This trip is a people-to-people exchange program sanctioned and established between U.S.-based groups and individuals and some of Cuba's leading representatives of art and cultural institutions. This is made possible through our long lasting relationship with the people of Cuba, its artists, and its art and educational institutions. These exchanges highlight the full breadth of Cuban life.
U.S. law requires that all persons who participate in this program adhere to the full time schedule of activities described below and imposes on Global Gallop LLC, holder of the U.S.-issued people to people license, the obligation to ensure such adherence. Alexis Hernandez, an official Cuban guide/ translator, will lead the group and Batia Plotch, a representative of Global Gallop will also accompany the group.
Our week long encounter with Cuba and its people will begin with our arrival in Havana on following a flight from Miami. Throughout the week in Havana and “out island” in Cienfuegos and Trinidad de Cuba we will have the opportunity to meet with Cuban artists, architects and craftsmen as well as with the people of Cuba we will meet in the crafts markets, galleries, plazas, cafes and the many other places. These encounters - both planned and spontaneous - will promote an exchange of ideas that will educate Cubans and Americans and promote the growth of understanding between them.
*We will learn some of the basic facts of the historical and contemporary Cuban experience in Havana with our first stop in Revolution Square followed by lunch at the Hotel Nacional, which has both historic and architectural significance. This iconic hotel of pre-Revolutionary Cuba was designed by the famed New York firm McKim, Mead and White and opened in 1930. In the evening we will visit a beautiful restored home and gallery of a major artist where we will have the first of many encounters with the world-renowned artists who create such a vibrant cultural scene in Havana and beyond. We will enjoy both the art on the walls of this architectural wonder and an exchange of ideas about the art scene in Cuba and the U.S.
*We head east the next morning for Trinidad de Cuba by way of Cienfuegos, a city with a European flair that was settled in the early 19th century by French citizens from New Orleans and Bordeaux who endowed the city with a wonderful array of neoclassical buildings. Highlights include the Palacio de Valle, an architectural jewel that originated as a modest home for a trader and was enhanced by later owners who added to it in a Mughal style with carved floral motifs, a stunning Carrera marble staircase, cupped arches bulbous domes and delicate arabesques. Lunch at a stunning mansion in neoclassical style - the former home of a wealthy sugar baron - will provide another glimpse into the Cuban past. Our walk through the center of town with its crafts market will provide the opportunity to meet with craftsmen and other citizens of Cienfuegos and at the Tomas Terry Theatre (another extraordinary building built in 1895 and named for a sugar baron) we will have an introduction to the performing arts in Cuba past and present through conversations and exchanges with Cuban performing artists.
•We continue on to the beautiful Iberostar hotel in the center of Trinidad, a UNESCO World Heritage Site where we will stay for two nights. Trinidad’s historic center is a stunning relic of the early days of Spanish colonialism and the rise of the sugar industry that resulted in the beautifully preserved streets and buildings with barely a trace of the centuries that followed. We will have many opportunities to talk with historians and preservationists who are charged with maintaining this historical jewel as well as with the artists and craftsmen whose galleries line the cobblestone streets. One of these galleries is in the beautifully restored home of the Mata family filled with antique clocks and chandeliers along with the work of Carlos Mata with whom we will discuss the arts scene in Cuba as well as his unique technique for creating night time scenes of Trinidad.
*One of the delights of Trinidad is the music you find everywhere - on the street, in restaurants and at the Casa de la Musica in one of Trinidad’s main squares where we will enjoy the local music and meet the people of Trinidad. We will see historic buildings and have free time to wander the streets and craft markets of this extraordinary town, meet its friendly people and talk to the owners of the new small private enterprises about the economic changes in Cuba. We will also stop at a mirador (lookout) over the Sugar Mill Valley (another UNESCO World Heritage Site), where the sugar barons used to have their countryside mansions and mills, a remnant of the colonial period that had great consequences in Cuban history. As we begin our return to Havana we will have the rare opportunity to stop at a rural school where we will speak with teachers and at a local community medical clinic to discuss the system of community/family medicine in Cuba.
*We will begin our days in Havana with a guided walking tour of Old Havana, designated as an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982. Havana is one of the oldest cities founded by Europeans in the Western Hemisphere and its colonial history is best experienced in the Old City. An understanding of Cuba’s modern history can be found at the Museum of the Revolution where you will find answers to all your questions. Located in the former Presidential Palace, this building now houses a museum focused almost exclusively on the country’s post-1959 history.
*Art and architecture provide some of the most stunning experiences in Cuba. The wonderful Museum of Fine Arts presents an entire history of Cuban art from colonial times to present while contemporary art and sculpture fills the homes and galleries of Cuba’s renowned artists with whom we can discuss the art scene in Cuba and the United States and delight in their work. Havana has often been described as an open air architectural museum and we will experience that when we see the many wonderful buildings throughout the city: *The extraordinary Bacardi Building, designed in 1930 by Cuban architects; *Manzana de Gomez, occupying the first entire city block built in Cuba in the early 20th century completely for commercial use; *the former Centro Gallego, built in 1915 by Belgian architect Paul Belau that now houses the Gran Teatro de La Habana, home of modern dance companies. We will also see important examples of Art- Deco style architecture such as: *The House of Catalina Lassa, Havana’s first art deco house built in 1926 by Juan Pedro Baro; *the America Building, a theatre complex designed in 1941 by architects Fernando Martinez Campos and Pascual de Rojas; and *the Lopez Serrano Building, built in 1932 by Mira & Roisch and strongly reminiscent of American skyscrapers. It will be our unique privilege to see many of these buildings with the distinguished architect Dr. Mario Coyula as our guide. Dr. Coyula is with the Group for the Comprehensive Development of Havana City and we will discuss with him the challenge of restoration and preservation in a city that is an architectural treasure trove.
Other highlights of the days in Havana will be a visit to the unique studio of Jose Fuster, one of Cuba’s most important ceramists and painters, who has adorned his entire neighborhood with his ceramic creations. At the famous open-air handicraft market of Old Havana we will meet and exchange ideas with the creative and resilient artisans of Cuba and the inventive crafts they are able to create in spite of the scarcity of materials. At the American Interest Section we can discuss American-Cuban relations with representations of our government. And at every point along the way - in the markets, in restaurants, with artists and the new entrepreneurs who have created restaurants in their beautiful homes (“paladars”) - we will be able to engage in the exchange of ideas about life in Cuba and the long historical relationship between Cuba and the United States.
For more information about this trip to Cuba, click here!