“We the People…”

20 Apr
Peg, Paula, and Paula might help you get to Cuba one day.

If you’re lucky, one day you may travel to Cuba with Peg, Paula, and Paula.

Our final video edition of El Diario de Cuba – available via this link - introduces the people from the United States, South America, and Africa, who traveled with us and took back so many shared memories, insights, and smiles.

The Brazilian Ambassador to Cuba and his wife also joined in the fun of our program.

The Brazilian Ambassador to Cuba and his wife also joined in the fun of our program.

In that sense, the “People to People” design of our program – a rare cooperative effort between the U.S. and Cuban governments – worked flawlessly.

We’ve joined the ranks of those who can see a future of renewed friendship between Cuba and the United States, and root for it to come soon.

Even giggling goddesses stopped by to visit our group.

Even giggling goddesses stopped by to visit our group.

For a week, we were two dozen U.S., South American, and African citizens meeting hundreds of Cuban people throughout their beautiful country, where they live, work, and play. We had a fantastic time with all of them, and learned things that can only  be learned with our own eyes, ears, and hearts.

All of us can honestly say, if you ever get a chance to visit Cuba…go!

Learning about Cuba and its history is equal parts of fun and insight.

Learning about Cuba and its history is equal parts of fun and insight.

“Havana will always be a Cuban city, not simply a city in Cuba.”

8 Apr
El Morro is an impressive part of the Havana cityscape.

El Morro is an impressive part of the Havana cityscape.

Miguel Coyula, Cuban architect and urban planner, was our first lecturer at the Hotel Nacional in Havana. He talked of the great traditions that have been preserved in Cuba’s cities, and of the importance of maintaining the best of those values as the country changes. It may not be possible to “save” all the Colonial buildings in Old Havana. But it is important to respect the city’s five hundred years of urban history. How Cuban cities modernize will be a fascinating story.

The streets of Cienfuegos are as relaxed as they are colorful.

The streets of Cienfuegos are as relaxed as they are colorful.

Speaking of which, here’s a link to another modern video edition of El Diario de Cuba, taking viewers on a tour of the four cities we visited during our week on the island: Cienfuegos, Trinidad, Santa Clara, and Havana. Each has its own history, personality, and charm.

The markets in Trinidad are full of interesting people.

The markets in Trinidad are full of interesting people.

“It’s preferable to invite Cuba than to exclude it.”

3 Apr
The people and families of Cuba always made us feel welcome.

The people and families of Cuba always made us feel welcome.

Rafael Caldera, President of Venezuela from 1969 to 1974 and again from 1994 until 1999, might have been inspired by the Cuban people’s enduring nature when he said this. Everywhere we went on our “People to People” program, we were invited inside – from the Cubans’ schools to their social clubs, their markets, and of course, their homes.

This video edition of El Diario de Cuba takes us to places that come alive every day with music, laughter, and love. Click here to see what Cuban people and families share with each other – and, for eight great days, shared with us.

Even revolutionaries know where to get the freshest meats and vegetables.

Even revolutionaries know where to get the freshest meats and vegetables.

“The Cold War is over. No one needs to change Cuba. Cuba is changing on its own.”

28 Mar

Carlos Alzugaray, former Cuban Ambassador to the European Union, told this to us in the first of three morning lectures Road Scholar arranged at Havana’s Hotel Nacional. Each day, we saw first-hand how right he was. The effects of the Cuban Embargo can still be seen on the streets of Cuba, in its cars, and in its architecture, but change is coming at a rapid pace.

Why is this car smiling?

Why is this car smiling?

The cars are doing quite well, thank you. Restored to near-showroom quality, these 60-year-old children of Detroit have found new life as taxi cabs. You can take one on a guided tour of Havana, Cienfuegos, or any other Cuban city.

Cuba's buildings are stately, but need repair.

Cuba’s buildings are stately, but many need repair.

The buildings are another story. Spanish colonial facades are crumbling almost beyond repair. Havana’s “modern” buildings, built from 1900 through 1958, are all aging at once. Architects, government officials, and Cuba’s new property owners face unimaginable challenges in the future.

Click here for another video edition of El Diario de Cuba, this one featuring the stylish automobiles and unique architecture that make the country’s streets so special.

The streets of Trinidad, a colonial gem on the Caribbean Coast.

The streets of Trinidad, a colonial gem on the Caribbean Coast.

“The Roots of Cuban Music are in my Head”-Compay Segundo

22 Mar
Entering a Cuban arts school is great for both students and visitors.

Entering a Cuban arts school is a delight for students and visitors alike.

The great Cuban trovador and bandleader said this when he was rediscovered as part of the Buena Vista Social Club in the late 1990s. We learned how true this statement is for all Cubans during our week traveling with Road Scholar’s “Cuba Today” program. Today’s edition of El Diario de Cuba is in video format, to do justice to the many singers, dancers, actors, and musicians we met along the way.

Click here to bring the roots of Cuban music into your own head.

Readers can look forward to another print edition of El Diario soon.

Readers can look forward to another print edition of El Diario soon.

“To health, wealth, and love…and the time to enjoy them.”

19 Mar
El Morro has guarded Havana Harbor since 1589

The Fortress of El Morro has guarded Havana Harbor since 1589

Cuba has some of the best-looking traffic jams anywhere.

Cuba has some of the best-looking traffic jams anywhere.

Cuba. It’s an island nation of 11 million. 3 million of them live in the magical city of Havana. Since 1492, Cuba has endured the presence of Spaniards with their religion, Americans with our business, Russians with their ideology, and even Venezuelans with their oil. They fully intend to outlast us all with their culture, music, and wit.

Dancing is a nightly affair everywhere in Cuba.

Dancing is a nightly occasion everywhere in Cuba.

For eight days, K&M Productions visited a neighbor that for fifty years has been hidden behind a curtain – first a shocking local outpost of global iron; and then, part of a stage of our own making. Today, it’s worn threadbare by families and friends with more important ties.

"Under the Shade of the Wing," Children's Theater, Santa Clara

“Under the Shade of a Wing,” Children’s Theater, Santa Clara

From Cienfuegos to Trinidad, Santa Clara, Havana, and Managua, our time in Cuba was timeless, but it was rooted in world events. The day we arrived, a national day of mourning for Hugo Chavez silenced music across the entire island – an unprecedented event for a nation in love with song.

The Cubans have a casual relationship with their church.

The Cubans have a casual relationship with their church.

Then their baseball team suffered a shocking loss in the World Baseball Classic – to the Netherlands, of all countries – which may have been more serious. When Pope Francis was elected in Rome, a collective Cuban yawn taught us how different the country is from what we imagined.

Schoolchildren mug for the camera in Havana.

Schoolchildren mug for the camera in Havana.

Through it all, we were captivated by an island whose history we thought was measured in decades. Now we know it is counted in centuries. Everyone has a point of view – maybe even more than one – opinions rooted in ideas from a richly shared education. Every day, we met Cubans. And every day, we were reminded of how smart they are.

A street musician in Trinidad. Virtually all the music in Cuba is live.

A Trinidad street musician. Nearly all Cuban music is live.

You can’t leave this country without sincere respect for what the Cuban people have accomplished on this special island, or without hope for what they’ll contribute in years to come. But enough of these lofty ideals – we’ll also remember great times sharing Cuba’s arts, food, drink, music, and dancing.

Forty-six years after his death, Che is still everywhere.

Forty-six years after his death, Che is still everywhere.

The future may be a cosmic mystery, but not necessarily for the Cubans. What will happen when Fidel dies? The correct answer is that there will be a funeral. Beyond, there’s a wink, and the ironic optimism of people who have seen much, but are determined to make their own history.

Jose Marti, the father of Latin America, might have been thinking of Cuba when he said, “Charm is a product of the unexpected.”

The Cuban Capitol Building is a copy of its Washington counterpart, but six feet taller.

The Cuban Capitol Building is a copy of its Washington counterpart, only six feet taller.

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