For my second trip to Cuba, I organized a People-to-People tour across the country for a select group of my friends, individuals who, like me, work primarily as educators at the secondary level or higher ed, and a few others from various helping professions. Given our common passion for learning, our itinerary featured many educational opportunities; however, there were three activities that stood out as unforgettable experiences for us. I highly recommend that you include similar plans in your educational tour!
Meet-and-greet with Cuban students. One of the most meaningful experiences for our group involved interaction with students and teachers. On the first day of our trip, we met with the language instructors and students from the English language club at the Universidad de Oriente in Santiago, Cuba. We offered them the opportunity to speak with us in the target language, and they told us about their lives as university students and their studies. This visit passed by so quickly, we wished we had more time to spend with them!
2. Visit the National Literacy Museum. Even if you don’t teach literature, a visit to learn about Cuba’s 1961 campaign to eradicate illiteracy is sure to be a highlight of your trip. The museum boasts artifacts from this momentous campaign, from the uniforms the volunteers wore and the iconic lanterns they carried, to examples of letters thanking Fidel Castro written by rural Cubans who learned to read during that year. There is also a screening of Catherine Murphy’s documentary about the campaign, A Year Without Sundays, which features interviews with some of the young student volunteers who executed the literacy plan. The story of young people enacting this social project is sure to inspire your students as well!
3.Take a cooking class at Artechef. Artechef is a restaurant that is also affiliated with a cooking school and a cooking show that airs on Cuban national television. During our visit, we were taught how to make the classic mojito cocktail, as well as the traditional beef dinner ropa vieja. As all teachers know, the best classes allow for active engagement, and we were able to participate in creating these Cuban delicacies in the kitchen with the chef, which we enjoyed afterwards along with the rest of our meal in the Artechef Cuisine is a cultural element that interests students of all ages, so a cooking lesson allowed us to more readily share Cuba with all of the lifelong learners in our lives.
Of course, there were subject-specific favorites for the teachers in our group: a tour of the Contemporary Cuban Collection at the National Art Museum, a visit to Finca Hemingway, Ernest Hemingway’s estate outside of Havana, and a visit to the Santander Pottery Studio and Gallery in Trinidad. Undoubtedly, however, the three listed above are must-do activities for a group representing diverse interests and levels of familiarity with Cuba, the Caribbean, and Latin America.
If you are planning an educational People-to-People tour to Cuba, ask if you can include these experiences in your itinerary. You won’t be disappointed! And if you have any questions about these ideas, feel free to contact me or leave a comment below.