I often receive questions about Cuba from potential travelers who know very little about the country. (Sad to say this is true for a large majority of Americans, as well as most U.S. travel agents.) Following is some information that should be helpful to those newly-interested, as well as for repeat Cuba travelers. I’ve already sent this information to members of our November Expedition—the first group to visit Cuba following our U.S. Presidential Election. This should be an interesting trip. I know we will be bombarded by questions from Cubans–they follow American cultural events very closely:
I am assuming that some of you know a lot about Cuba, and some do not. A few of you have been voraciously reading about Cuba and watching videos, and others have been really busy working up until the day before we depart.
As I have mentioned earlier, our educational model will be collaborative, rather than teacher-student. Each of you may know or discover things about Cuba that the rest of us don’t know. Many historical events are controversial, and I think it is important to appreciate various points of view.
Following are some links and references that may be helpful. If you find something that you believe is unique or particularly helpful, please let me know and I will send it to the others. On the other hand, if you just want a relaxing, enjoyable Caribbean vacation and don’t want to worry about details, that will be fine. But please be respectful when Cuban guides or officials are telling us about their country or answering our questions.
I am looking forward to our expedition (also known as our Post-Presidential Election Caribbean Escape!).
Best regards to your mental status during the next week. —Jim
RECOMMENDED GUIDEBOOK (also available in Kindle Edition for tablets and smartphones): Moon Cuba Guidebook, by Christopher P. Baker, 2015.
Monthly cultural magazine—my favorite; generally non-political: http://lahabana.com
On this site are other links to current articles about numerous topics involving Cuba.
Daily Newspaper (supportive of the Government, but informative about daily events): Granma: http://en.granma.cu/
Daily Newspaper, middle-of-road, often critical of the government: http://www.havanatimes.org
NOTE: After reading some of these articles, you might be surprised at how tolerant the government has become!
I think this film is really entertaining and has great Cuban music. It was produced by Andy Garcia, who was born in Havana and came to the U.S. at age 5 with his family in 1961. The film depicts how the Revolution affected and eventually divided a Cuban family. When the movie was released in 2005, there was almost no advertising or marketing, for some reason. I can’t imagine Dustin Hoffman agreeing to appear in a move that would not be widely advertised. There were some rumors that it was “Blacklisted” by Hollywood, but in my opinion it is middle-of-the-road and shows how Cubans became radically either “pro-Castro” or “anti-Castro.”
Music Video: Hotel Nacionál, by Gloria Estefan. She was born in Havana in 1957 and moved with her family to Miami after the Revolution. Her father fought for the exile invading force at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba and was captured. (Captured prisoners were later traded for food and medicine.) Gloria’s father later served with the U.S. military in Vietnam. He reportedly died eventually from exposure to Agent Orange.
Gloria grew up to become a successful band member, songwriter, and singer, while remaining very bitter towards Castro and the Cuban government. She has moderated her views in the last 2 years. Her music video “Hotel Nacionál” depicts Cuba in the 1950’s: A young American couple gets stranded during a storm, and seeks help by knocking on the side door of Havana’s Hotel Nacionál (where our travel group will have lunch). They encounter a restrained, subdued group of locals and tourists enjoying a quiet evening at the hotel. (NOTE—you can click to skip the ad.)