Cuba Trip 2016: Day 4 (Monday March 14th)
March 24, 2016

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 Danielle Savarese.

We begun today with a meeting at the friendship academy of Havana where we got the privilege to sit down with one of their members and ask questions. She was an inspiring women who believed that the true focus should be on people to people relations between different cultures.  She also spoke openly about the struggles and depressing reality of daily life for many Cuban people.  She identified the strengths of the Revolution being health care, education, and sports; and the weaknesses being poverty and lack of supplies and variety.

Next we were off to Morro Castle, part of Old Havana and designated as a UNESCO world heritage site.   Here we learned some history and took in the breathtaking views from a 16th Century perspective. Then we ran into a lively band and spent some time singing along.

Impromptu concert at Morro Castle

Next we had a lunch with three professors from Havana University.  We had a delicious three course lunch and amazing open conversation with the professors.

Lunch meeting with University of Havana professors
Lunch meeting with University of Havana professors

  I enjoyed their honest feedback of the research we had conducted thus far on tourism in Cuba.  There is no way I would be able to get access to that kind of first hand advice elsewhere in regards to Cuba.  There words made me realize how difficult it truely is to find accurate information about Cuba from the United States.  They also reminded us to conduct our research in Spanish…can’t believe I did not think of that!!!

Then we had our only free time in Havana for a few hours.  So many options of what to do!! We ended up being super touristy, as we rode the old fashioned cars for a one hour tour.  I found out from our driver that some of his fellow drivers are from all over the world including Canada and Germany.  He also told me that his daughter lives in America and he has not seen her in 35 years. He told me that he hopes that the travel ban ends so that she can come visit him, and I told him I hope so too. Then my hat blew away and I Cuba swiped it up and walked away!!

In the Casa de Polo Montanez with Polo's brother
In the Casa de Polo Montanez with Polo’s brother

For the evening activities we met at a friends casa particulars since they were bragging about their sunset view, which was beautiful, as was their host; who was amazingly hospitable and friendly and told me that her room was booked for quite some time.  Then off to hear the famous tunes of Buena Vista Social Club which was a very unique experience.

At Buena Vista Social Club
At Buena Vista Social Club

Some of the original members were there including a 97 year old female performer who had more energy than I’ve ever seen!!

Overall an insanely jam-packed day in Havana where I met so many Cubans and was able to exchange honest and open conversations with them.  Opening the day at the friendship academy was very fitting for today; because the friendly encounters and people to people interactions I experienced were extremely genuine and meaningful.

Hearing a street serenade in Old Havana
Hearing a street serenade in Old Havana