This unique nine day encounter with Cuba begins in Santiago de Cuba on the eastern end of the island where the Revolution took hold and moves west towards Havana. In what is known as the "heroic city" (Ciudad Heroe) one of the foremost revolutionaries of the 19th century, General Antonio Maceo, is honored in the Plaza de la Revolucion with a dramatic monument from which Fidel Castro delivered many speeches while Cuba’s national hero Jose Marti is buried in Santa Ifigenia Cemetery, just west of the city. Santiago de Cuba played a major role in the 1950’s during the early days of the Revolution and boasts two major landmarks of the clandestine struggle: the Moncada Garrison, scene of Fidel Castro's first attack on the Batista regime in 1953 and now a school and museum and La Granjita Siboney, the farmhouse – now a museum – where 100 revolutionaries gathered the night before the attack on the Garrison. This fascinating history makes Santiago the ideal place to meet with local citizens who supported the Revolution in the early 1950’s, local leaders and the city’s historians. We will also learn about the roots of the Afro Cuban religion - brought in by the slaves from Haiti and West Africa - from its contemporary followers. We will also engage with local residents at artists' studios and spend time with the small Jewish community, discussing survival skills of Jews throughout history and their unique experience in Cuba. Our meeting with church members and leaders at the El Cobre Church will provide the opportunity to discuss the role of the church in the community and opportunities for support.
We will have the extraordinary opportunity next to discover Baracoa, the remote northeastern end of the Cuban island with its unspoiled colonial village and one of the world’s last untouched rainforests that contains many endangered plant and animal species, the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve known as Cuchillas de Toa (The Ridges of River Toa). We will enjoy song and dance performances typical to the region and exchange ideas about performing arts with presenters and observers. In Barcoa we can learn about Cuba's work on some of the ecological challenges of our time and discover Barcoa’s fascinating history since it is said to be where Christopher Columbus came ashore. One of the most interesting Baracoans of this generation is poet and historian Miguel Angel Castro Machado, founder of Museo Matachin, the Municipal Museum which contains archeological exhibits dating from the period before Columbus along with many photos, documents and other exhibits related to local history. Mr. Machado knows more about the ecology, history, geography and character of this town than any one else. We will have the privilege of meeting with him and his team, learning about living in an historic place and opportunities to provide support for their efforts to protect Barcoa’s extraordinary natural environment.
As we drive west with our ultimate destination of Havana we will stop in various communities in coastal and mountainous areas along the way to learn to exchange ideas about life in small villages and the challenges faced by the Cuban people. At each stop we will meet with the local people, artists and leaders: in Holgin (founded in 1545), Camaguey (with its small Jewish community), Trinidad de Cuba (a fabulous colonial city with its rich artistic life and remarkable buildings) and finally Havana, the cosmopolitan capital of Cuba, with its people open once again to the world due to the influx of tourists since the break up of the Soviet Union and dramatic changes in the government's policies with regard to they . Here we will experience the glories and challenges of this extraordinary city - its history, architecture, music, and art - and benefit from meaningful exchanges with students, seniors, artists, members of the Jewish community, and the new generation of entrepreneurs emerging as a result of the economic changes instituted by Raoul Castro. We will be in Cuba at a time of momentous changes and will have the extraordinary privilege of discussing these changes with Cubans from every walk of life. To indicate your interest in this unique trip to Cuba and for more information,click here!