Organic Farm Tour
I’m Mariah Berchulski, a senior neuroscience major with a minor in applied mathematics. I had the amazing opportunity of traveling to Cuba for UNE’s Citizenship travel course. During the fall semester, our class met once a month. During that time, we learned about Cuba, prepared for our trip, and got to know each other, but we became a tight-knit group over our week-long journey through the amazing country of Cuba. From horseback riding on an organic farm to exploring the cities of Havana, Cienfuegos, and Viñales, the trip was an amazing experience.
Old Havana Art for Sale
We were able to take a walking tour through Old Havana and see the numerous plazas while also exploring the many side streets. Everywhere we looked, there was something to admire — from the historic architecture spanning decades of styles to the classic cars driving around on the streets. To top it all off, there were countless little shops selling local artwork, much of which was strewn along the sidewalks and hung in shop entryways. The sight of all of the vibrant colors enhances the beauty of an already gorgeous city and gave us plenty of opportunities for buying fun gifts and souvenirs.
Revolution Street Art
It seemed like there was an abundance of public art or murals everywhere we went in Cuba. Every mural had a purpose or a message. “Por Siempre Revolución” means “revolution forever,” although the focal point of the artwork is the numerous flowers made out of gears. Each of these flowers/gears displays careers that were important to the revolution. The center flower/gear shows the logo for the committees for the defense of the revolution, which is a series of local organizations said to be the eyes and ears of the revolution as they worked to promote its success and protect against sabotage.
Cienfuegos Rooftop Bar View
Our second night in Cuba was spent in Cienfuegos, a port city on the southern coast. We spent time exploring the city on our own — meeting locals, visiting the docks, and perusing the local markets. We even had the opportunity to meet a local guild of artists and discuss what it’s like to be an artist in Cuba today. Later in the afternoon, we saw a local band perform and danced the night away until returning to the rooftop bar of our hotel, which overlooks the city’s central square, Parque José Martí.
Pick Your Taxi
When we ventured into the center of town in Viñales, we were surrounded by colorful, colonial-era buildings, friendly dogs, classic cars, and numerous horse-drawn carriages. Seeing the juxtaposition of a horse-drawn carriage next to a classic car (which are both used as taxis in the area) was a perfect representation of the local culture. Some might say it’s a view of a country stuck in the past, but, in reality, Cuba is a country that utilizes all of its resources in the best way it can. This pattern was one that we noted throughout the country as we explored.
Overlooking Viñales Valley
Throughout our trip, the natural beauty of Cuba never ceased to impress. The third city we spent time in was Viñales, a primarily farm-oriented city in the center of the country. Here is the gorgeous view of Viñales Valley from the balconies of our hotel. A tobacco-drying building can be seen in the distance along with a farmhouse. While in Viñales, we visited a tobacco farm where we learned how tobacco is dried and how to roll cigars. We also enjoyed a delicious dinner of numerous traditional dishes from the local area.
Also while in Viñales, we visited Indian Cave, a series of caverns and caves with a river running through it. To enter the caves, we walked up a path made of many stairs that is built into the rock. Once inside, we admired the numerous stalactites, stalagmites, and other rock formations while we walked through to the river. Once there, we got on a small boat that took us back out of the cave. Coming to the end of the cave, we saw natural light streaming in through the vines that covered the opening in the mountain. It was a picturesque, otherworldly view.
Viñales Town Square Church
While in Viñales, we explored the town square and surrounding area. The main square has a beautiful church, a dance studio, and numerous shops and restaurants. We spent some time exploring the city and made friends with the local stray dogs that then followed us around for the day.
Bonus content: Video
A Taste of Cuba
In January 2020, participants in UNE’s fourth-year Global Citizenship seminar went on a class trip to Cuba. As they traveled around Havana and across the countryside, they kept a video record of their journey.
Video by Angela Coulombe