At the second school we visited that day we had a discussion with the students about the embargo. Before we arrived I anticipated that it would be a tense and somewhat awkward encounter since the embargo had a much larger impact on their lives than it did on ours; however, the students were equally eager to ask about our opinions as well as share their own. Afterwards, we sang together and shared some laughs like classmates would.
A highlight of our stay in Santa Clara was our visit to the Ernesto “Che” Guevara Memorial and museum. Seeing Che through a Cuban lens was something we had attempted through role-play and debates in the Spanish 5 advanced topics class. While we were in Cuba, however, we saw that, to the people, Che was a war hero and a symbol of victory and justice. Besides the memorial and museum we visited, it wasn’t uncommon to see Che’s face on billboards, plastered on buildings, and even on souvenirs around Cuba.
Another interesting place we visited in Santa Clara was a club called El Mejunje (meaning the mixture). El Mejunje is known as the most open-minded club in Cuba due to it’s association with the LGBT community and reputation for free expression within its highly decorated walls that has persisted since 1985.
Sam Plante, Class VIII
“Winsor girls are the best travellers! Wherever we went, the group was willing to jump right in and try something new- whether it was playing a new instrument, learning to play complicated cross rhythms in small percussion groups, or trying to learn a new dance step that was challenging for them.
They were fantastic risk takers and tried to fully embrace the culture of Cuba through each experience that was put before them. I loved watching and listening to them interact with Cuban teens their age and appreciated the deep level of conversation, sharing of ideas and the engagement that they had with each other. It was a joy to help chaperone this great group of students!”
Lisa Taillacq, Music Teacher, Fine Arts Department
In Santa Clara, we had the opportunity to visit a local high school. This was an extremely rewarding experience. Not only did we get to see what a high school in Cuba looks like, but we also were able to interact on a personal level with our student counterparts. Specifically, we engaged in a discussion on the topic of US-Cuba relations (with an emphasis on the embargo). The discussion was respectful and thoughtful. We listened to their opinions and expressed our own— for the most part, we found that many of our stances intersected nicely with those of the Cuban students. Ultimately, however, as a group we approached a tentative conclusion: that perhaps most important of all is for us to establish and maintain cultural connections between our nations. Thus, in that vein, the topic of our discussion switched to the logistics of school life in Cuba versus in the US, Cuban music and American music (in fact, several of the students sang songs for us including Bruno Mars’ “The Lazy Song”), among other topics. All in all, it was a thought-provoking exchange that I believe left each and every one of us with a more nuanced understanding of Cuba (politics, culture and beyond).
Elena Úbeda, Class VIII
In Matanzas we met the warmest people!
We visited a community project called Callejon de las Tradiciones (The Alley of the Traditions). Here we attended a show of Afro-Caribbean dances and music and enjoyed a Q&A session with some of the dancers and musicians. The dancers were so friendly and curious about us! We ended up dancing hip-hop, krump and breakdance… and what looked like a Rumba-Hip-Hop face-off. The Winsor students are surprising!
Juana, the Healer blessed us all in her Santería altar to the Orisha Changó before we left.
Our time in Matanzas was short, but we had a lot of fun. We spent the morning learning more about elements of Santeria, an Afro-Cuban religion and Afro-Cuban drumming. A few of us had the opportunity to try some new drumming techniques, while others of us were able to put our dancing skills to use. During an impromptu exchange with some Cuban teenagers, we showed them a few popular American dances, and in return, they showed us several dances that are popular among them. We didn’t get to spend much time with them, but it was one of the times when we felt most at ease, because we were interacting with people our age. Despite the language barrier, we found no problems getting along perfectly well with our Cuban counterparts.
Natalia Lindsey, Class VIII