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«Cuba Educational Travel Havana & Pinar del Rio December 2015 Collin Laverty collin (202) 213 – 7050 Adam Linderman ...»

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Cuba New Year 2015/16

Cuba Educational Travel

Havana & Pinar del Rio

December 2015

Collin Laverty


(202) 213 – 7050

Adam Linderman


(215) – 704 – 4637



Cuba Educational Travel is offering the opportunity to spend New Year’s Eve in

Communist Cuba. Once considered the forbidden fruit of the West, our neighbor to the south is now closer than ever. Its fascinating history, breathtaking architecture, warm people and rich music and art, make it the perfect place to learn about the Cuba of today, and have the time of your life while doing so. Travel to Cuba remains tightly regulated, but Cuba Educational Travel holds a license from the U.S. Treasury Department (CT-2013-300203-1) to arrange educational trips, meaning your memorable visit is fully sanctioned by the U.S. government.

Cuba is undergoing a series of interesting and important changes. Fidel Castro has disappeared from the policy-making scene and his brother Raul has instituted a number of economic reforms. As the “historicos” attempt to pass the torch to the younger generation of leaders, many factors such as relations with the U.S., the success of market-oriented reforms, emigration and the aspirations of young Cubans will determine the country’s future.

There is no better time to visit. Cubans, who strongly value family and friendships, come together for fun and exciting New Year celebrations. The weather is unbeatable: cool enough to walk the city streets, but warm enough to lounge at the pool or beach.

This trip is particularly geared towards small groups of family and friends. You will spend an intellectually stimulating, but fun and interesting, week of speaking with Cubans from many walks of life, learning about the country’s unique political and economic system. Some activities will be done in a larger group, but many will be done with your immediate group of family and friends, including many meals, and there will be plenty of time to go off on your own.


Havana is the capital city, province, major port, and leading commercial center of Cuba. The city proper has a population of 2.1 million inhabitants, and it spans a total of 728 km2, making it the third largest metropolitan area in the Caribbean region. It was founded by the Spanish in the 16th century and due to its strategic location it served as a springboard for the Spanish conquest of the continent becoming a stopping point for the treasure laden Spanish Galleons on the crossing between the New World and the Old World. King Philip II of Spain granted Havana the title of City in 1592, and walls and forts were built to protect the fortunes that were held there soon after. The sinking of the U.S. battleship Maine in Havana’s harbor in 1898 was the immediate cause of the SpanishAmerican War.

Contemporary Havana can essentially be described as three cities in one: Old Havana, Vedado, and the newer suburban districts. Old Havana, with its narrow streets and overhanging balconies, is the traditional center of Havana’s commerce, industry, and entertainment, as well as being a residential area. It’s a main tourist attraction. To the north and west a newer section, centered on the uptown area known as Vedado, has become the rival of Old Havana for commercial activity and nightlife. It is also home to the University and many residential neighborhoods.

A third Havana is that of the more affluent residential and industrial districts that spread out mostly to the west, most notably the Miramar zone. Located west of Vedado along the coast, it remains Havana’s exclusive area; mansions, foreign embassies, diplomatic residences, upscale shops, and facilities for wealthy foreigners are common in the area.


In the 1980s many parts of Old Havana, including the Plaza de Armas, became part of a projected 35-year multimillion-dollar restoration project, for Cubans to appreciate their past and boost tourism. In the past ten years, with the assistance of foreign aid and under the support of local city historian Eusebio Leal, large parts of Habana Vieja have been renovated. The city is moving forward with their renovations, with most of the major plazas (Plaza Vieja, Plaza de la Catedral, Plaza de San Francisco and Plaza de Armas) and major tourist streets (Obispo and Mercaderes) near completion. Due to Havana’s almost five hundred year existence, the city boasts some of the most diverse styles of architecture in the world, from castles built in the late 16th century to modernist present-day highrises, encompassing Neoclassical, Colonial and Baroque, Art Deco and Eclectic and Modernism.

Residents of Havana have by far the highest incomes in the country, and a higher percentage of relatives living abroad. There is considerable inward migration in search of economic opportunities, especially from the poorer eastern provinces.

Santiago de Cuba rivals it in some art, music and dance, but Havana is hands down the cultural and economic center of the country.


Viñales is a small town and municipality in the north-central Pinar del Río Province of Cuba. The municipality is dominated by low mountain ranges of the Cordillera de Guaniguanico such as Sierra de los Órganos, and the town consists mostly of one-story wooden houses with porches. Beautiful limestone formations known as Mogotes line the scenic valley, providing a stunning landscape. Before European settlement, the area was the home of a remnant Taíno population swelled with runaway slaves. The area was colonized at the beginning of the 1800s by tobacco growers from the Canary Islands, who settled in the Vuelta Abajo region, and the first settlement in Viñales is documented in 1871, in the form of a ranch belonging to Don Andrés Hernández Ramos. The actual town was established in 1878 as a typical community, with church, school, hospital and recreational park.

Viñales is an agricultural area, where crops of fruit, vegetables, coffee and especially tobacco are grown by traditional methods. Some of the best tobacco in the world is harvested and cultivated in Viñales. Over the last two decades the town has been developed as a premiere tourist destination. The Viñales Valley has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since November 1999, for the outstanding karst landscape and traditional agriculture as well as vernacular architecture, crafts and music. Although three nearby hotels over accommodations, most visitors stay at private b&bs, where they are able to interact with locals.


Cienfuegos city is the capital of Cienfuegos province, which lies along the southern coast of Cuba. Located about 250 km from Havana, Cienfuegos has a population of 170,000 inhabitants. The city is dubbed La Perla del Sur (Pearl of the South), and known as a clean, orderly and prosperous city located along the beautiful bay. Cienfuegos is one of the chief seaports of Cuba, hosting cargo shipments and recreational boats, and much of the downtown area located along the water. The city has traditionally been at the center of the sugar trade, which has dwindled over the last 2 and a half decades, as well as coffee and tobacco. Some of the best coffee in the country is produced in the central region of the country.

The area was called the Cacicazgo de Jagua by the early Spaniards, and was settled by indigenous people. It was later settled by French immigrants from Bordeaux and Louisiana, led by Don Louis de Clouet, on April 22, 1819. Its original name was Fernandina de Jagua, in honor of Ferdinand VII of Spain. The settlement became a Spanish Villa in 1829, and later a city in 1880. The city was subsequently named Cienfuegos, which literally means “100 fires in Spanish.” The French and Spanish influence makes the city unique culturally and architecturally. The city center contains 6 buildings from 1819–1850, 327 buildings from 1851–1900, and 1188 buildings from the 20th century. There is no other place in the Caribbean which contains such a remarkable cluster of neoclassical structures. The city also happens to be the home of many great Cuban baseball players, including Yasiel Puig, who now plays for the Los Angeles Dodgers.


Trinidad is a small town in the province of Sancti Spíritus, central Cuba. The city was founded on December 23, 1514 by Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar under the name Villa de la Santísima Trinidad. The city went through booms and busts, including the most prosperous years when it was built on the back of the 19thcentury sugar and slave trade. At its zenith, in 1827, one of the 56 sugar mills in the region harvested the biggest cane haul in the world — just under a million kilos of white pressed crystals. This enormous, conspicuous wealth shaped the town and no expense was spared in fashioning the finest Spanish colonial mansions, plazas and churches, which still stand testament to the vainglory of this profiteering era. Together with the nearby Valle de los Ingenios, it has been one of UNESCOs World Heritage sites since 1988.

Nowadays, Trinidad’s main industries are related to agriculture, including tobacco processing, and tourism. Despite limited infrastructure, including an antiquated water system and limited hotels, the city receives hundreds of thousands of tourists each year. The growing private sector is flourishing in the city, where b&bs and private restaurants have sprung up all over the place. The city is also known for its rich musica, and there are several casas de musica (music houses), including one next to the cathedral in Plaza Major.

Saturday, December 26 Arrive to Miami and prepare for early morning departure to Cuba. Option available for a discounted group rate at the Crowne Plaza MIA, featuring a free shuttle to the airport every 20 minutes.

Sunday, December 27 12:45 pm Depart Miami on AA9428, arriving in Havana, Cuba at 1:45 pm Orientation driving tour of Havana, including stops at Plaza de la Revolucion, 5th Avenue and the Capitol Building Settle in to the Historic Hotel Capri, which was one of the first hotel casinos built by the Mafia in Cuba. Owned by mobster Santo Trafficante, and run by George Raft, the hotel was at a time one of the largest casinos in Havana. Located blocks from the University of Havana, Coppelia ice cream, and the Havana seawall, the recent remodeling provides first class amenities, while leaving the history and original charm of “The Capri.” Discussion with journalist Marc Frank. The longest serving foreign correspondent in Cuba, Frank writes for Reuters, the Financial Times and the Economist, and is an authority on the Cuban economy. Frank will offer insight into important economic, political and social issues on the island and share colorful stories about being a reporter in Cuba.

–  –  –

Tour of Callejon de Hamel, a vibrant community project, featuring a discussion of Santeria and dance performance Explore the Taller de Gráfica Experimental. The Taller is Havana’s printmaking and lithographic workshop. It is a studio, a school and most of all, an art institution that preserves and develops the sophisticated art of print making with relative freedom of spirit and form.

Lunch at Doña Eutimia paladar. Famous for its ropa vieja and frozen mojitos, this recently opened paladar made Newsweek Magazine’s top 100 restaurants in the world in 2012.

Walking tour of the Old City. Wander through the Plaza Vieja, the oldest plaza in Havana, dating from the 16th century. See the Plaza de San Francisco, a cobbled plaza surrounded by buildings dating from the 18th century, dominated by the baroque Iglesia and Convento de San Francisco dating from 1719. Visit Plaza de la Catedral and the Catedral de San Cristóbal de La Habana. Visit the Plaza de Armas, a scenic tree-lined plaza formerly at the center of influence in Cuba. It is surrounded by many of the most historic structures in Havana as well as important monuments.

Visit to the Lizt Alfonso Academy, a women-led dance company and school for local youth, specializing in flamenco dance. We will watch a rehearsal of the adolescent dance group, and sit with the dancers afterward to discuss how they came to join the school and the impact it has had on them.

Travel in small groups (each family/small group individually) in Classic American Autos from the 1950s to enjoy dinner at one of the city’s great paladars (privately run restaurants).

Tuesday, December 29 Depart for Pinar del Rio, the western-most province, famous for its rich soil, tobacco production and spectacular scenery Our first stop will be at the home of a local tobacco farmer, who will teach us about the cultivation and production process, followed by a rolling demo. He might even light up a cigar or two for the group.

Enjoy lunch on the grounds of a local farm, where we will learn about Cuban agriculture and tobacco production, followed by a visit to the Vinales town center.

On the way back to Havana we will visit a local community project for underprivileged children.

–  –  –

Visit la Casa de la Amistad for a discussion with Dr. Miguel Coyula, who will take us on a visit of modern architecture in Western Havana. Few people realize the important place Havana holds as a treasure trove of 20th Century architecture. Coyula will highlight some of the best examples to be found in this incredibly diverse area of the city, including the Christopher Colon Cemetery & University of Havana.

Light bar fare at Sloppy Joe’s pub. This recently renovate bar-restaurant was once the hangout of Babe Ruth and the likes when visiting Havana.

Visit to the Museum of Cuban Art. We will be accompanied by Nelson Herrera, an art historian, who will provide an overview of Cuban art and artists over the last 4 centuries.

Visit to the arts and crafts market in Old Havana. The largest handcraft market, la feria de San Jose features hundreds of artisans selling art, crafts, clothes and music.

Spend the evening at Café Madrigal with Frank Delgado, renowned singer and songwriter, for a discussion about the nueva trova movement in Cuba, followed by a musical performance. Café Madrigal, owned and run by film director Rafael Rosales, is housed in a beautiful colonial mansion with the walls lined with captivating art work. Enjoy tasty tapas and cocktails.

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