Within cities seemingly frozen in time beats the vibrant pulse of Cuba’s most valuable resource: its people. Connect with Cubans of all backgrounds on this unique program, learning about their everyday lives and examining the forces that have shaped Cuban culture. From the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Old Havana and Trinidad to colonial Cienfuegos, meet historians and scientists, athletes and artists, entrepreneurs, and musicians—and experience this fast-changing island nation through their eyes.
Depart Miami for Havana, Cuba. Upon arrival, take a brief driving tour of the city. After lunch, meet troupe members of an Afro-Cuban dance group, and enjoy an energetic private performance. Later, check in to our hotel before gathering for a welcome reception and dinner tonight at a local paladar (privately owned restaurant).
The architecture of Havana is astounding in its breadth and elegance, yet years of neglect have left many buildings in need of restoration. Learn about the challenges and successes of historic preservation from a local expert, then set out into Old Havana to see centuries-old gems—and meet the Cubans who live and work in them. Spend the afternoon with Cuban professionals, engaging in a specially arranged discussion on education, economics, social issues, the role of government, and other topics of interest.
This morning, visit an urban organic farm to meet with a local farmer and discuss agriculture in Cuba. Then drive south to Cienfuegos, a port city with French colonial roots. Stroll along the main commercial street on a walking tour of the city, stopping to talk to cuentapropistas (self-employed workers) about the burgeoning private economy here. At the prestigious Benny Moré Art School, watch students perform music and dance, view their artwork, and hear the stories of these talented youth and their teachers.
Travel along the Caribbean coast to charming Trinidad, where we explore Cuba’s best preserved colonial city with a restoration expert. Set off along its cobblestoned streets, pausing at colorful houses along the way to meet artisans, antiques collectors, and longtime residents who have transformed their historic homes into guesthouses. One such man is Julio Muñoz, a photographer and union representative for the self-employed, whose family appeared in an October 1999 National Geographic magazine article. At his colonial-era house, learn about his private businesses, such as his bed-and-breakfast, and hear about his program promoting equine care.
Near Cienfuegos, explore Cuba’s oldest botanical garden with a botany expert who will educate us about ongoing efforts to maintain the rich biodiversity of its extraordinary plant life. Then stop in a former sugar mill town and meet with the town’s present-day inhabitants. After lunch, stroll along the main commercial street on a walking tour of Cienfuegos, stopping to talk to cuentapropistas about the burgeoning private economy here. Later, enjoy a choral performance and discussion with a world-renowned a cappella group, the Choir of Cienfuegos. Then hear from a local athlete about the role that sports, such as baseball, play in Cuban culture. This evening following dinner, there will be an opportunity to get to know residents of a typical neighborhood in Cienfuegos.
Today, head to the historic Bay of Pigs. Trace the dramatic events that occurred here at a small museum, then step foot on the Playa Girón, one of two landing sites for the 1961 U.S.–backed invasion. Stop for lunch and enjoy an opportunity to talk with a park ranger visiting us from the nearby Ciénaga de Zapata National Park. Learn about the ecology and conservation efforts of the protected area, declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. On our way back to Havana, pay a visit to Finca Vigía, the former home of Ernest Hemingway. A museum expert joins us to share a Cuban perspective on Hemingway’s strong connection to the Cuban people.
This morning, learn about Cuba’s rich history of art at the National Museum of Fine Arts in Havana on a guided tour of the collection. Delve into Havana’s contemporary art scene this afternoon by meeting with local artists at one of Havana’s top art spaces. Then celebrate our Cuban experience together at a farewell dinner. Conclude your final evening in Cuba by attending a traditional Cuban music performance.
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight back to Miami.