Finally Traveling to Cuba
In college, I was required to log so many hours in the Spanish language lab as part of my minor requirement. We could watch videos, listen to music, do assignments—whatever, as long as it was in Spanish. It was there that I was first introduced to the Buena Vista Social Club, and as I saw a woman singing lamentations and love songs as she walked down the street to mesmerized and romanticized fans (some of whom would often sing along with her), I pictured myself walking right alongside her, touring the time-capsuled streets of 1950s Cuba in present day.
The Buena Vista Social Club and my slow acquisition of Spanish were the first impetuses of travel that I really had. I wanted to go to Cuba, I wanted to speak in this new language that I was learning, and I wanted to see this group of musicians and dance to their music. (I hadn’t yet realized that about half of the musicians had since passed.) Unfortunately, traveling to Cuba was not an option in 2009, so I went to Spain instead.
I wanted to revel in its untouched authenticity, sit outside at a traditional Cuban restaurant before the English menus went up and the prices got high, and just watch the people go by.
From then on, I became a traveler, and I couldn’t get enough of it. When President Obama recently announced that he would be re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba and travelers all over the internet started twittering about the possibilities, I jumped on board immediately. I, too, wanted to visit Cuba as soon as possible! I wanted to revel in its untouched authenticity, sit outside at a traditional Cuban restaurant before the English menus went up and the prices got high, and just watch the people go by.
Still, it wasn’t as simple as buying a ticket. Consumer travel is not going to get you to Cuba: you need a real reason for being there.
I started looking around for some options, and I found a great guided trip through Altruvistas and ArtCorps. As I looked into it, I started realizing that this was exactly what I was looking for, what I had always hoped to get from a trip to Cuba.
ArtCorps is a nonprofit that focuses on the development of creative thinking, leadership skills, and artistic facilitation in leaders and educators. In partnering with Altruvistas, a travel company that focuses on philanthropy and sustainable travel, ArtCorps is offering “Culture for Arts and Social Change in Cuba.” Nine days in Havana, focusing on Cuban culture and art, with a packed itinerary that includes amazing Cuban thinkers, creators, and philanthropists. Music, theater, poetry, storytelling, all in the vibrant capital. I was hooked.
“Learn about the national identity,” the tour promised. My mind recognized keywords as my eyes scanned the page: interactions with Cuban artists; writing, architecture, photography, and music; salsa dance lessons, music concerts, cultural ceremonies, and theater; pricing includes… accommodations… airfare… meals… qualified trip leaders. “I’m listening,” I giddily whispered aloud to nobody.
I started daydreaming about the expeditions offered: drinks at jazz cafes, briefings by Cuban architects, visits to museums, lunch at 18th-century fortresses, and endless opportunities to make a positive impact as a traveler and not merely a consumer abroad. It’s not just a long field trip to art museums; the trip implements daily opportunities to take part in creative activities as a way to explore our personal and social identities “as a lens to view and understand our experience.” All of these experiences are divided up to focus on not only individual empowerment, but on community development and systemic change as well.
I started daydreaming about the expeditions offered: drinks at jazz cafes, briefings by Cuban architects, visits to museums, lunch at 18th-century fortresses, and endless opportunities to make a positive impact as a traveler and not merely a consumer abroad.
It would satisfy the hungriest of travelers, even those with an undeniable craving for Cuba. I’m thinking I need to get there, now.
If you’re interested as well, the trip will be taking place from February 11-19, 2016. Space is limited to 24 people, so if you’re even thinking about going, I would suggest reading more about it so you can make a decision before spots fill up. Check out the flyer for the complete itinerary.
See you in Cuba!
Thanks to Art Corps.