Cuba: Politics, History, Culture

March 15 - 22, 2018

 

Registration information can be found here.

 

Thursday, March 15th – Fly to Miami

Your trip begins at the Sheraton Airport Hotel, where our group will gather for an early evening briefing. Reservations on your own. Airport transportation provided by the Sheraton. Enjoy dinner on your own.
 

Day 1: Friday, March 16th Havana

  • Early morning arrival in Havana
  • Start your visit to Cuba with a visit to la Finca Vigia; the home of renowned American author Ernest Hemmingway: His home has been perfectly preserved and is now a Museum.
  • Stop for lunch at Il Divino
  • Before checking in to the hotel, enjoy a panoramic City tour of Habana – with emphasis on architecture. Added visit to Vedado to discuss the expansion of the city and the noticeable differences in architecture. (Including Plaza de la Revolucion & Colon Cemetery)
  • Check-in to the Hotel Saratoga
  • Take scenic tour ride on classic American cars along el Malecon and Havana on your way to the iconic Hotel Nacional for a welcome mojito.
  • Enjoy dinner & a welcome cocktail at Café Laurent
  • After dinner enjoy the Cannon Blast Ceremony
  • Optional Activity: Dancing and Performance at either Tropicana Club or Buena Vista Social Club

 

Day 2: Saturday, March 17th Havana (Breakfast at the Hotel)

  • Before the walking tour, a guided tour of the Museum of the Revolution
  • Walking tour of Old Havana with a city historian, stops at all four of the major Plazas as well as the Cathedral & Graphics Workshop.
  • Lunch at Al Carbon in Old Havana
  • After, continue towards the town of Jaimanitas and travel to the home/studio of famous Cuban artist Jose Fuster – known as the Cuban Gaudi. His home and neighborhood have been transformed into a living art project. Explore your surroundings, speak to the artist, and purchase original artwork
  • Return to the hotel
  • Dinner on your own: ** We recommend El Cocinero which is right next to the Fabrica del Arte. 
  • Optional Activity:  Enjoy a night of dancing, music, and art at La Fabrica del Arte in Modern Havana – Paid on your own. (10 CUC entrance)

 

Day 3: Sunday, March 18th Havana/Matanzas/Varadero Beach

  • Breakfast at the Hotel
  • Depart towards Varadero Beach
  • Brief stop of the Puente de Bacunayagua for pictures of Cuba’s longest and tallest bridge
  • Stop at the beautiful Bellamar Caves and explore one of the most famous natural wonders in Cuba
  • Enjoy lunch and a wine tasting at DuPont Mansion
  • Check-in to your all-inclusive beach resort, Hotel Melia Marina Varadero
  • Spend a weekend exploring the beautiful and pristine beaches of Varadero. Ranked as the #10 beach in the WORLD.

 

Day 4: Monday, March 19th Varadero Beach

  • Spend your day enjoying the beautiful beach at Varadero. Explore the various excursions that are available for travelers.
  • The group will spend the morning in Matanzas, the group will visit the square with stops at: Pharmaceutical Museum, History Museum, Catedral de San Carlos Borromeo, & a few galleries in Callejon de Tradiciones.
  • After, the group will take a tour of the Estadio Victoria de Giron (baseball stadium) with a tour of the Baseball HOF as well on the way back to Vedado
  • Return to Varadero for lunch
  • Dinner at the Melia Varadero Resort
  • Included OPTIONAL Activities: Day Trip to Matanzas

 

Day 5: Tuesday, March 20th Varadero – Cienfuegos

  • Breakfast at the hotel
  • Early morning departure from Varadero to Cienfuegos (Approx. 2hrs & 47 min.) 
  • Enjoy lunch at Villa Lagarto Restaurant right on the waterfront near the Malecon.
  • Take a tour of Cienfuegos with the city historian. Learn about the history of one of the oldest colonial cities in Cuba – brief stop at the statue of Benny More and el Malecon de Cienfuegos 
  • After, enjoy a show and interchange with the Cienfuegos Guitar Chorus. These musicians play classical and contemporary music solely on guitars. The group has been playing together since they were 9 years old under the same director. All the performers are from the Cienfuegos area.
  • Check-in to the La Union Hotel
  • Dinner on your own – free night to explore the city of Cienfuegos

 

Day 6: Wednesday, March 21st Cienfuegos – Day trip to Trinidad

  • Breakfast at the hotel
  • After breakfast, enjoy a guided tour of the Botanical Gardens in CF. After; depart for a day trip to Trinidad.
  • Walking tour of Trinidad a UNESCO world heritage site and the oldest colonial city in Cuba, boasting some of the most beautiful architecture in all of the Caribbean.
  • Lunch at El Barracon
  • Visit ARTEX de Trinidad. This is a dance group that specializes in traditional Afro-Cuban dance. Interact with the dancers and enjoy a dance lesson with the group as well as a performance.
  • Visit the Canchanchara to listen to a traditional Cuban music group. Enjoy a cocktail while watching the performance. 
  • Depart for Cienfuegos
  • Return to hotel, free time before farewell dinner
  • Farewell dinner at Club Cienfuegos with a complimentary cocktail and enjoy live musical performance on your last night in Cuba.

 

Day 7: Thursday, March 22nd Cienfuegos – Miami 

  • Breakfast at the hotel
  • Check-out of La Union Hotel
  • Before heading to the airport, the group meet with the UNEAC chapter of Cienfuegos.
  • Airport transfer to Jaime Gonzalez International Airport
  • Check-in to flight
  • Depart for Miami

A letter from trip leader, Gustavo Fares

 

Vamos a Cuba! (Let’s go to Cuba!). With this greeting, I would like to invite you to join our Bjorklunden Seminar in Cuba at this special moment in history, ours and theirs, so that you can see and taste a country immersed in momentous change. We will explore the island, its politics, history and culture on a very special 7-day Björklunden trip to Cuba, from March 15 -22, 2018. 

Americans of all generations are familiar, whether they know it or not, with Cuba and its history. Words such as “Che” Guevara, embargo, Fidel, Elián González, rumba, mojito, or Mariel, among many others, resonate with the American history of the last half century.  They are intimately related to Cuba and its peoples.

This luscious land, blessed with natural beauties such as some of the best beaches in the Hemisphere, majestic forests, fertile terrain, as well as with warm, educated and generous people, was one of the first lands “discovered” by the Europeans in their Atlantic expansion during the Fifteenth and Sixteenth centuries.  Since then it has always been a land of contrasts, a bridge/ hinge between the Old Europe and the New World, between two empires, one in decline, Spain, the other rising, the United States; between two political ideologies, American first, Soviet later, and between the cultures of the Northern Hemisphere and those of Latin America. Now, as American policies towards Cuba have switched from confrontational to relational, this land is witnessing once again momentous changes that will, undoubtedly, transform it anew. This process of change started in 2016 and it is still going on, after the death of Fidel Castro, and the announced retirement of his brother and successor, Raul, on February 24, 2018, just days before our trip! 

More than fifty years of hostile policies between the United States and Cuba have created a curious phenomenon: an island that politically presented itself at the revolutionary political and economic vanguard of Latin America has also been a land culturally isolated from its powerful neighbor to the North for more than half a century. This isolation, coupled with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, has resulted in a somewhat “forced” preservation of a rich cultural heritage, be it in architecture, music, the visual arts, and the language and ways of its people.  As political conditions change the island is also changing and most probably in unexpected ways. 

Our Bjorklunden Seminar finds itself at the ideal and liminal time to visit the island and to get a deep understanding of Cuba today, of its history, and of its culture. Our trip will start with an overnight stay in Miami, where the group will gather and share our expectations about the island, wetting our appetite for the places we will visit. The next day we will depart for Havana, where we will spend the next two days visiting the sights of old Havana’s rich architectural heritage, which have resulted in a UNESCO designation as a World Cultural Heritage site, sampling delicious Cuban food at local restaurants, getting acquainted with the sites Hemingway made famous after two decades of living in this city, and understanding the processes that lead to the 1959 Revolutions and its aftermath. We will depart from Havana to visit three spectacular sites:  the Varadero peninsula, which is home to some of the best beaches in the Caribbean, the city of Cienfuegos, where we will attend musical performances, and the nearby colonial city of Trinidad, another UNESCO-designated architectural jewel of the Caribbean.

Before we go, I’ll send you lots of emails with information about the museums, churches, walks, and off-beat things we will do (hint: I like art) as well as tips on Cuban history, culture, and language.  The trip will not require any special outdoor equipment, but you should plan to bring comfortable shoes or sandals for walking on cobblestone colonial streets.

Mark Breseman and I have been working with our travel consultant on the itinerary and we are ready to go!  I do hope you can join us.

So let’s go to Cuba!
Hasta la vista,
Gustavo

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