Cuba is officially open to American tourists for the first time in over 50 years, and a self-declared people-to-people exchange* itinerary is your excuse to go! We are pleased to feature highlights from guest blogger, Maggie Archbold's itinerary to Cuba and her perspectives on this colorful Caribbean nation in transition.
In 10 days, we traveled from Havana, to Viñales, to Trinidad, and back. Our people to people itinerary included comfortable homestays in casa particulares; mouthwatering meals at family-run paladars; and fascinating visits to community projects and sites that spotlighted artists and artisans, engaged with local religious and cultural traditions, and revealed socio-economic systems that are utterly unique to this communist country.
Our homestay was in Habana Vieja, the dynamic ‘Old Havana’—a hub for tourist activity crowded with national museums, souvenir shops, and sites to see. From our base, it was easy to access the working-class neighborhood of Habana Centro (Lonely Planet tells you that this is where you can glimpse the ‘real Cuba’), the more urban Vedado (location of the famous Hotel Nacional, lively jazz clubs, and Anthony Bourdain’s favorite paladar), and the upscale neighborhood of Miramar (with expansive embassies and military compounds, and some truly memorable rooftop bars).
Los Pocitos Community Project
We also ventured further into the city to the district of Marianao, where we visited professor Michél Santor, who teaches at the University of Havana. Michél gave us a tour of Los Pocitos: an ‘unofficial neighborhood that serves as the center of the Abakúa fraternal society. Los Pocitos is unique for its active expressions of Afro-Cuban identities but, due in part to contentious religious practices, the community is largely not recognized by the national government. While rich in culture, the people of Los Pocitos are poor and many rely on an informal economy to subsist. Michel and his colleagues have committed to a participatory development project in Los Pocitos in order to help the community build more secure livelihoods by drawing on their strengths. For voluntourists who can commit to at least a week of work, this is an excellent opportunity to contribute to a well-conceived sustainable development project. (See Global Family Travels exciting new trip to Cuba, which includes a visit and workshop with Los Pocitos, and many more community projects like it!)