Having wanted to visit Havana for a long time, partially out of defiance to America’s travel restrictions and partially because of the culture—plus just a tiny dose of Hemingway significance, I set about making it happen. There are ways for Americans to experience Cuba short of obtaining citizenship elsewhere and one of the easiest legal options is through a people-to-people license. This is essentially, a guided educational tour. Now, I’m not typically a group tour kind of girl, but I also did not want to bother about going through Canada or Mexico. I did not want to worry, or to plan, or really if I’m being honest I don’t even like to think whilst on holiday, but best of three isn’t bad. Group dynamics and challenging personalities aside, I found the tour to be just the thing. It was very informative, as all educational tours should be, and I learned more about the culture than I would have had I wandered around at my leisure snapping photos. But I did take some photographs...would you like to see?
I love a country with a poet immortalized in the revolution square. Of course he did have a hand in planning the Cuban War of Independence, but still. Sure, Che Guevara is there too, along with Camilo Cienfugeos, but have you read anything about or by José Martí ?
Next stop, La Terrazas. This is a tropical oasis (thanks to a government issued reforestation program) a few hours from Havana. It is an eco-village of sorts which sits on the site of the Buenavista coffee plantation ruins. Also on the tour was a place called Fusterland, the home/museum of José Rodríguez Fuster. He has been compared as a cross between Gaudi and Picasso and his home is showplace to the art of mosaics.
Then it was a quick tour of the Colon Cemetery where Hemingway's bartender Constantino Ribalaigua Vert is buried (who it is rumored invented the famous Floridita daiquiri). And who doesn't like a good cemetery? Or a good daiquiri for that matter.
There was an afternoon spent experiencing the culture through the palate...i.e. a coffee, rum, and cigar tasting. Learning can be tough I know, but when in Cuba as they say... I watched the rolling of a cigar, learned how many leaves go into the making of one, and how some came to be named after famous works of literature. (It has been said that workers in cigar factories were some of the most literate as there was a designated reader of classic texts, newspapers, etc. in the factory being broadcast while the workers rolled and cut cigars.)
The agenda included a heavy dose of art, with a performance of opera, ballet, and a graphic arts workshop with a meet and greet of the artists, plus a visit to Hemingway’s home, the Finca Vigia, which has been preserved as if the author just stepped out for a moment...probably on a drinks run to the Floridita.
And because you can’t go to Cuba and not have a night of dancing at the Buena Vista Social Club, I did that too...albeit badly. If you would like a little more background on US/Cuban relations and some of the history but can't make the trip yourself, check out this list.