2019 Colorado Academy Cuba Program

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The Final Day

Written by Andy Guevara

Day 6 of Cuba, the final day, started with eating breakfast at our casas particulares, which, for my casa, entailed food such as (deep breath) pineapple, guava, fresh bread rolls, chorizo, watermelon, mango, a guava smoothie, and Cuban coffee. Afterwards, we took a short tour of Trinidad, where we explored a variety of topics relating to the town, ranging from the old bell tower of Trinidad and it’s significance during pirate attacks, to the large concrete steps near the center of Trinidad that are apparently always filled with tourists wanting to listen to the local bands play nearby. After the tour, and after a brief shopping expedition through the many street vendors, we packed our bags and headed to lunch outside of Trinidad, in a buffet styled restaurant. We then drove down to a local beach that was beautifully preserved and mostly empty, minus a few others. Although the jellyfish prevented us from going deep into the water, we were still able to make the most out of what the pristine beach had to offer, including a good amount of swimming in the more shallow parts of the water. We all then drove down to Cienfuegos, a small town with french style buildings, and there we settled down for the night. We ate at a local restaurant (which had a killer paella and shrimp combo) and returned to a previous mansion right by our hotel, where we all watched the sunset atop the lavishly decadent rooftop of the mansion and drank (alcohol-free) piña coladas. Afterwards, After taking a brief night stroll through the town, we decided to head back for sleep, because tomorrow was the day where we would return home.

My personal views of Cuba have been greatly broadened by the culmination of all the experiences I’ve had on this trip. For one, I’ve learned from firsthand accounts, like from our tour guide Jorge, about what he finds beneficial about the current Cuban government, which, for him, included the free health care that was able to treat a tumor for him, and the free education he received when he was younger. On the other hand, we also learned from our other tour guide, Sylvia, that a person working in the tourism industry can make around 1000 CuC (Cuban pesos) per month, whereas a doctor or other government employee can only make 60 CuC per month, which is ridiculous considering that 60 CuC is basically nothing. Most of the people working in the tourism industry that we met, such as our antique car drivers and housekeepers, had engineering or medical degrees and could easily be working in those respective areas, but they knew they would make substantially more money working in tourism, and because 60 CuC, in my and their opinion, is not enough money per month to live by. This country has so much beauty to it and untapped potential, especially artistically. I learned firsthand how talented the artists of Cuba are, especially when we visited the many artists throughout our trip and learned what they were capable of creating, even with their limited resources. This artistic talent also spreads to music, where every street corner of towns such as Trinidad are filled with local bands playing to their hearts content. In 20 years, if the government continues to defer from full blown communism, (as the country is now slowly allowing private businesses and many other capitalist systems), and if the country also maintains its original lifestyle & culture, the sky’s the limit for what Cuba can achieve in the future. I can only hope it’s all uphill from here.

Havana to Trinidad

Today we were on the bus quite a bit, but split it up with stops at historical and cultural sites across Cuba. We traveled from Havana to Trinidad, stopping at Ernest Hemingway’s house, a community called Muraleando, and Che’s memorial. Hemingway’s house was very cool, we were able to walk around the house and look through doors and windows. We were not able to enter the house because it was preserved as exactly how he had left it. Then we got back on the bus and drove to Muraleando. This was an absolutely incredible place and the work they were doing was inspiring. We took a tour and looked at the art which was very interesting because the art was really well done and very true to Cuba. We also got a chance to listen to local artists and dance to their music with our tour guides! Then we ate lunch and it was probably the best meal of the trip, especially the plantain chips. They were very similar to potato chips but less thick. I talked to a really nice lady who was a toilet attendant and practiced my Spanish with her. She was so kind and represented the people of Cuba very well. Similar to everyone else we had met in Cuba; very kind and welcoming. After Muraleando we got back in the bus for a longer drive, but it was still fun because on the bus ride we play music and talk so it’s not boring. So we drove for like 2 hours until we came to the memorial of the revolutionary named Che. There was a museum and propaganda and a huge statue of him. It was very cool because his face is plastered across Cuba since he is one of their hero’s. So it was very cool to see his actual memorial and read a little more about his life. We also went to the graveyard where he is supposedly buried. After this we finished our travels to Trinidad where we carried our suitcases through the crowded streets (looking very untouristlike of course). Then we got to the hotel where there was an incredible roof top terrace with a great view. Like our previous hotel it was very nice. We quickly changed and made our way to dinner where we had delicious Cuban food and there was a women singing and playing guitar. She played some American songs that we all sang and danced too. Such as Havana and Country Roads. After this we got ready for the Disco which was basically a club inside a cave. It was so cool and so much fun! Definitely a thing to remember forever, we were legitimately dancing inside a cave in Cuba which was just incredible. Overall even though this day was a lot of time on the bus, the activities that we did made it fun filled and very culture oriented! We all had an awesome time and can not wait for our final day and adventures! ¡Viva Cuba!

Las Terrezas

Written by Christian Agelopoulos

Today we drove to Las Terrazas and were pleasantly surprised by Maya’s music. The first stop was an old coffee farm. My first impression of the bus was that I was in the rainforests of Costa Rica. There was a never ending ultra green forest and we were able to use an old coffee grinder. We learned about the use of the farm throughout history and were able to have an outstanding iced coffee. After we left the farm we stopped at lunch and weren’t disappointed with the high-quality food and views of the rain forest. The final activity of the day was swimming in the natural water pools. I was surprised by the amount of people and how welcoming they were to us. It was an experience to remember and felt like something right out of Jurassic Park. Viva Cuba!!

Cuba Day 2

Written by Mac Behrhorst

Today was another great day in Cuba! This morning we took a tour of the revolution museum before loading into some vintage convertibles and cruising around Havana. We feasted on sandwiches and toured Fusterlandia, a home made entirely out of decorated tiles! In the afternoon we got to visit los emprendadores, a group that helps young entrepreneurs with careers in private business. We got to sit in on a bar tending class and enjoyed (virgin) piña coladas. In the evening we got to eat at the same restaurant that president Obama ate at during his visit to Havana! The food was outstanding, but the people were even better. The chef was incredibly charismatic and treated us like royalty. We were all impressed by the kindness of the people we met throughout the day and the rich history we got to take in. Looking forward to more great days to come! Viva Cuba!

First Day in Cuba

Written by Elle Smith

We had a great first day in Cuba! After breakfast we walked to a Cuban Holocaust Museum and spent time learning from a Cuban man whose parents immigrated to Cuba during the Holocaust. We then visited the Cuban capital building and saw lots of cool old cars along the way. After that, we walked to Cuba’s first pizza place and ate lunch, and stopped for ice cream along the way to our next stop, a Cuban boxing gym. At the gym we met the kids who boxed there, and even stepped into the ring ourselves! We then spent the next few hours shopping in the Cuban market, walking to a dinner for Cuban food, and riding back to our casas along the beautiful malecón.