November 3, 2015

Cuba Vacation All Inclusive Cuba

Written by Sophia Bass 

I lived in Florida for nearly 5 years and was introduced to the Cubano sandwich in 2008. Since, it has been one of favorite sandwiches of all time. Melted cheese, ham, roasted pork, pickles, mustard, caramelized onions that melt in your mouth on toasted bread… I had never had such a delicious sandwich. After traveling around the US, I have noticed the Cubano to be popular among foodies like myself from Portland, Oregon to Miami, Florida.

While it’s called the “Cuban” sandwich after immigrants who settled in Ybor City, Tampa who influenced the sandwich, the ingredients highlight the flavors of southern Italian and German communities who also migrated there.

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Mustard was a condiment that was favored by the Germans, while salami was added by the Italians, giving it exquisite flavor and taste. It’s important to note that Salami is not favored in Miami, but mainly to those in Tampa and other restaurants that prefer the Italian style.

The Cuban sandwich has become so popular around the world that it has spread from Belfast, Ireland to Seoul, Korea. There is even an annual Cuban Sandwich Festival in Ybor City that attracts cooks from around the United States.

Although the official Cubano sandwich did not originate in Cuba, it’s diverse history will introduce you to the flavors of Cuban cuisine.

If you want to travel to Cuba in 2018, check out our website for trip dates and itineraries. 

 

 

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Written by Sophia Bass 

When thinking of Cuba, breathtaking beaches, elaborate Afro-Cuban dancing, and Spanish music usually come to mind. Folks who have not been to Cuba don’t usually think of it being known for it’s gorgeous mountainous region. When I traveled to Cuba last summer, I was in awe of the Escambray Mountains that begin before entering the old Spanish colonial town of Trinidad.

The countryside of the valley that lies at the foot of the Escrambray Mountains is breathtaking. Guava, orange, and lemon trees grow throughout the region, colorfully painting the grassy area with pungent colors. Cuban farmers live scattered throughout the valley growing coffee in the region. I learned that Cuba is known for it’s arabica coffee beans, currently popular among the global coffee industry, so it’s a great destination if you’re a coffee lover.

I remember we stopped on the side of the road to acquire some mangos during our taxi ride to Trinidad. We were surrounded by the lush tropical mountains that are home to waterfalls and streams that flow into the Caribbean ocean.

For those traveling to Cuba interested in outdoor adventures, hiking, and ecology, the Troppes de Collantes offers a change of scenery. The nature reserve is well known for its hiking, jungle landscape, abundance of waterfalls, coffee plantations, and rests in a cooler climate than the rest of Cuba.

If you are interested in traveling to Cuba, check out our website for trip dates and itineraries. 

Written by Sophia Bass 

After the revolution in the 1950s, Cuba became somewhat of a mystery to the outside world. As someone who studied in Florida and lived in Ecuador during graduate school, I desired to travel to Spanish speaking countries where I could practice my knowledge of the language and immerse myself in the culture. Cuba had always attracted my attention.

While living in St. Petersburg, Florida for four years, I was accustomed to cuban food, cerdo (pork), arroz (rice), and frijoles (beans) for lunch. My favorite restaurant in town served the most delicious cubano and coffee. The aromas of the food and friendliness of the people continued to spike my interest in traveling to Cuba in the near future.

I knew that understanding Cuba in 2017 would require seeing it through the eyes of the younger generation. Architects, dancers, musicians, and artists are paving the way for a more expressive and individualistic Cuba for the first time in decades.

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It is brilliant to speak with younger folks in Cuba who are so open to change. Younger men and women in Cuba hope for a future where their families can own businesses, create restaurants, and manage artisan shops without resorting to the black market.

I think Cuba is attractive to young travelers from the United States because so many of us grew up around Latino culture. If you’re from Texas, you are accustomed to Mexican cuisine. If you are from Miami, you are probably familiar with music from Old Havana. If you are from Los Angeles, you may have grown up with Columbian and Guatemalan neighbors. Latino culture is present throughout our daily life as United States citizens. Cuba being just 90 miles from the Florida coast is our neighbor we have always wanted to explore.

If you’re interested in traveling to Cuba this winter or spring, check our website for trip dates and itineraries. 

Written by Sophia Bass

Traveling to Cuba in 2017 was an experience I will never forget. As a musician who was born and raised listening to the sounds of Latin beats and Spanish melodies, I was in awe of the talent of the Cuban people.

Cuba is an artist’s dream to say the least. The diverse flavors and colors stemming from African and Spanish cultures create complex artwork and music that has become known to countries around the world. In Cuba, Spanish-European and African communities live peacefully among each other writing powerful music and painting beautiful masterpieces that highlight the hardships of the Cuban people.

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After visiting Trinidad, Cuba, I was so inspired by the vibrant colorful colonial homes that I decided to paint my impression of the town. The cobblestone streets and brilliant sunsets portray the feeling of Trinidad at dusk. I can only imagine the inspiration artists have gained from this colorful colonial town over the last few centuries.

Walking around the old Spanish colonial town of Trinidad or Old Havana, you can find yourself immersed in local galleries exploring sculpture, paintings, and handmade instruments. On every corner, you may find joy in local music. The Cuban people take pride in singing and will serenade folks from sunrise to sunset.

If you’re interested in Cuba Travel in 2018, check out our website for trip dates and itineraries. 

 

On Thursday, Cuba announced that Raul Castro will remain in power two months longer than expected. He is expected to stay in power due to the impact of Hurricane Irma in September delaying the political cycle. Many Cubans expect Vice President Miguel Diaz Canel, 57, to replace Castro’s policies.

For more information, read the article in TIME, Raul Castro 

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For more info on Cuba travel, check our website for trip dates and itineraries. 

Written by Sophia Bass

When I first traveled to Cuba, I thought I would stay in the Havana region and explore Cuba’s rich music and art scene. I wanted to immerse myself in the history of the Revolution. I knew Havana had a lot to offer, but I also wanted to see other parts of the country as my boyfriend and I only had 10 days on the island. My friend had recently been to Cuba and insisted that we visit Trinidad. She said it was her favorite part of the island and it was well worth the four hour taxi ride from Havana.

It was Tuesday morning and we decided to depart from Plaza de San Francisco in Old Havana and catch a ride to Trinidad. We piled into an old VW with a young German couple who was nearly our age, and began on our journey. Through the windows of the car we passed farms, plantations, fruit trees, and small villages as we approached the Escambray Mountains.

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Upon arriving to Trinidad, I felt like I had gone back in time to the 1500’s. Cobblestone streets, Spanish style architecture, old wooden doorways, and men riding donkeys as their means of transportation made up the fabric of everyday life in Trinidad. Founded by Spanish conquerer Diego Velazquez in 1514, Trinidad became a major trading center on the Caribbean Island by the 17th century. Becoming one of the largest sugar trading industries in the region, thousands of African Slaves were imported to work in the sugar trade industry. Due to the cities’ isolated location, the culture of Trinidad has been preserved for centuries attracting visitors from all regions of the world.

As my boyfriend and I set out to view the city, we were fascinated by the food in the region and how it differed from cuisine in Havana. Fried malanga served with honey was common in Trinidad as it was brought over by Africans during the slave trade era. While you could find malanga in Havana, it was more common in Trinidad and extremely delicious.

If you’re more interested in seeing art, there are galleries and artisan shops on nearly every street corner in Trinidad. Here, you can find Afro-Cuban art from pottery to paintings around the Plaza Mayor. In the evening, you can enjoy a cocktail, listen to Spanish guitar, and roam the streets for late night entertainment.

If you’re thinking of traveling to Cuba in 2018, I highly recommend choosing one of our trips that features Trinidad. 

Fore more information, check out our trip dates at www.solturatravel.com 

 

 

Santiago de Cuba

Written by Sophia Bass 

When most people think of Cuba, they think of Fidel Castro’s regime, Old Havana’s architecture, and a vibrant music scene that has been influential for decades. The city is often known as the root of the Cuban Revolution, containing museums that highlight the events of Cuba’s history. Santiago de Cuba is located on the eastern side of the island, attracting visitors from Europe to Asia.

The city is home to musicians, Compay Segundo, Saquito, and Sindo Garay are from Santiago. Carnival is known to be colorful in Santiago where the Cuban people enjoy rich cultural traditions, dances, and music during this festival.  Transformed by a mix of Afro-Caribbean heritage, the city’s blend of cultures, food, music, and art make it known as the most Caribbean city in the nation.

Casitllo de San Pedro del Morro is known as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a preserved Spanish fortress of the 17th century. Originally built to protect against pirate attacks, it is now a fortress open to the public displaying a museum while preserving the history of the area.

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Another popular attraction in the city is the Parque Cespedes, a great starting point for viewing the city. Inside you can find religious art pieces and sacred musical scores. This destination may be viewed more as a Plaza than a Park making it a perfect spot to order coffee or a cool beverage.

For those interested in Cuba’s rich cultural history, visitors can view the Macabre Museum. On July 26th, 1953 during Carnival Celebrations, rebel forces led by Fidel Castro, Raul Castro, and Che Geuvara attacked these concrete barracks to seize weapons. This attack failed, but the revolutionaries gained recognition for their efforts. This is often cited as the beginning of the Revolution.

For those traveling to Cuba, our Santiago de Cuba is worth exploring. Check out our trip dates and itineraries for excursions that take your through historical Santiago de Cuba!

 

Trip Dates Winter/Spring 2018

Special: Refer four or more friends onto the same trip, and we’ll discount their trip and yours by $100 per person. Contact us prior to booking.

Please let us know if you would prefer a tour with different travel dates, or if you would like to schedule a custom group tour.

Iconic Cuba 10 Days

Created for the traveler who wants to explore the iconic aspects of Cuba: eco-agriculture, rum, cigars, art and music. We will take your through Old Havana and walk down the famous Obispo Street, ending at La Floridita, a favorite haunt of Ernest Hemingway, and birthplace of the daquiri. We will enjoy traditional Cuban dinners at a fine dining restaurant. While in Havana, we will take a walking tour of of the old Spanish colonial city. For those who enjoy rum, we will tour a rum distillery and participate in a rum tasting. Music, art, and dance will be included during your stay in Havana, as Cuba is known for its rich music history and artists. A visit in the Tobacco growing region will also be included in Viñales.

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Heart of Cuba 10 days

We will be dining in the finest restaurants that Cuba has to offer, and we will have the opportunity to meet and connect with Cuban friends and informal cultural ambassadors. As we stroll the cobblestone streets of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Havana Vieja, we will be regaled by some amazing musicians – Cuba’s university for the arts produces world-renowned masters who earn a government salary as well as tips performing in public spaces. We will visit some of Cuba’s famous community projects, and will take in some of the island’s fine musical offerings by night. We will also visit various sites within the lush UNESCO biosphere reserve of Cienaga de Zapata, where a local biologist will demonstrate the flora and fauna that are endemic to Cuba. The winding cobblestone streets of Trinidad, a UNESCO World Heritage Site nestled in a historical sugar-growing region on the coast, will offer another side of the designs that the colonial era inspired. A historian will provide an in-depth presentation at a colonial sugar mill that is currently being restored. On our return to Havana we will be greeted with tapas on the rooftop of Cuba’s most famous restaurant, and we close our trip with a deeper look at the juxtaposition of Cuba’s visual arts and freedom of expression before we say our farewells.

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Cubita La Bella: Cross Country Excursion

Created by popular request, this itinerary is for those who have time and the desire to really experience Cuba, in all of its passion and diversity. From Santiago de Cuba through Cuba’s oldest colonial villages and breathtaking shores, we will experience the most culturally rich of all of Cuba, winding our way to Havana, “Paris of the Antilles,” with the option to continue on to the breathtaking agricultural Viñales Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We are offering this trip for a low price this first year that we are offering it.

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Trip Dates for 2018

Iconic Cuba 10 days: January 10th – January 19th, 2018

Heart of Cuba 10 days: January 24th – February 2nd, 2018 [

Heart of Cuba 10 days: February 7th – February 16th, 2018

Cubita la Bella Cross-country Excursion: February 21 – March 8th/11th, 2018

Iconic Cuba 10 days: April 4th – April 13, 2018

Heart of Cuba 10 days: April 18th – April 27th, 2018

Iconic Cuba 10 days: May 16th – May 25, 2018

Heart of Cuba 10 days: May 30th – June 6th, 2018

 

Heart of Cuba 10 days: October 31st – November 9th, 2018

Heart of Cuba 10 days: November 14th – November 23rd, 2018

Iconic Cuba 10 days: November 28th – December 7th, 2018

Heart of Cuba 10 days: November 14th – November 23rd, 2018

Tours may be arranged upon request through summer.  Contact us for details [mailto:info@solturatravel.com]

It’s an exciting time to travel to Cuba

Written by Sophia Bass 

Over the last few months, folks keep asking me, “Can you even go to Cuba anymore, is it even an option under Trump’s current policy changes?” The answer is Yes. There are still legal ways to go to Cuba despite the policy changes you might see in the media. It is an exciting time to go to Cuba, because Cuban society is changing, and for the better.

Ever since President Obama re-opened the US-Cuban relations in 2016, travelers have expressed interest in going to Cuba from learning about Havana’s rich history, to watching local street musicians perform old Spanish traditional tunes. If you go to Havana now, you will notice a vibrant music scene, cultural heritage sites, and street art that portrays the shifting political and social views since the death of Fidel Castro on November 25th, 2016. Cubans are becoming more expressive in a society that has been traditionally oppressive. Adapting to new styles of clothing, graffiti symbols, and music genres.

A Cuban rests next to a graffiti depicting Argentine-Cuban revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara, in Havana on March 31, 2017. In Raul Castro's Cuba it seems time stood still in the sixties. The reforms undertaken a decade ago changed the Cuban scenery without imposing a new rhythm on the island. / AFP PHOTO / YAMIL LAGE (Photo credit should read YAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images)

If you have an adventurous pallet for the flavors of Cuban cuisine, experience local dishes that include fried malanga, cerdo (pork), plantains, and pescado (fish). Young Cuban chefs who often travel between Miami and Havana are becoming influenced by the flavors of other cuisines in America such as Asian, Italian, and Spanish food. This is evident throughout Havana as newer restaurants are offering a variety of food on their menus which was not common 10 years ago.

For nature lovers, there is plenty to see in Cuba’s mountainous regions where you can enjoy hiking to waterfalls, horseback rides to coffee farms, and explore Peninsula de Zapata National Park.

Check out our website for info on trip dates and itineraries to Cuba this upcoming winter and spring!

 

Art and Fashion in Old Havana

Written by Sophia Bass 

Fashion and art trends are becoming more widespread throughout Cuba. When President Obama opened the doors to Cuba in 2016, floodgates of Americans began traveling to Cuba, bringing clothing styles from New York, L.A., and Miami into Havana. If you walk around the Malecon, this is evident as men, women, and children are wearing sportswear and accessory brands from international clothing companies.

When I was in Havana this summer, I asked several individuals about the shifting culture around fashion and art. Many Cubans expressed that graphic design is becoming more popular. Artists are wanting to incorporate their designs into clothing. Women throughout Havana are finding ways to intertwine their local art into products, such as handbags, jewelry, shirts, and hats.

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When walking around Old Havana on Calle Obispo, I noticed a small artisan market tucked between two old Spanish style buildings. Calle Obispo is known for its buzzing nightlife, music, art, and cuisine. Artisans sold jewelry, leather bags, handwoven baskets, shoes, and textiles. It was a great place to buy gifts for family and friends, while supporting local artists. I highly recommend walking the streets of Obispo when you are in Old Havana.

Check our website for more info on trip dates, itineraries, and destinations in Cuba. 

 

Cuba and the Cameraman

Written by Sophia Bass 

“Cuba and the Cameraman,” has been widely talked about in the last week. Alpert, a filmmaker and journalist, has been capturing Cuba’s revolution and shifting society for five decades. He developed the film by utilizing portable technology and became more sophisticated as the film progressed.

Using 15 types of cameras, he began the filming in 1972. This documentary is basically a museum of the entire evolution of electronic image-gathering,” says Alpert. As the film initially was filmed in black and white, it transitioned into color over a period of time. Alpert explains that he and his crew had difficulty filming at times because the government was suspicious of their activity.

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Alpert used a Sony color Portapak system that was so heavy in weight they had to transport it around. This attracted Fidel’s attention and led to successful documentation of the regime. This began a relationship that would continue for 40 years between Castro and the filmmaker. The film examines the hardships of three Cuban families under the Castro regime.

Cuba and the Camerman Documentary

 

 

 

 

Stepping back into the 1950’s

Written by Sophia Bass

Under decades of Fidel Castro’s reign, Cuba remained isolated from most of the outside world lacking resources, infrastructure, transportation, and overall modern comforts of life. When I first arrived to the airport in La Habana, I noticed ancient televisions, light fixtures, and old phone booths that had been installed since the 1950’s or 60’s. I was welcomed by our taxi driver who was wearing a traditional black and white suit driving a 1950’s Chevy which he had clearly maintained for decades.

As he drove us through the back roads of Havana, I felt like I had stepped back in time. Classic American vintage cars parked on every street corner, men smoking cigars from their windows, and musicians playing Spanish guitar on every street corner.

When we arrived at our homestay, we were welcomed by an 83 year old woman, Lucy, who showed us our guest room. The décor in the house was reminiscent of France and Spain as Lucy told us she traveled after University decades ago. It was evident that the design of the home had not changed in years since Cuba’s imports have been historically limited.

It was refreshing to sit around the breakfast table and have genuine conversation uninterrupted by mundane cell phone use. The Cuban people seem to be connected and present. In an era where social media consumes our daily life, it was eye-opening to witness how Cuba has been unaffected by modern technology. While Communism has prevented Cuban society from progressing, it has also contributed to the preservation of their culture.

If you’re interested in traveling to Cuba, check out our website for trip dates and itineraries.

A Memorable Meal in Cuba

Written by Sophia Bass

If you’re a seafood lover, you will be pleasantly surprised by the amount of delicious seafood Cuba has to offer. Lobster, fish, shrimp, scallops….seafood was endless on the Caribbean island. I was in awe of the complexity of flavors and spices that were incorporated into each dish which has inspired me to cook Cuban food in my home. There was one dish in particular that continues to resonate with me even months after returning to the U.S.

After four nights in Havana, I decided to travel to Playa Larga which is located on the Southern part of Cuba. Playa Larga is close to a small town, known for fishing more than anything. A typical dinner for a local family consisted of pescado (fish) , camerones (shrimp), or chicken and pork with a side of rice and portion of vegetables.

The first night, my boyfriend and I stayed in a beautiful local beach casa and were told that the best meal was three houses down from ours. A man at our hotel said we could get lobster for $10 US dollars with everything included. It sounded like an incredible deal considering this would be a $30-$40 dollar dinner in the U.S.

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We walked over the restaurant at sunset and ordered the lobster, and the dish was more in quantity than I had imagined.  A lobster tail the size of four small tails, including squash, rice, a homemade vegetable and chicken soup, and large slices of avocado and salad.

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This dish was particularly important to me while in Cuba as it portrayed how the locals in Playa Larga are eating and sourcing their food. Just an hour before we ate, the family caught the lobster we were eating in the ocean right in front of their house. Using local avocados and vegetables for the side dishes, the meal could not have been more fresh. This was my most memorable meal in Cuba.

My First Impression of Old Havana

Written by Sophia Bass

My entire life, I was told that Old Havana was known as a music mecca where musicians of all regions of Cuba come to play traditional Cuban music, Spanish serenades, with influences of African and European sounds. When I arrived to Havana in July of 2017, everything I had imagined about Cuba became a reality. The smell of Cuban cigars in alleyways, the sounds of a guitar and a clave in synchronicity, and the smell of pork being cooked over a fire. I was in heaven.

Old Havana is a magical part of the city that still remains untouched by much of outside world. I was captivated by the architecture, old neo-classical Spanish style architecture, and the quaint European Cafe’s that offered Cafe Cubano, Cuba’s signature coffee drink.

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After sipping on delicious rich Cuban coffee, I stumbled across a live Cuban four piece band that played Buena Vista Social Club classics such as Chan Chan and Dos Gardenias. Rhythms were in sync and their voices harmonized beautifully together. I could not believe that this band played on the streets of Havana seven days a week, all day everyday, catering to tourists and locals.

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As a young Jazz musician growing up in the United States, I had learned about Old Havana’s music scene and how it had influenced musicians around the world. I was told it was like the “New Orleans” of the Caribbean, and it really does feel this way from cafes to street corners.

Cuba’s diverse make up of African, Spanish, European, and Caribbean culture has allowed music to flourish and impact generations of all kinds. Music seems to be an integral part of Cuban culture. At lunch, we would stumble upon guitarists and singers who would come right up to our table and serenade us at an outdoor restaurant. Dinner’s were always accompanied by music and many bands would even take requests from dinner guests. The Cuban people sing and play music with pride as they are proud of their Cuban heritage. My first impression of Old Havana was remarkable, and I will return again in the near future.

If you’re thinking about traveling to Cuba this winter or spring, check out our personalized trips on our website: www.solturatravel.com

 

 

 

The people who read to Cuban cigar-factory workers

Written by Sophia Bass

The Economist article provides insight into the lives of Cuba’s cigar-factory workers. Lectores have been reading at cigar factories since 1865, when Nicolas Azcarate, a leader of a movement for political reform, proposed that education should be instilled in the minds of factory workers. Cigar workers began listening to texts such as “The Count of Monte Cristo,” as they were stuck in the monotony of making cigars. These texts helped factory workers to take their minds off of tedious labor while also providing workers an education. Many believe that the influence of the texts on cigar workers contributed to Cuba’s independence from Spain.

Today, nearly 200 Lectores are still in Cuba. While Cuba’s merchandise exports fell by 33% in 2016, Cigars continue to be one of the leading export industries as they rose by 5% to $445m. UNESCO is considering to designate la lectura as a form of “cultural heritage” to help keep it going throughout Cuba.

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“This is the only job in Cuba that is democratically decided,” expresses an employee. The factory workers actually get to choose the lectores. They vote on which books will be read and the audience is always demanding.

Many lectores move beyond their role and go on to become counselors or community leaders. As Cuban cigar-factory workers have found contentment in novels for decades, they value their education and wish to keep this cultural practice alive.

For more information on this article, go to http://www.economist.com/topics/cuba

 

Cuban Art Outshines Politics

Written by Sophia Bass

In New York Times article, “Cuba Art Outshines Politics,” author, Abby Ellin paints a picture of Cuba’s current political and cultural state. As politics among Cuban and American relations continue to shift between the Obama Administration and Trump Era, Cuba has become a fascinating destination for art, music, and culture. This has become evident through Museums  around the United States and Havana.

In the last year, the Bronx Museum, El Museuo Nacional de Bellas Artes, and Cuban Museum of Natural history all featured visual Cuban artists. In addition, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis attributed to the rising interest in travel to Cuba during the Obama Administration.

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Iliana Cepero, professor of Latin American Art and Cuban Culture at New York University states, “Cuba was a cultural center in Latin America from the 50’s to 80’s.” As political tension between Cuban and American relations have been present, the Cuban people have been waiting for a shift in policy for decades. As more Americans have traveled to Cuba in recent years,  professors and artists are featuring Cuban art in museums, organizations, and universities to educate the American public on Cuban society and culture.

Art shows are featuring photography, paintings, and portraits of well known performers and political figures throughout Cuba. Professor Cepero wants the exhibitions to portray a realistic image of Cuba. She states, “On the one hand, Cuba is filled with entrepreneurship, music and warm, vibrant people. On the other hand, racism, prostitution and political unrest are rampant.” Cepero wants the public to understand the hardships of the Cuban people, while also finding interest in their art and music.

For more information on this article, check out New York Times article, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/24/arts/cuba-art-politics.html

A Historical Look at Cuba’s Cuisine

 Written by Sophia Bass

Cuban cuisine has been influenced by Spanish, Aboriginal, African and Caribbean influences. Food sources mainly come from rivers, lakes, and the ocean which provide much of the culture’s protein sources. The landscape is known for rich agriculture, producing fruits, vegetables, and “casabe,” which is a grain used for bread-making.

During the Fidel Castro days, Cubans were cut off from the world and were deprived from outside food sources. A typical diet for a Cuban would often be beans, rice, and chicken or fish. Today, Cuba has access to a broader spectrum of ingredients. Modern chefs are looking towards native edibles, old traditions, and foreign influences to help re-shape Cuban cuisine.

Aboriginal influences continue to impact island dishes. Cassava, sweet potatoes, and pumpkins are just a few of the many food sources that are main staples on the island. As Cuban natives fished and hunted, everything that was found was consumed quickly because the hot climate caused food to spoil quickly.

When the Spanish arrived, they brought cattle, pigs, and chickens to the island, which became a main source of protein for Cubans. Slaveholders and colonists often feasted on pork, bananas, plantains, and okra, which came from African regions. The east of Spain brought rice to many areas of the Hispanic Caribbean. A commonly known rice dish called “congri” originally came from Haiti. There, red kidney beans are called “kongo” and rice “ri.” The name is originally Haitian Creole. Both Spanish and African influences heavily shaped the flavor of Cuban cuisine.

At the start of the 20th century, Spanish immigration heavily influenced Cuban cuisine. With mixtures of tomato sauce with spices such as oregano and cumin, Cuban cuisine adapted these flavors in their cooking and continue to use them in stews, soups, and main courses. If you travel to Cuba Today, you will experience the flavors of different regions in every dish.

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For more about the history of Cuban Cuisine…check out the article below!

Historical look at Cuba’s Cuisine

 

Buena Vista Social Club: Adios review

Written by Sophia Bass

Buena Vista Social Club has been the international face of Cuban music for decades. An ensemble of Cuban musicians established in 1996 to revive the music of pre-revolutionary Cuba, Buena Vista developed an eternal legacy. With songs like Dos Gardenias and Chan Chan, this Cuban band has inspired generations of musicians all over the world.

Documentary, Buena Vista Social Club: Adios, is being released in 2017, focusing on the Buena Vista Social Club’s phenomenon, a project that started out as an album recording tracks by aging Cuban musicians brought together by British impresario Nick Gold, produced by American musician Ry Cooder and directed by Juan de Marcos Gonzalez.

Buena Vista Social Club: Adios

Directed by Lucy Walker, this film focuses on biographical, political, and historical background of surviving band members while intertwining their interviews. Ruban Gonzalaez, Ibrahim Ferrer, and Omara Portunondo and many more are highlighted throughout the documentary.

Walker wants to portray the importance of Buena Vista Social Club’s legacy on musicians around the world. She emphasizes that these musicians voice Cuba’s social and political history.

If you want to watch the trailer to Buena Vista Social Club:Adios, click here!

Cuba’s Car Scene in 2017

Written by Sophia Bass

For decades, Cuba has been home to 1950’s American classic vintage cars. As Cuba has had restrictions on new car imports under the Castro regime, the Caribbean nation has preserved classic cars while incorporating them into their daily culture. In a country where the average Cuban makes $20 a month, a new car would not be a realistic goal for most Cubans. If you visit Cuba, you will notice a wide array of cars and colors throughout Havana, Trinidad, Santiago de Cuba, and all throughout the countryside. An estimated 60,000 pre-1959 American cars are still driving the Cuban streets. An easing of the U.S. embargo could have dramatic impacts on car-scene throughout Cuba.

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Journalist, Jonathon Harper, traveled to Cuba in recent years and noticed that the majority of cars in Cuba fit in about five categories. “Original American classics, non-originiae American classics, Russian cars and trucks, newer Chinese/Korean/Japanese vehicles, and European cars,” states Harper. As a tourist in Havana, you will see brightly colored Cadillacs, Chevys, Dodges, Buicks, and Fords that came out Detroit 50 years ago. Cubans take pride in their cars, and maintain quality care of their vehicles.

Despite recent political changes throughout Cuba, many believe that original American classics will remain part of Cuba’s automotive workforce. Cars have become such an integral part of Cuba’s identity that visitors want to see and experience Cuba’s vintage car scene.

To find out more about Cuba’s Car Scene in 2017, check out the article below

Cuba’s Car Scene in 2017

In Cuba, Sourcing Style

Written by Sophia Bass

Cuban culture is beginning to cultivate individualism after years of historical oppression. New York Times article, “In Cuba, Sourcing Style,” highlights individualism in a country that has been restrictive and regulated by communism for decades. Rose Cromwell, a photographer that has been traveling to Cuba for over 12 years, states that she senses Cuba is changing. She explains that in a country where clothing options are limited, cultivating a specific style can be challenging in Cuba. Relatives will bring back clothing from Mexico, Panama, or Miami and sell them from their homes.

Some individuals have been found to source clothing from Brazil, wearing colorful attire in Old Havana or at music festivals. Men have been found to wear funky jewelry, even if they don’t have a lot of money, they enjoy wearing jewelry that feels expressive. Men are also finding fashion in hair styles, mustaches, and eyebrows. “You definitely see a lot of self-care, and barbershops are ubiquitous in Cuba,” says Cromwell.

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As fashion trends and styles are becoming prominent throughout Cuba, artists and designers are also developing new designs and products. This rise in design and clothing making is significant as it portrays how Cubans are beginning to own small businesses. Musicians and producers are also developing small record businesses, inviting singers and rappers to record throughout Havana.

To discover more about Cuba’s shifting culture, check out New York Times article:

In Cuba, Sourcing Style

Unseen Wonders: 10 of Cuba’s best natural attractions

Written by Sophia Bass

Due to a rise in tourism in Cuba, travelers have been exploring Cuban countryside, taking hikes to waterfalls, snorkeling near remote beaches, and learning about Cuban ecology. Here’s a list of some of Cuba’s best natural attractions to visit for 2017-2018.

  1. Cayo Coco is a remote island destination. Locals call the sharp reef remnants “dog’s teeth,” and appropriate footwear is necessary for anyone who wants to hike beside the water. The island is known for bird watching, snorkel excursions, and canoe trips along mangroves.
  2. Zapata Biosphere Reserve contains one of the largest wetlands in the Caribbean. It boasts a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and is known for its citing of Cuban crocodiles.
  3. Guanahacabibes Peninsula Park lies within the Guanahacabibes Peninsula Biosphere, which was created in 1980. Known as one of the most remote places in Cuba, this park is home to deer, iguanas, and over 100 species of birds.
  4. Toppes de Collates is a protected area in the Escambray Mountains. Here, travelers can find caves, waterfalls, rivers, and wildlife.
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  5. Hanabanilla Lake was built as a reservoir during the reign of the Batista government before the communist revolution. The main attraction here is fishing and it is especially known for its largemouth Bass.
  6. Viñales is popularly known for its scenic beauty and tobacco farms. Tourists travel to this valley to see the picturesque rounded limestone rock formations called mogotes, which surround the banana and tobacco farms.
  7. Desembarco del Granma is another natural area that is known for its limestone formations. The cliffs and waterfalls here are in close proximity to the coast and offer scenic views.
  8. Las Terrazas is an eco-village in the Sierra del Rosario Biosphere Reserve that got its start during a reforestation effort in the 1960s. At that time, the new trees were planted on terraced hillsides so that they would not be swept away by rain and erosion. In addition, this area has a vibrant arts scene that is definitely worth visiting!
  9. The Soroa Orchid Garden is a 7.5-acre attraction in Sierra del Rosario, the same reserve that houses Las Terrazas. The garden features 700 different species of orchid and a host of other ornamental plants. You can visit Las Terrazas and learn how to cultivate beautiful flowers!
  10. Bocanao is a 300 square pile plot of land located near Maestra Mountain and is home to over 1,000 animals species and 1,800 plant species. It is also home to 200 Dinosaur Concrete Statues!

For more information on outdoor excursions and destinations to explore in Cuba, check out the article below:

Unseen Wonders: 10 of Cuba’s best natural attractions

Soltura Cuba Tours continue unaffected despite Trump’s policy

To Soltura Cuba Travelers,

You may have heard the news regarding Trump’s policy on Cuba. We want to assure you of what the facts are as we know them on the ground. The announcement made by the State Department should have no effect on our trip. The US media has been confusing some of the facts. For example, one media source announced that Cuba was no longer issuing tourist visas to Americans, while the truth is that the US embassy is no longer issuing visas to Cubans who wish to visit the US. This is simply because there will not be enough embassy staff to process visas for Cubans.

We want to assure you that there is no negative sentiment here toward US citizens. In fact the entire security force of Cuba has been fully cooperating with the US in the investigation into the sonic incidents that damaged a few embassy workers. Several highly regarded US scientists have concluded that it would have been impossible to have intentionally done this. It was likely faulty covert listening devices. No US tourists have been harmed. There is zero change in the laws regarding US visits to Cuba. The union of US diplomats is protesting the withdrawal of embassy workers from the US embassy in Havana.

Additionally, Cuba has been rebuilding after Hurricane Irma very quickly. The long-term damage done to Havana appears to be minimal, and mostly limited to vegetation. 99% of the electricity in the country is back up. Trinidad and Viñales we’re unaffected by the hurricane. Cuba has been rapidly rebuilding its tourism infrastructure, and is ready to receive tourists in the upcoming tourist season.

If you have any additional questions or concerns, please contact me at ian.sergeant@gmail.com. We look forward to our ongoing trips throughout Cuba. 

Sincerely,

Ian Sergeant

State Department orders nonessential diplomats and families out of Cuba following mysterious attacks

The 10 Most Beautiful Spots in Cuba

For travelers interested in going to Cuba, here are 10 beautiful places you can’t miss when visiting this historic Caribbean Island.

  1. Old Havana, also known as Habana Vieja, is an UNESCO World Heritage Site, preserving some of Cuba’s richest history. You will not be disappointed roaming Havana’s cobblestone streets, while being serenaded by street musicians of all kinds. For many, Havana is the highlight of Cuba.
  2. Baracoa, founded in 1511, is the oldest city in the Caribbean nation. With incredible views of the sea, this town is known for its breathtaking views and hike on Yunque, a mountain famous for its flat top at 589 meters high.
  3. Trinidad, a well preserved colonial town in Cuba is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Known for it’s impressive Spanish-colonial buildings, you can enjoy Playa Ancon, a beach on the southern coast, and enjoy a meal on the rooftop of a historic restaurant in the evening.
  4. Playa Paraiso, a paradise beach, is breathtaking. Located on Caya Largo del Sur, this is a great place to decompress and perfect for beach lounging.
  5. Cienfuegos is a city full of European style architecture. Often known as the Paris of Cuba, this town has French influences in its customs and style.
  6. Valle de Viñales sits in the Sirra de Los Organos mountain range. Explore limestone cliffs, traditional tobacco farms, and Cuban countryside in this beautiful UNESCO Site.
  7. Alejandro de Humboldt National Park is one of the most biologically diverse tropical island sites on the planet. Discover varied plants, specifies, and animal life at this UNESCO Site on the northern coast of eastern Cuba.
  8. Peninsula de Zapata is an UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and home to around 150 species of birds, including rare bandicoots, waterhens, parrots, and much more.
  9. Caya Coco is a rural beach famous for appearing in Hemingway’s novels, Islands in the Stream and Old Man and the Sea. Enjoy stunning views of the ocean on the Jardines del Rey archipelago island.
  10. The Malecón is a 7 kilometer walk along the sea wall that offers popular views of the sea from Havana. It’s a great place to watch Cuban dancers or listen to musicians at night.

For more info on these beautiful locations in Cuba, check out article

The 10 Most Beautiful Spots In Cuba

 

Cuban graffiti artists bring social critique to Havana’s walls

Written by Sophia Bass

A younger generation of Cuban artists are beginning to express newer social conditions through graffiti art in Havana. These works of art are touching on the shifting social and political views that are straying away from Communism. Some would say that newer demonstrations of Cuban art are symbolizing growing independence and materialism on an island that has been isolated for decades.

Graffiti began emerging under President Raul Castro in the last few years. As the Caribbean nation has slowly relaxed some of it’s communist views and become more influenced by international culture, there has been a rise in Cuban street art. 

Cuban artist, Yulier Rodriquez states, “I want to create a social conscience with my work, an awareness about what we are turning into.” His alien like creatures with malnourished limbs and heads, touch on the state of the Cuban people. 

Although Cuba has began to transform in recent years, Rodriquez expresses concern that Cuban society is going towards a time of struggle, as many Cubans are forced to turn to illegal activities on the black market to survive. 

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Rodriquez has gained inspiration from Banksy and Jean-Michel Basquiat, both British and American street artists who create their art based on the social conditions of humanity. His recent work includes a character holding Donald Trump’s head, reflecting Cubans’ anger over the U.S. President’s attitude toward recent U.S.-Cuban relations.

As Cuba has always been known for it’s artistic expression, it will be fascinating to see how graffiti artists are received by the Cuban government during shifting social and political times. 

Cuban graffiti artists bring social critique to Havana’s walls

Cuba cleans up after Hurricane Irma

Written by Ian Sergeant

More news from Cuba yesterday:

Roger Martinez was able to access the news at his grandmother’s house. Electricity, water, and internet (essential for Cuban millennials) are all being restored neighborhood by neighborhood at a faster pace than was initially expected.

Some of the damages: A few deaths have been reported, mostly from fallen debris from buildings a century or older in a couple of the more densely populated areas of the city that hadn’t been evacuated. A few neighborhoods on the outskirts of Havana set low and close to the water were prone to frequent flooding anyway, and sections were completely destroyed.

Among the destroyed zones in the suburbs was Fuster’s decades old community project, Fusterlandia (this was a section of a Havana suburb with wild structures completely covered in mosaics in the style of Gaudi).

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The architect Fuster gave a live interview on TV. He said the only thing Irma didn’t tear down was a wall where a tiled mural of a Mambí General is exhibited (these were the guerrillas who fought fiercely against Spanish colonial overlords for more than a decade to win Cuba’s independence in the late 1800’s – it’s a major part of their national identity). He went on to say, “I don’t care about Irma nor the mother of tomatoes” (according to Roger, a local saying for ‘I don’t give a hoot about it’). “I will build this up place again. I’ll make it new – BETTER, and I will leave the remains as history. Fuck Irma; we are all stronger than you!” During the interview, Roger’s grandfather was yelling at the tv, cheering Fuster on, “Yeah, hell yeah! He is right!”

 

 

 

 

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