After breakfast, we are all eager to get out and explore old Havana, founded in 1514, with a rich (and more recent) history known to varying degrees by all, and now designated as a UNESCO old Heritage site. An interesting “social experiment” notes a guide, having been a colonial country for 50 years, and then a booming capitalist country for 50 years, and for the most recent 50 years, one of the last remaining communist countries in the world.
We divide into three groups to explore this fascinating capital. The withdrawal of Soviet bloc support in the early 1990’s was economically devastating for Cuba, and many turned to “urban farming” to sustain themselves. One group explores the effects of this “Special Period”, the consequent food shortages, and the creative farming solutions. A second group visits the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes and then visits the studio of local artist Jose Fuster. Art and culture are well supported in Cuba. Our last group spends an hour walking the old city, and then takes the ferry to the island of Regla, a suburb of Havana, and the center of the Santeria Religion in the area.
From Wikipedia: Santería is a system of beliefs that merges the Yoruba religion (which was brought to the New World by enslaved West Africans sent to the Caribbean to work on sugar plantations) with Roman Catholic and Native American traditions. These Africans carried with them various religious customs, including a trance for communicating with their ancestors and deities, animal sacrifice and sacred drumming and dance. In Cuba, this religious tradition evolved into what we now recognize as Santería. Fascinating.
Tired, we all return to the hotel to prepare for our festive farewell reception, which turns out to be a The World Less Traveled Social Club, complete with live music, dancers, and Amadito “Golden Sticks” Valdes, percussionist, from the actual Buena Vista Social Club. Tremendous.
The evening winds down with thank you’s from our tour leaders, gifts for our faculty (and the doctor ; ), and slow realization that our grand adventure is coming to an end. What a wonderful adventure it has been!