Miami was home, from 1946 to 1966. During that time Cuba was as much a presence as the Everglades. Friends and family would stop over on their way to Cuba; their experiences, including my parents were glowingly positive. Following the revolution our next door neighbor’s house was rented by “Cuban refugee” factory owners. Their negative take on the revolution was somewhat offset by stories of my father who had met and enjoyed coffee with Castro pre-revolution. So, when Denise asked me for travel ideas, Cuba was on the short list. This was 2002 and thanks to the many Cuban “refugees” that prospered under the Dictator Fulgencio Batista our political system had been corrupted into imposing an economic embargo that actually made it illegal for an American citizen to visit the country.

Our solution was to go with Cross Cultural Solutions tour company that enjoyed an educational waver (which they subsequently lost under Bush). We added a couple of days to be on our own bringing our total in-country time to 17 days. Following are only some of the highlights of our visit.


Cuba . . . memories thereof

The Cuban revolution created a Yin and Yang milieu in which wonderful accomplishments are countered by harsh realities. We encountered many examples of exemplary societal accomplishments, like the exceptionally high literacy rate, as well as their offsetting liabilities, i.e. PhD’s driving cabs.

A good example is Old Town Havana. The buildings have an elegant and even sensuous exterior but venture inside and the interiors show the ravages of poverty and neglect. Yet, the people residing inside have the dignity and pride of a resilient society. So it goes. Every achievement of the revolution seems to have a dark side.

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La Habana - The Tour Begins

The City
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Old Havana
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Hamel's Alley
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The belief in the U.S. is that Cuba is predominantly Roman Catholic, but this is not true. Although Catholic churches are found throughout the island, the main religions, especially in the countryside, are Santeria and other inspired African-based spiritual systems. It is embraced by many non-Africans as it includes a number of Christian themes, beliefs and motifs. Unlike Roman Catholicism, Santeria et al never had an antagonistic relationship with the revolutionary state. We observed a number of Catholic churches which seemed to be utilized more by birds then humans.

Casa Particular
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Pinar del Rio

Less then 2 hours by bus from Havana brings you to the heart of tobacco and rum country. Along the way you pass by two Biosphere Reserves and a UNESCO national monument, the Valley of Vinales.

Vinales Valley
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Rum Factory
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Cigars
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Las Terrazas
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West of Havana is an idyllic community, supported almost entirely by ecotourism. Founded in 1971, the village was first part of a massive government-sponsored reforestation project and later, became touted as a model for rural self-sufficiency.
In days long gone, it was 55 different coffee plantations worked by slaves. There quarters can still be seen.


Santa Clara


While in Santa Clara we visited a hospital and a neighborhood clinic and the province's high school which is part of the unique Schools for the Arts National program. Both of these experiences provided a unique insight into the workings of the Revolution.

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Trinidad

A UNESCO World Heritage site since 1988, Trinidad transports you to another world like no other city we visited in Cuba. We wish we could have stayed longer.

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Santiago de Cuba

Our visit to the second largest city in Cuba was divided between exploring Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca, the fortress protecting the harbor and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the Memorial atop San Juan Hill commemorating Theodore Roosevelt and the Rough riders charge in 1898. The fortress was built to protect the city from pirates and the cavelry charge to burnish Roosevelt's political credentials as well as make certain the defeat of the Spanish in Cuba.

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