba is kind of a question mark for me but I’m very excited about going,” she said.  “I’m eager to talk with the Cuban people, but I’m also eager to watch our students.  I’ve seen our students go abroad before and it’s an amazing sight.  There is always a moment of epiphany when the student discovers something they never thought about before.”

Their primary hope is that their students gain a new awareness of the world and their own country from their Cuban journey.

Cuba has been a four-letter word to the average American for 50 years,” Gasior said.  “I am confident, however, that our students will return from their time abroad with a more positive image of Cuba.  It depends on what each student wants to get out of the experience.  
I hope they come away with a greater awareness of everything from Cuban heritage to Cuban cuisine.”

Rodriguez hopes his students take advantage of Cuba at a historic turning point.  “Cuba is in the midst of liberalizing its economic (in some sense parts of its political system), so we will have the unique opportunity to see a society changing without the kind of turmoil (until now) that we have seen in the Arab Spring,” he said.  “I hope our students will value their experience of another Latino culture.”

Boulder Sister City June Trip

We are pleased to announce that the Boulder-Cuba Sister City Organization has been granted a non-academic educational/people-to-people license to travel to Cuba by the U.S. Department of the Treasury.


trip contact:
 June 2012 Delegation to Cuba
      The Boulder-Cuba Sister City Organization will sponsor a trip to Cuba in early June 2012, on a non-academic educational/people-to-people license authorized by the US Department of the Treasury. We will visit eastern Cuba, (Holguin, Bayamo, Santiago de Cuba, Yateras, Guantánamo City, and Baracoa) and conclude our trip in Havana.
The intended focus of this trip is the Cuban education system, with emphasis on pre-K through high school, environmental, and public health/medical education.  Members of the Boulder community with personal and professional interests in these areas are especially encouraged to participate in this delegation.
For more information:

Monday, March 19, 2012

Washington Times Reports AAA Travel Involvement

AAA Travel has obtained permits through one of their preferred suppliers for a U.S. Treasury Department License and a Letter of Authorization to bring American travelers to Cuba
The Magellan Travel Club is currently offering an 8-day package through AAA Travel to Havana, the Bay of Pigs and Playa Giron in August of 2012. Dates for the tour are August 2 – 9. Ground rates for a double are $2,795 plus air. Singles are $3,095 plus air. The group is limited to 16 participants.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Grand Circle Foundation Trip Story

Near and Far with The Friday Flyer: Patricia Hollingshead in Cuba

Patricia Hollingshead recently spent 12 days in Cuba with the Grand Circle Foundation. She says, "It was wonderful – this is pivotal moment in history for the people of Cuba who are in the midst of major government reforms."
The group visited three cities: Havana, Cienfuegos, a harbor town that is the center of Cuba's sugar, coffee, and tobacco trades, and the colonial gem of Trinidad, "where cobbled streets, pastel-colored houses and elegant plazas evoked Cuba's glory days," says Patricia.
She says the people of Cuba were warm, welcoming and eager to interact with Americans. She also took note of the many 1950's cars everywhere and in every color. They are called "Yank Tanks," and stand out next to the mule-drawn carts.
The first stop of the trip was Havana, where the group walked through "Old Havana." The site included many historic restorations. The trip also included a visit to the museum of the revolution, a senior center and a handcraft market.
From there, the visitors traveled to one of Cuba's neighborhood-managed, worker-owned cooperative urban organic farms. At this location they listened to a briefing on the state of U.S./ Cuban relations and what may lie ahead.
During the next part of the trip, the group visited Cienfuegos, where they enjoyed a concert, a meeting with the union of writers and artists and discussed how those creative groups manage to freely express their ides and push limits in both countries. Patricia says, "We were able to visit artist studios and were able to purchase artworks." An interesting stop was a pottery studio that had been run by the same family for generations.
After Cienfuegos, the group went to Trinidad where they visited the Sugar Mill Valley. This site includes ruins that represent Cuba's brief “heyday” as a center for sugar production. After this stop, part of the group enjoyed the Tropicana Nightclub, where, according to Patricia, "It was just like yesteryear – the women all in Carmen Miranda outfits."
The trip included visits to old forts around the country, and a stay at the "Hotel Nacional De Cuba," a place that “Mafios” frequented in the past. According to Patricia, the Grand Circle Foundation's hope for the trip was to create a better cultural understanding between the United States and Cuba.