It’s been a while since I’ve posted, so here is a summary of our Cuba research during the past 2 days. On Thursday, we visited (researched) the Museum of Rum, then met with a Dr. Arnaldo Fonseca from MINSAP–the Cuban Ministry of Health. He explained (in English) Cuba’s contributions to health in the region and around the world, without being preachy or arrogant. He described Cuba’s contribution to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. (Cuba sent teams there before the Americans did.) Today, Cuba has over many thousands of health professionals serving around the world in various capacities.
Afterwards we headed east about 10 miles to Cojimar to visit Hemingway’s hilltop villa known as Finca Vigia. I’ve been there several times before, but his home/museum always fascinates me. After lunch, we headed east along the north coast to Varadero, about 2 hours away. We checked-in to our hotel on the beach–the Melia Varadero–and had a wonderful buffet dinner in the main restaurant. We have been working hard at our research, so it was time to relax a little bit.
Today was a big day–and one of our longest. The focus was an important historical site for both Cubans and Americans–the infamous Bay of Pigs. We headed south from Varadero and stopped at a crocodile farm, where we were able to photograph crocodiles and view them close-up. Some were tiny and had apparently recently hatched. Others were 8-10 feet long and had huge mouths full of sharp teeth. Some seemed to be frozen or stuffed, as they lie on the ground in front of us with their wide mouths open, not moving. An attendant with a piece of meat on a line dropped it in front of a “frozen” croc—he quickly snapped at it, showing us how quickly he could move when he felt like it.
Our next stop was at Punta Perdiz along the ocean. We had lunch there, and a few of us snorkeled afterwards. There were other snorkelers, scuba divers, and colorful fish all around us. After lunch we moved on to Playa Giron Museum near the main beach invaded by the US military and CIA in 1962, along with about 1500 Cuban exiles. American aircraft were shot down and American ships were sunk.
During his last year in office, President Eisenhower planned the invasion of Cuba at a location a few hundred miles to the east at Playa Ancon, near Trinidad. Kennedy took office just three months before the invasion. For unknown reasons, he changed the invasion site to the Bay of Pigs—the worst possible site for many different reasons. I reminded our group that the Bay of Pigs brings out the same emotions in Cubans as Pearl Harbor does to us Americans.
We returned to our hotel on the north coast for dinner. Afterwards, we joined another group of Americans and attended a community CDR party in the beach town of Varadero. It was clear that these community members enjoyed being with each other, and they liked including their American guests at their party. As usual, the Cuban kids were especially fun to interact with. They seemed to understand that we represented the people of American, and not our government. That was fine with us! Overall, this has been a great day for our group of researchers.