The Cienfuegos Province was much warmer than Havana, Matanzas or Santa Clara. The name says it all. We learned about the French and Haitian influence on this part of the island. Cienfuegos resembles New Orleans and the boulevards and balconies are built in the same way as French colonial cities.
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 Santa Clara is where we learned about Ché and his role in the Revolution. We visited the Armored Train, the site of the most important battle commanded by Ernesto Che Guevara. Here we heard the story of the battle from one of the curators of the site and asked many questions. The people of Santa Clara are very proud of their participation during the revolution and you will witness how they love to talk about the heroic moments of their beloved Ernesto Che Guevara.
We also visited the famous statue The Che of the Children, in front of the Regional Communist Party Headquarters. The statue was full of symbolism. At this site, we learned about the importance and meaning of the Communist Party in Santa Clara.
We had a great meal on an Organic City Farm, called Organopónico. This is a lot in the city dedicated to organic agriculture to supply the city inhabitants with fresh produce. It is interesting how cooperative farms work. Every person in the community who participates in the organopónico gets a share of the profits from selling the crops. This is a modern activity encouraged by the government to promote agriculture in populated areas to bring healthier and fresher food to the people.
We started our visit with a tour in Old Havana, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where we had the opportunity to learn about the history and importance of: Cathedral of Old Havana, Square of Arms, Palace of the General Captains, San Francisco Square, Old Plaza, and the Fortress of San Carlos. At each of these sites we interacted with Cubans who are caring for these historic places.
In the Museum of Revolution in the old Presidential Palace we explored the history of the most important political and social event of Cuba during the 20th Century, The Cuban Revolution. In the Museum we learned about the Granma Memorial, one of the most important symbols of the Revolution. This is the boat that brought Fidel, Che, and a few dozens of revolutionaries back to Cuba to start the revolution. The exhibit shows other important vehicles used during the revolution.