Map of Cuba

I have just returned from a trip to Cuba- a wonderful experience.

On October 17, 2016, President Obama announced that Cuba and the United States were formally reestablishing diplomatic ties with the opening of embassies in each other’s capitals. This agreement is the most sweeping change in U.S. policy toward Cuba since President John F. Kennedy proclaimed an embargo on trade between the two countries in February 1962.

Tourists from Europe, Canada, and other countries have been visiting Cuba for the past 50 years. Now that travel to Cuba is available to Americans, I wanted to see for myself what this island nations was like.

I flew from Atlanta to Havana where I joined others aboard the Celestyal Crystal which would serve as my floating hotel for the next seven days. This ship has a capacity of 960 passengers but there were significantly fewer than that since this is the low season for tourism. Havana is the only Cuban harbor that can accommodate larger ocean going cruise ships that carry thousands of folks. However, on our smaller ship we were able to dock in three cities in Cuba in addition to Montego Bay, Jamaica.

One of the ship’s publications described Cuba as “a continuing education. Just when you think you have figured it out, it confounds you with another brow-beating riddle…Twenty-first century Cuba promises to be like no other place you have ever visited: culturally rich, visibly mildewed, architecturally magnificent, infuriating, and at the same time uplifting.”

Havana- Christ Statue

 

We toured the old city of Havana, visited the stunningly beautiful National Theater, and stood before the huge statue of Jesus standing high above the city providing a wonderful panoramic view of the harbor and the city. The Spanish influence can be seen in the historic castles, fortresses, cathedrals, mansions, and public buildings of the capitol city. And, of course, the classic American cars were everywhere.

Havana- Old Cars

The coastal city of Cienfuegos, in the middle of the island, is known to Cubans as the “Pearl of the South.” Near the entrance to the bay stands the imposing fortress Castillo de Jagua, built in 1745 to protect the city against pirate attacks and the main square is stunning.

Cuba- Cienfuego

Our third Cuban port was the city of Santiago de Cuba on the eastern end of the island. The Cuban Revolution began here on July 26, 1953 with an ill-prepared armed attack on the Moncada Barracks by a small contingent of rebels led by Fidel Castro. A visit to the fortress Castillo del Morro and the National Cemetery where Fidel Castro’s Ashes are interred served as bookends to Cuba’s history.

Cuba- Castros Tomb.JPG

In addition to enjoying the beauty and history of Cuba we had the opportunity to meet the people. I found them to be friendly, welcoming, and hopeful. We visited an artist’s workshop, a community project, and five churches.

Cuba- artist

My visit to this fascinating, perplexing, paradoxical nation was so enjoyable but I need another visit to fully enjoy the beauty and culture of the country, the food, and the music. So I am planning to make another visit to Cuba in October. You are welcome to join me. If you would like more information, contact me, jjenkins1943@gmail.com

Cuba- Music and Culture

Jamie Jenkins

Advertisements