Our experience in Cuba was unique and inspiring. The settings were diverse – from Old Havana to colonial Cienfuegos — and we experienced it all through the Cuban people themselves. We visited with Cuban artists, musicians, historians and more about their lives, work, culture and traditions.
1. Old Havana: A true highlight of Cuba was our guided walking tour of Old Havana, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Old Havana (Habana Vieja) is nearly 500 years old and home to the largest collections of Spanish-Colonial architecture in the Americas. Old Havana is currently undergoing restoration of its beautiful facades and buildings.
2. Cienfuegos: Cienfuegos is a beautiful port city, known as Cuba’s “Pearl of the South.” Although its architecture reflects French colonial root, Cienfuegos is currently one of Cuba’s newest cities with respect to urban planning. While here we enjoyed a phenomenal choral performance and discussion with the Cantores de Cienfuegos. These 24 singers were nominated for the Latin Grammys and travel internationally to perform. Our group thoroughly enjoyed this cultural interaction, had a group photograph taken, and happily departed with a load of CDs.
3. Jaimanitas/Havana: In this charming fishing village, we explored the home and workshop of world famous ceramic artist Jose Fuster. Fuster is referred to as the “Picasso of Cuba” as he has adorned nearly eighty (80) homes near his own with ornate murals and domes. We received a warm welcome to his workshop and toured all the levels. Fuster’s art is very colorful, and he uses much ceramic tile in it. The neighborhood was beautiful and inspiring! We thoroughly enjoyed interacting with the artist and his son. We then had this photo taken with him:
Cuban ceramic artist Joe Fuster with Sharon Schweitzer and John Robinson
Our Cuban tour guide, Eric, was born and raised in Cuba; no emergency or request ruffled him. Our US tour director, Marla, had directed over 50 People-to-People tours to Cuba as well. Needless to say, the service level we experienced was exceptional. Several of our Austin participants are already planning the Cuba reunion!
Austin Chamber of Commerce group with Cantores de Cienfuegos
Travel to Cuba requires flexibility and a sense of adventure. Stay tuned for my next blog post about wonderful private Cuban restaurants called “paladares.” A must do when in this island nation!