The following Cuba series was written by students enrolled in Independent Study: Cuban Hospitality and Tourism Industries, a one-week intensive course taking place in Cuba over the 2016 Spring Break. As a course assignment, students were required to submit blog posts to the Tisch Center Blog highlighting each day of the trip. The following post was written by Emilie White Hidalgo.
To start our visit and acclimate us to Cuba, our guide Yvet took us on a tour of Old Havana. This UNESCO World Heritage site includes historical churches, forts, and squares which tie back to the 17th century. She detailed how the Spanish first began building Havana and protecting the island from pirate invasions.
We then focused on Hemingway’s haunts, including El Floridita and La Bodeguita del Medio. We enjoyed lunch overlooking the city at Hotel Ambos Mundos which was famously the residence of Hemingway during the 1930s. Touring the room where he stayed for such a long period of time, it was easy to see how the bustling street corner below could offer much inspiration.
Our sunset dinner on the water also included a Q&A session with waiters at a co-op restaurant. They shared their passion for hospitality with us as well as the benefits of working in partnership with the Cuban government. The employees run the restaurant as a collective, allowing them to make smarter business decisions and benefit from profits. The biggest challenge they faced was finding supplies, which was a common problem heard from all the restaurants we visited.
To finish the day, we met with students from the University of Havana at the nightclub/art gallery Fabrica del Arte. The venue was amazing, with multi-leveled rooms reminiscent of Escher, filled with Cuban art and photography. After watching an impromptu fashion show, we talked with Diana and her friends about the Cuban lifestyle and school system. Even though the transition from high school to college seems so different between our two countries, we found commonality between us both aiming for high marks to get into the programs of our choice. Diana shared with us that though most Cubans don’t pursue their dreams, they appreciate the security the free education and job placement affords them.