Hola–we are Mercy, Carlos, and Jim. We’re passionate about Cuba and its people. We met in Havana in 2003. Carlos and Mercy were professionals who worked in the Cuban Travel Sector.
On later trips, we spent more time together and became good friends. Mercy & Carlos helped Jim design his own group programs. He began leading his own groups in 2012. Carlos and Mercy eventually relocated to the States.
MERCY PENA MORENO: Hello–I’m now a permanent resident of the U.S., but I was born and raised in Havana. I graduated from the University of Havana, where I received a degree in Psychology. I worked primarily as a German Translator for various institutions. I later worked as a travel guide and travel agent. I really enjoyed showing my homeland to visitors from all over the world. In 2011 we moved to Miami
In 2016, my husband Carlos and I returned to Cuba after being away for over 5 years. It was inspiring to see all the positive changes in Cuba. We are currently working with our friend Jim Lewis in the agency known as Cuba Travel Surge, which specializes in designing and conducting custom tours for a variety of groups.
CARLOS AGUIAR SANTIAGO: Greetings! I was born and grew up in Havana. I’m now a permanent resident of the U.S., and I hope to become a citizen this year. My wife Mercy and I moved to Miami in 2011. We now live in Jacksonville.
In November 2016 I returned to Cuba for the first time in over 5 years. Jim and I guided an expedition focusing on Cuba’s health care system. I enjoyed seeing my family and friends again. The amount of change in Cuba since I left was significant. It gave me much hope for Cuba’s future.
Even though President Trump has recently commented on Cuba travel policies, the new guidelines actually do NOT affect group travel. It continues to be absolutely legal for Americans and their children to visit Cuba. Unfortunately, most Americans do not understand this.
JIM LEWIS: ¡Saludos! I grew up in southern California. In 1969 I was drafted and spent an interesting year in the beautiful and exotic Mekong River Delta. My experiences in the military influenced my decision to become a nurse.
I worked mostly in ER’s and ICU’s in Hawaii and California, and also worked as an ambulance and flight nurse. I have experience in oncology and hospice care. I later worked as an educator, manager, and nursing supervisor.
Backing up a bit—in 1999 I visited Cuba for the first time. After that, I participated in several medical missions and health-care focused seminars and projects. After I retired from hospital nursing, I combined my passions for health care and travel and became a Cuba Travel Guide. I obtained a BRN Provider Certificate, and developed a popular continuing education course called “Cuba’s Health Care System—Its Strengths and Weaknesses.”
We had hoped that the recent process of Normalization would continue forward without being sabotaged, but unfortunately, it has been temporarily reversed by President Trump. His comments in spring 2019 resulted in many Americans believing that Cuba Travel guidelines were tightened. In reality, regulations concerning group travel remain unchanged. It continues to be totally legal for Americans—including children—to visit Cuba.
I live in the small town of Grass Valley, located in a very rural county in the lower Sierra Nevada mountains northeast of Sacramento.