Havana Journals

A land caught in between: Cuba

A June 2001 trip to Havana by am331

Canyonazo Ceremony Photo, Havana, Cuba More Photos
Quote: I did a medical tour with other med students to Havana and Pinar del Rio and learned a great deal.

A land caught in between: Cuba

Best Of IgoUgo

Overview

Che Photo, Havana, Cuba
Quote:
In the summer of 2001, between my first and second years of medical school, I visited Cuba with a group called MEDICC (Medical Education Cooperation with Cuba), a group that sends U.S. medical students to Cuba to observe and learn about the health care system there. We stayed in the dorms at CENAPEM (School of Public Health in Havana) and at the Che Guevara Medical School in Pinar del Rio. I had been to Cuba once previously in college (in 1992), when I studied abroad in the Dominican Republic, but this trip was different. The '90s were an extraordinarily difficult time for Cuba's economy after the USSR fell (see review of economy), and they had to make many drastic changes to survive. ...Read More

Canyonazo Ceremony

Attraction

Canyonazo Ceremony Photo, Havana, Cuba
Quote:
This is a nightly ceremony at Castillo de la Real Fuerza, est 1558 (oldest fortress in Americas), in which men dress in the typical dress of the 16th century. They march on the top of the fort wall, and at exactly 9pm, they fire a cannon, signifying the closing of the gates to Havana, which was necessitated by the presence of the pirates during that time. It is an interesting historical reenactment, but know that it is geared only toward tourists. In this vein, you can take photos with the cannon, there is a band playing local music after the event, and you can buy foods and souvenirs from the fort gift shop. It makes one wonder, did they have mojitos in the 16th century?

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on September 19, 2005

Canyonazo Ceremony
Plaza de Armas
Havana, Cuba

Quote:
The arts have always been very important to Cubans, and the ballet is no exception. This ballet troupe has been in existence since 1948 and has toured around the world! We were lucky enough to see a performance of "Coppelia" (no relation to the famous Cuban ice cream, I assume!), which was originally presented for the first time in 1948 but is still beautiful today. Costumes were lovely, and the set designs and colors used were simple but artful. Director Alicia Alonso is inspired. A truly magnificent performance--I recommend it highly, and it will certainly broaden your experience of Cuba. Incidentally, we could see a movie for 10 cents, which seemed unbelieveable to us! In New York, it costs ...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on September 19, 2005

Cuban National Ballet
Gran Teatro de la Habana
Havana, Cuba

Catedral

Attraction | "Plaza de la Catedral de San Cristobal de la Habana"

Catedral Photo, Havana, Cuba
Quote:
This is one of the most popular plazas in Habana Vieja (Old Havana) and has the famous and lovely Cathedral de San Cristobal (established 1748). The cathedral is open most days to visitors, and there is a huge, somewhat tacky tourist market in the open-air plaza. There is also an outdoor café and musicians playing on the patio, which is very popular among tourists. Although mostly for tourists, this is a very relaxed place to spend an afternoon, as there is outdoor seating and lovely open spaces to sit and people-watch or just unwind.

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on September 19, 2005

Catedral
Empedrado 156
La Habana, Cuba 10600
+53 7 617771

Museum of the Revolution (Museo de la Revolucion)

Attraction | "Museo de la Revolución"

Museum of the Revolution (Museo de la Revolucion) Photo, Havana, Cuba
Quote:
It is mostly a historical museum that chronicles the entire Cuban Revolution. It is also a sort of bastion of the Imperialist opulence and extravagance that was pre-Revolution Cuba, now presented to the people to be hated in all its forms. It is really a good place to visit if you are interested in Cuban history and the Revolution, so give yourself plenty of time. Note that almost everything is in Spanish. Admission is about $3.

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on September 19, 2005

Museum of the Revolution (Museo de la Revolucion)
Calle Refugio 1
La Habana, Cuba 10600
+53 7 624091

Cafetal Buena Vista

Attraction

Cafetal Buena Vista Photo, Havana, Cuba
Quote:
In the small town of Las Terrazas in eastern Pinar del Rio province we visited Cafetal Buena Vista, a coffee plantation built in 1802 by French refuges from Haiti. But coffee isn't grown here commercially anymore. You can tour the former facility and see the various instruments used in coffee production, such as the huge grindstone (tajona) used to extract coffee beans from their shells. You can also see the eerie remains of the former slave quarters. The master’s house is now a restaurant. Although a reminder of the painful slave/plantation history of Cuba, it's a lovely place to visit, and today you can swim in the surrounding waters.

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on September 19, 2005

Cafetal Buena Vista
Las Terrazas
Havana, Cuba

Cigar Factories

Attraction

Cigar Factories Photo, Havana, Cuba
Quote:
There are many cigar factories in the eastern province of Pinar del Rio. This industry is the most famous of the country and the one people think of when anyone says "Cuba". Tobacco was grown commercially in Cuba after 1580, and by 1700, it was the largest export. We were able to visit several factories where rooms full of people sit patiently, hand-rolling the delicate and lucrative product. The result can't be bought--well, not in the U.S., at least!

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on September 19, 2005

Cigar Factories
Pinar del Rio
Havana, Cuba

Slogans

Story/Tip

Long Live Free Cuba Photo, Havana, Cuba
Quote:
There are really interesting slogans and pictures of Che and Jose Marti everywhere. Some of them are “Venceremos!” (We will win!), “Siempre Rebelde” (Always revolutionary), “Hasta la Victoria” (Towards Victory), “La Revolucion Vive” (The Revolution Lives), “Socialism Hoy y Siempre” (Socialism today and always), and things like that. It’s like they are still back in 1959, when the Revolution first started and they were fighting imperialism. These slogans areeverywhere are a constant reminder that for them, everyday is the revolution. I felt like asking, who are they trying to convince? And what are they trying to win? My favorite slogan is “Hay 2,000 ninos viviendo en la calle en America Latina and ni...Read More
Old Cars in Old Havana Photo, Havana, Cuba
Quote:
I wanted to briefly talk about Cuba’s economy and some of the changes made in the last ten years or so. One of the first things I noticed when I visited Cuba, was how many more cars there are than I remember from my visit in 1991. At that time there was no gas, so people used bikes sent from China. Now, ten years after the USSR dissolved, Cuba has been slowly pulling itself out of the economic mire it was in in the '90s, largely due to tourism and a dual peso-dollar economy. Prior to the '90s, Cubans were not allowed to own dollars and I think you could get into big trouble for having them. Then, with the fall of the USSR, about 85% of the trade that Cuba depended on just disappeared, and Cuba had to ...Read More
View from our Casa Particular, Trinidad Photo, Havana, Cuba
Quote:
We decided to take a weekend trip to Trinidad, a famous old colonial town a few hours east and south of Havana. We stayed in "Casas Particulares", which are homes that are rented to tourists for about $5 per night. They’ll even cook your dinner for $5 and breakfast for $2, and it’s quite delicious! The views were spectacular! There is a cute "Plaza Mayor" with some old churches and a colonial plaza. One girl in our group met a local drummer and took a bongo and conga drum lesson one day! Each night, we went to hear local bands play all the salsa favorites, and then we’d walk back to the home. It was a very small, quaint town of about 50,000 people. On the weekend, we decided to visit a nearby f...Read More
Doctora's Office, Havana Photo, Havana, Cuba
Quote:
It makes a world of difference that we visited Cuba as medical students. I think I noticed an inherent respect afforded to students of the "healing professions" here, in a country which takes it so seriously. Cuba’s primary causes of death are similar to those of developed countries – heart disease, cancer, and stroke. This is amazing given that for the rest of Latin America and the developing world it is still infectious diseases! There are 23 medical schools in Cuba! Medicine is a popular profession and there is a doc in every neighborhood, not even one is unemployed! The doctor that I was able to visit on occasion lived in a modest house provided to her by the government, from which she took ...Read More