Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Photography Trip January 5-12

Fund for Reconciliation and Development
145 Palisade Street, Suite 401, Dobbs Ferry, NY 10522
914-231-6270 www.cubapeople2people.org

Photo Workshop with Rich Pomerantz
January 5th – 12th 2013
*This itinerary is intended as a guideline, and subject to some change. Certain visits may have to be substituted or rescheduled as necessary Visits to home studios and galleries will depend on the availability of the individual artists we plan to visit since many of them frequently travel outside of Cuba

Saturday January 5th
6:00 a.m. Check in at Miami international airport Concourse J
10:00 a.m. Depart Miami for Havana via Marazul Charters Flight DL8876
11:00 a.m. Arrive in Havana and check into Hotel Ambos Mundos; lunch on your own
3:00 p.m. Walking tour through Old Havana especially Plaza Vieja talking with artists and vendors in the Diago Gallery and in the galleries on Obispo Street about how galleries and the art market function in Cuba today.
7:00 p.m. Lobster dinner at El Templete (included)

Sunday January 6th
8:00 a.m. Breakfast at hotel (included)
10:00 a.m. Visit artist José Fuster in the neighborhood of Jaimanitas; his three-story home studio is surrounded by painting and ceramic sculpture, and he has now expanded his home art project to the entire Jaimanitas neighborhood. Meet with Fuster, his family, and local workers who help him on his community building projects.
12:00 Lunch at Fuster’s (included)
2:00 a.m. Visit artists studios in Vedado, eg, Alicia Leal and Juan Moreira, Jacqueline and Yamilys Brito, others
6:00 p.m. Return to hotel; dinner on your own
8:00 p.m. Visit La Cabaña fortress for the cannon blast ceremony that recreates the traditional cannon shot of the colonial period.

Monday January 7th
8:00 a.m. Breakfast at hotel (included)
10:00 a.m. Trip to the Plaza Vieja, including the Centro Provincial de Artes Visuales and the Fototeca; meet with photographers Ludmilla Velasco, Nelson Ramirez, and others, at the Fototeca to talk about contemporary photography and how it differs from that of the early 60s and 70s.
1:00 p.m. Lunch on your own
3:00 p.m. Tour of modern areas of Havana including Colón Cemetery, and Plaza de la Revolución, 5th Avenue in Miramar, and the Hemmingway Mariana
6:00 p.m. Visit to the historic Hotel Nacional; dinner on your own

Tuesday January 8th
8:00 a.m. Breakfast at hotel (included)
9:00 a.m. Depart for Las Terrazas which is a UNESCO –designated Biosphere Reserve where research is done on ecology and the environment. Meet with researchers about their work and with residents of this “new town” created in the 1960s about what led to the creation of the project, and the reforestation of the whole area
12:00 p.m. Lunch at Casa de Campesino (included)
2:00 p.m. Visit to the restored ruins of Buena Vista coffee plantation founded by French immigrants.
4:00 p.m. Visit with local artists Jorge Duporté and Lester Campa
5:00 p.m. Transfer to Viñales, ana rea declared a cultural landscape by UNESCO, and check in at Los Jazmines hotel; dinner overlooking the valley (included).

Wednesday January 9th
8:00 a.m. Breakfast at hotel (included)
10:00 a.m. Visit the Indian Cave with a walk along the corridor shaped by ancient rock formations and take a boat ride along the San Vicente River on the stretch following inside the cave
12:00 p.m. Lunch on your own in the city center of Viñales, followed by time to mingle with town residents at the local market
3:00 p.m. Return to Havana via Pinar Del Rio
4:00 p.m. In the city of Pinar Del Rio, visit the Center for Cuban Studies humanitarian project with Down syndrome children in the printmaking workshop run by local artist Jesus Carrete.
7:00 p.m. Arrive in Havana and check into hotel; dinner on your own.

Thursday January 10th
8:00 a.m. Breakfast at hotel (included)
10:00 a.m. Drive to the home/studio of one of Cuba’s best known artists, Manuel Mendive, in the community of San José de Las Lajas (included lunch)
2:00 p.m. Return to Havana and take a guided tour of the Cuban collection at the National Museum of Fine Arts
5:00 p.m. Meeting with older photographers who rose to fame in the 60s and 70s including José Figueroa, Roberto Salas, and Liborio Noval, together with younger artists who use photography and video in their conceptual work, like Mabel Poblet and Chile.
7:00 p.m. Return to hotel; dinner on your own

Friday January 11th
8:00 a.m. Breakfast at hotel (included)
10:00 a.m. Individual selection of photos for printing and presentation to the “Graphical memory of Cuba” contest in the following categories: natural landscape and urban landscape
1:00 p.m. Lunch on your own at a local paladar
2:00 p.m. Visit to Ernest Hemingway’s home, and then visit the fishing village of Cojimar that inspired Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea
6:00 p.m. Discussion with Jose Viera, Rafael Hernandez, or Carlos Azulgaray about reforms in Cuba and bilateral relations
8:00 p.m.  dinner on your own
9:00 p.m. Attend a performance by Opera de la Calle

Saturday January 12th
8:00 a.m. Breakfast at hotel (included)
9:00 a.m. Check in at José Martí Internation Airport Terminal #2
12:00 p.m. Depart for Miami on Marazul Charters Flight DL8877
1:00 p.m. Arrive in Miami

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Irish and Celtic Heritage, April 15 - 23/27, 2014

The spirit of the visit is captured by a plaque on Old Havana's O'Reilly Street:

 "Two island peoples in the same sea of struggle and hope: Cuba and Ireland"

and by this from the Irish Times:

Irish visitors to Cuba often remark on the identification they feel with the warmth and sense of fun of ordinary Cubans. While caution is wise with such generalizations, it is a similarity that others have noticed too. There is something Celtic about the Cuban that commands the affection of those fortunate foreigners who really know them.

Revealing discussions will be held with Cuban experts on the four century role of the Irish in their country’s history and culture (see below).  Visits made to related historical locations in the UNESCO world heritage city of Old Havana offer opportunities to engage in discussion of pas and present.

The Irish and Celtic influence outside of Havana will be the focus of field trips to the provinces of Artemisis to the west and Mayabeque and Matanzas to the east.

Coincident with the Irish Heritage program is Cuba’s fifth annual Celtic Festival.  It offers direct involvement with Cuba's well-established emigrant societies from Spain's Celtic provinces of Asturia and Galicia that play a role in Cuba similar to Irish county societies in the US.  With limited resources they foster a lively expression of traditional music, instruments, dance and costumes.

Participants are welcomed by evening concerts  into the Asturian and Galician  culture.  Workshops and sesiuns provide opportunities for spontaneous interaction with Cuban counterparts.

For the first time Irish American musicians, singers, dancers, academic specialists and fans can participate in a rich people to people experience, enjoying the craic while learning in the most direct and personal way possible about life in Cuba today. 

For background, photos and video from past festivals and the latest updated program, go to http://celtfestcuba.org/


CeltFest receives the support of Culture Ireland, the Historian’s Office in Havana, Na Piobairi Uilleann (Uilleann Pipers Club of Ireland), the Irish Arts Council, and the embassy of Ireland for Mexico and Cuba.  It features workshops in uilleann piping, fiddle, singing and dance, pipe and reed-making classes, informal seisiúns and concerts with performers from Ireland and Canada.  

The past two festivals have included

from Ireland on button accordion and harp Dermot Byrne & Floriane Blanke; pipers Paddy Keenan, Gay McKeon and Donnacha Dwyer; guitarist Rossa Ó Snodaigh; singer-song writer John Faulkner; on flute Peter Maguire; plus Shane Mulchrone (banjo), Heather Mullen (fiddle), Eoin O'Neill (accordion)
Claire Egan (fiddle), Sharon Egan (fiddle); and Margaret Brehony (historian - speaking on Cuba-Ireland historical connections)

from Canada the Tam O'Shanter Dancers of South Surrey/White Rock, Prince Edward Island fiddler Roy Johnstone and Cape Breton fiddlers Chrissy Crowley and Rosie MacKenzie. 

Among the Cuban performers have been Artistica Gallega Pipe Band, Asturian Pipe Band, Aires Galegos De La Habana, Asturian Folk Group "Resurrectio" of Pinar Del Rio, Band and Dancers of Monterroso y Antas de Ulla, Havana's Galician Dancers "Grupo de baile de la Sociedad Agrupación Artística Gallega de La Habana", and the symphonic prog rock band Anima Mundi with Galician bagpipes, the Celtic flute and the tin whistle.  

There will also be opportunities to meet Cubans active in other aspects of the country’s music and dance, including conversation with students and professors at the Instituto Superior de Artes (ISA) , and meeting performers of Opera de la Calle (Opera of the Street), and potential evening encounters with salsa, jazz and Buena Vista Social Club style musicians.

The Irish Heritage Program is a people to people trip sponsored by the Fund for Reconciliation and Development.  It is coordinated by John McAuliff, formerly President of the Philadelphia Ceili Group and Assistant Editor of the Irish Edition.  He has traveled frequently to Cuba since 1997. 

For further information about the program and cost, and to obtain a registration form, contact director@ffrd.org or call 914-231-6270.


An abbreviated and selective history of the Irish in Cuba

The first report of Irish in Cuba dates to 1609 and speculates they were employed as sailors. 

Manuel A.Tellechea, a Cuban American from New Jersey, summarized the important role of Irish who came to Cuba via Spain in a blog post on St. Patrick’s Day, 2005:  [ http://reviewofcuban-americanblogs.blogspot.com/2008/03/cubans-too-have-bit-of-blarney.html ]

“The largest Irish migration prior to the Great Potato Famine of 1848 was to Spain in the 17th and 18th centuries. The Irish, who were awarded Spanish citizenship on arriving in Spain as persecuted Catholics, joined the Spanish army's Hibernian regiments and became Spain's best soldiers and most famous generals. Many of these were posted in Cuba and married into the island's aristocracy, establishing our own great Irish-Cuban families (the O'Farrills, the O'Reillys, the Kindelans, the Madans, the Duanys, the O'Gabans, the Coppingers and the O'Naughtens).  Four Captains General of Cuba were of Irish origin (Nicolás Mahy; Sebastián Kindelán; Leopoldo O'Donnell and Luís Prendergast).”

Irish people served at high levels in government and in senior military positions.  The lighthouse at El Morro, the fort that guarded Havana Bay, had been known as "O'Donnell's Lighthouse", after the Spanish governor, a relative of Red Hugh O'Donnell.

The O'Farrill family came from Longford via Montserrat.  They rose to prominence as slave traders, importers and sugar plantation owners.  The family mansion has been restored as a beautiful boutique hotel.  O’Reilly Street was named after General Count Alejandro O’Reilly, a native of Baltrasna, County Meath.  He organized the black and mulatto militias and the defenses of Havana in 1763. 

The second wave of Irish came to Cuba via the US in the 19th century, as described in a comprehensive summary by Rafael Fernández Moya that was translated and published by the Society for Irish Latin American Studies.  Moya currently works with the internationally famed Historian’s Office of Old Havana and its tour company Habaguanex and teaches a new generation of university students.              [ http://www.irlandeses.org/0711fernandezmoya1.htm ]

He tells contrasting stories of the Irish experience in the first half of the century:

Juan O’Bourke, who was born in Trinidad around 1826 and twenty-five years later took part in the armed uprising of July 1826 organised by Isidoro Armenteros, collaborator of the expansionist general Narciso López, lived in this city [Cienfuegos] from 1839. The young revolutionary Juan O’Bourke was arrested and later condemned to ten years in prison in Ceuta from whence he escaped and headed to the United States….

In June 1855 a boy named Juan Byrnes, whose father was Gregorio and his godmother Margarita Byrnes, was baptised in Havana. This surname became part of the heart of the intellectual community of Matanzas. Firstly, this happened through the educational work of Juana Byrnes de Clayton, the first headmistress of the school for poor girls. This school would later become the Casa de Beneficencia, founded in 1846

He writes that the Irish who came to build Cuba’s first railroad in the 1830s did not have an easy experience:

“The Junta de Fomento brought the technicians, foremen, superintendents and a group of workers made up of 273 men and 8 women from the United States under contract, among whom were English, Irish, Scottish, North American, Dutch and German labourers. However, they were all identified as Irish, perhaps due to the greater numbers of those of that nationality.

While the work was being carried out, the so-called Irish workers and Canary Islanders were subjected to hard labour beyond their physical endurance, receiving insufficient food in return. Nor were they assured the pay and treatment previously agreed upon. After some weeks putting up with mistreatment and hunger the “Irish” workers and Canary Islanders decided to demand their rights from the administration of the railway works and when these were not adequately met, they launched the first workers’ strike recorded in the history of the island. The repression was bloody; the Spanish governors ordered the troops to act against the disgruntled workers, resulting in injury and death.”

Other Irish coming via the US to Cuba found a smoother path.

“It has been said that the introduction of the steam engine and other improvements in the sugar industry, Cuba’s main economic activity in that period, was mainly the work of North American growers who had settled on the island, particularly in the areas surrounding Matanzas and Cárdenas, north coast districts which, according to the opinion of the Irish writer Richard R. Madden, had more characteristics in common with North American towns than those of Spain.

One of the growers who had come from the United States named Juan D. Duggan was, according to the Cuban chemist and agronomist Alvaro Reynoso, one of the first farmers in the country to plant sugar cane over great distances…. The introduction of the steam engine on the sugar plantations resulted in the necessity to hire operators or machinists in the main from the United States and England. After the administrator, the most important job in a sugar plantation was without a doubt that of machinist, who had to work like an engineer because, besides being responsible for all repairs, sometimes they had to come up with real innovations in the machinery.”

The democratic instincts of the American Irish confronted the colonial attitudes of the Spanish Irish in the Cuban aristocracy:

“Some of these foreign technicians living in the Matanzas region became involved in a legal trial, accused of complicity with the enslaved African people’s plans for a revolt, which were abandoned in 1844. Six of them were originally from EnglandIreland and Scotland: Enrique Elkins, Daniel Downing, Fernando Klever, Robert Hiton, Samuel Hurrit and Thomas Betlin.

The number of people arrested later grew and all were treated violently during interrogation. In November 1844 the English consul Mr. Joseph Crawford informed the Governor and Captain General of the island, Leopoldo O’Donnell, that the British subjects Joseph Leaning and Pat O’Rourke had died after being released. The doctors who treated them indicated that the physical and moral suffering they had endured in the prison was the cause of death. One of the streets in Cienfuegos was given the name of the infamous Governor of the Island, Leopoldo O’Donnell, who embarked on a bloody campaign of repression against the Afro-Cuban population and against the white people who supported their cause.”

Moya recounts the Irish role in Cuba’s ten year unsuccessful War of Independence against Spain (1868-1878):

“From the beginning, the Cuban Liberation Army had the support of patriots who had emigrated to or organized outside of Cuba, mainly in the United States where they raised funds, bought arms and munitions and recruited volunteers who enlisted to fight for the liberation of Cuba from the Spanish yoke. Among the foreign volunteers was the Canadian William O’Ryan.…Upon the US American general Thomas Jordan’s arrival, who was named Chief of the High Command and later Head of the Liberation Army in the Camagüey region, W. O’Ryan was named inspector and chief of cavalry, before attaining the rank of general. He was sent on a mission to the United States, from where he set out to return to Cuba at the end of October 1873. He sailed aboard the American steamship Virginius…. The Virginius was captured by the Spanish warship Tornado off Cuban waters and was towed into the bay of Santiago de Cuba on 1 December. Five days later, by order of the Spanish authorities, all the leaders of the revolutionary expedition were executed, O’Ryan among them. On 7 December the ship’s captain, Joseph Fry, and 36 members of the crew, were executed, causing a diplomatic and political conflict between Spain and the United States. In honour of the independence fighter O’Ryan a street of the Sagarra subdivision in Santiago de Cuba was given his name.”

The Ireland-Cuba Piano Project “Una Corda” noted these links:

One of the more colorful characters who fought for Cuban independence in the late 19th century was Captain John Dynamite O’Brien, who successfully ran guns and ammunition from the US to the independent Cuban forces. Revolutionary journalist and poet Bonifacio Byrne and writer Richard Madden were very much involved in espousing the cause of Cuban independence.  One of the founders of the Cuban Communist Party was Julio Mella, whose mother was an Irishwoman, Cecilia McPartland   http://unacorda.org/jornadas-culturales-con-irlanda/

While documentation is not conclusive, the grandfather of Ireland’s independence leader and President is said to have been Cuban, active in the sugar trade in Matanzas Province.  Juan Manuel de Valera reportedly sent his son Vivion Juan, an aspiring sculptor and music teacher, to New York to avoid the Spanish draft.  He married Catherine Coll from Bruree, County Limerick.  Their son Eamon de Valera was born in 1882 and sent to Ireland to live with his mother’s family after his father’s death from illness in 1885.  

Cuba's iconic revolutionary Che Guevara was from Argentina but his grandmother Anna Lynch hailed from County Galway

Among contemporary Irish links in Cuba are monuments in public parks to the ten deceased hunger strikers and John Lennon of the Beatles.


Potential Irish connections suggested by Rafael Fernández Moya that will constitute the basis for our educational program

For the Irish Connection and People to People we have the following subjects for the talks:

1) Irish presence in Cuban culture;
2) Priests and nuns in Catholic institutions of several orders (Jesuits, Ursulines
      from New Orleans, Carmelites, Saint Augustin from Florida);
3) Dynamite John and the struggle for independence;
4) Irish struggle for independence in José Matrti's chronicles in New York;
5) San Patricio farm in Limonar owned by George and Mary Gowen from Boston.

There are several places of interest  to show such as:

*  Cuban telephone company  Museum. Vesey T. Butler was the manager of the
      first network of the city
*  Central Railroad Station. Robert Orr from Glasgow was manager of The
       Havana United Rail Road
*  Alameda de Paula.   A part of it is known as O'Donnel Hall.
*  Plaza Vieja Brewery, formerly the home of Pedro Pablo O'Reilly
*  Carlos Finlay's statue. Father's family from Scotland and mother's from Ireland
*  Cecilia McParland's home in Obispo street. Mother of Julio Antonio Mella
*  The Bank of Nova Scotia in O'Reilly St
*  Captain General's Palace, in Plaza de Armas. Four of them had Irish origin
       (Mahy, Kindelan, O'Donnell, Prendergast)
*  Picture of piano player Ignacio Cervantes Kawanagh in Mercaderes Street
*  Cathedral Church. Built by the Jesuits. One of them was Thomas Ignatius Butler
      from Ireland
*  Archbishop's building. former property of José Ricardo O'Farrill y Herrera
*  O'Farrill Hotel, former property of José Ricardo O'Farrill y O'Farrill
*  Cristina Railroad Station museum. Irish workers in the history of the first line
      from Havana to Bejucal-Guines
*  Sevilla-Biltmore Hotel. Initial managers were Bowman and Flynn
*  Santo Cristo del Buen Viaje. Church and school under the rule of  Saint
      Augustin of Florida missionaries
*  Casa Simón Bolívar. Former residence of James C. Burhnham, businessman 
      from Boston, whose three children owned the house till the end of the 19th 
      century. Their mother was Pamela Blakeley,  from Charleston, S.C.daughter of 
      Robert Blakeley,  from SavannahGeorgia and half sister of  the mulatto
      Charles Blakeley, also from Charleston
*  Calle Cárcel (Jail St.)  Remains of the prison built under Captain General
      Tacón, where Charles Blakeley was kept for several months.  He was
      involved in the freedom movement of the people in 1844, known as the
      Conspiración de la Escalera (Ladder Conspiracy).  He was the first non-white
      surgeon dentist with an official licence in Cuba. 
*  El Cotorro (The Parrot)  On the old road to Guines, now Central Road, at  
      kilometer number 20 at Loma de Tierra, Dr, Arturo O'Farrill, Chico
      O'Farrill's father, had a estate named "Finca Casañas" close to the lands of the
      Irish pioneer Richard O'Farrill O'Daly
*  Tapaste (x), (San José de las Lajas, Havana Province)  Town built on
      O'Farrill's lands. Its church was also built with the aid of this family.

Pinar del Río 
*  There is a museum Äntonio Guiters, born in Philadelphia and  son of Mary 
      Therese Holmes y Walsh, member of a revolutionary Irish family.

*  Casa de la Cultura "Bonifacio Byrne", a Cuban poet of Irish origin whose
      family is connected by marriage to another family of surname Daly
*  Streets named Tirry, O'Reilly, Byrne and Madan denoting the Irish presence
*  Casa de Beneficencia directed several years by Juana Byrne de Clayton
*  City jail built in 1840 at Fernando VII or Saint Francis Square
*  El Morrillo Castle where Amntonio Guiteras was executed
*  Limonar. South of Cárdenas. (x) Two coffee estates named San Patricio (St.
      Patrick) owned by Daniel O'Leary and George C. Gowen and his sister Mary
      Brooks Gowen, from Boston.  Another one named "Pamela", property of
      Robert Blakeley, from SavannahGeorgia.
*  San Antonio de Cabezas (x)  Among the founders of this town were the Valera
      family, headed by José María Valera, owner of a sugar estate named San 
      Antonio, known as San Antonio de Valera. He had several children, one of
      them named Juan Manuel, and a grandson named Juan Luís Valera Acosta. It is
      probably Irish President Eamon de Valera's family's home town

(x) Circled in the attached map

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Sustainable Urban Agriculture Trips in December and January

$300 scholarships for December 7th-16th Sustainable Urban Agriculture Group.

We are grateful to have this potential for qualified travelers. the time line is tight. if you are able too take advantage let us know ASAP.

NEEM (Natural Environmental Ecological Management)

People to People Exchange OFAC license No. CT-2012-292919-1

614 Shepherd St., Durham, NC 27701-3133 (Office)

Phone: 919--683-1244

Email: neem@mindspring.com Internet: www.neemtree.org Twitter: Cuba Travel @Havanaman and https://pinterest.com/cubago/

December 7th – 16th - $2000 (9 days) Havana, Pinar del Rio, Vinalles and Artemisa (with scholarship applied)

January 4 th – January 11th $2000 (9 days.) Havana, Trinidad (with scholarship applied)

Sustainable Agriculture, Agroecology & Culinary delegation – Seed to Plate hosted by mentor & partner Dr. Fernando Funes, the founder of the movement in Cuba responsible for creation of 33,000 urban farms, 480,000 resultant jobs, the UBPC system and the International Conference held each year. Delegates are also led by Founder of NEEM, a Durham OFAC licensed People to People Exchange organization – neem@mindspring for sign up. Delegates arrive in Miami and meet at ticket counter. RT air from Miami, visa, health insurance, ground, classes, drivers, presenters, interpreters, breakfast and lunch, celebration dinner included. All expenses on island except dinners, gratuities and spending money is provided. Delegates need $25 CUC departure tax.

Neem is a tree, an answer to global issues.

NEEM is a organization in Durham that replicates the Cuban model.

Organoponico NEEM is a cooperative 14.6 acre Agroecological urban farm in Durham.

Friday, November 2, 2012

When it Comes to Cuba: It’s an Upside Down World
November 1, 2012 | Email Email | Print Print | 0  8 

A group of tourists on an excursion in Varadero, Cuba. Photo: Raquel Pérez
HAVANA TIMES — Miami has been in an uproar ever since the US Treasury Department´s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) resumed granting licenses to American citizens who want to visit Cuba in compliance with the policies of the “People to People Contacts Program”.
According to protests by some spokespeople of the exile community, those trips blend tourism with indoctrination. Nevertheless they don’t explain what the consequences of such ideological penetration by Cuban communists would be for the national security of the USA.
Among the most serious proof they mention were the presence of a group of US citizens who took part in a concert for Fidel’s birthday and a meeting between Americans and Raul Castro’s daughter, Mariela, a known a defender of the rights of the LGBT community in Cuba.
It’s curious that they fear the indoctrination of their tourists and at the same time assure people that Cuba is sunk in the most miserable quagmire and that most Cubans are discontent. Those who come from a country with opportunities and freedom shouldn’t have anything to fear.
What’s happens is that the problems of the island are exaggerated so much that when one comes into contact with reality, people discover they’ve been deceived. Cuba isn’t the paradise on earth that its national press paints for us, but nor is it the nightmarish hell those in Miami describe it to be either.
If the media and political activists in exile really believed what they tell us about the island, they themselves would promote trips from the US to Cuba so people could see with their own eyes what is happening there and then spread this information across the entire United States.
Also, there are barely 10,000 Americans who travel to the island every year with special licenses approved by their government. Although they lose themselves among the 2.5 million other tourists who visit Cuba yearly, I occasionally run into some of these people walking through Old Havana.
Picking them out isn’t difficult; they’re the only travelers who move through the city in groups and with their credentials hanging from their necks, like we journalists do when we work. I sometimes wonder what they do with those things when they go swimming at the beach.
But those restrictions aren’t imposed on them by the “Cuban indoctrinators.” According to John McAuliff, from the Fund for Reconciliation and Development, OFAC is the one that insists on full-time structured programs instead of trusting the Americans to go, explore and see things for themselves.

The US Interests Section office in Havana. Photo: Raquel Pérez
In the end, with so many regulations from Washington, these Americans who visit Cuba greatly resemble the stereotyped image of Japanese tourists wandering the streets in groups, weighed down with cameras and snapping photos in all directions.
In Miami they criticize American tourists to Cuba because they drink mojitos and dance salsa, but I really haven’t been able to come up with a better way to come into contact with the Cuban people, relating to folks in the streets, in bars, discos and even in tourist hotels – where 400,000 Cubans who live in Cuba spend their vacations each year.
The People to People Contact Program was approved by the US Congress in the 1990s to foment “significant interactions” with Cubans; in other words, it was aimed at politically influencing the citizens of the island by promoting the “American lifestyle.”
That was the plan, but I don’t imagine that these tourists — with their clueless looks, flowered shirts, Panama hats and sandals, and who walk along with sunburnt skin languishing under the heat — are engaged in very much political proselytizing, through their translators, trying to get Cubans to reverse the revolution.
It seems that George W. Bush realized the limits of that strategy and put an end to licenses for US citizens. He even cut the mojitos and salsa enjoyed by the Cubans from Miami, reducing their trips to the island from once every year down to once every three years. He had to demonstrate that they were politically persecuted.
The US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney — advised by Senator Marco Rubio and Congress members Mario Diaz Balart, David Rivera and Ileana Ros — promises that if he’s elected president, he will prohibit trips to the island and suspend the sending of family remittances.
But since he has yet to be elected, hundreds of thousands of Cuban-Americans continue traveling to the island every year, with them now having become the second largest group of visitors, behind the one million Canadian vacationers who go their annually.
Many of the Cuban-Americans even have their airfare paid in exchange for bringing merchandise to sell in Cuba.
The Cuban American congress members are pressuring Washington to maintain the embargo while those who emigrated send more than one billion dollars in remittances to Cuba annually. Similarly, these legislators lobby against trips by US citizens to the island while exiles visit the island in mass. It’s truly an upside down world!
(*) An authorized HT translation of the original published by BBC Mundo.