Editor’s Note: Herald-Whig Reporter Edward Husar will have a wrap-up of the group’s trip to Cuba in the
Thursday, Dec. 26, Saturday, Dec. 28, edition of The Herald-Whig. Also, mark your calendars for a live web chat with the students, staff and faculty from 11:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. Monday, Jan. 13, on this blog. You can send questions for the group in advance to firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Jen Roberts
We have mixed emotions of returning home.
As much as we all wanted to get back to our families and normal lives, we couldn’t help but feel sad about leaving the Cuban lifestyle. We wondered how we were going to adjust to not having a live band play music for us at every meal, and how odd it was going to be to not greet every one with “Hola, mi amigo!”
Sure, we are going to miss the warm weather and beautiful landscapes, but most of all we were going to miss the hospitality of the people, their music and food.
Contrary to what most Americans think, for the most part, Cuba welcomed us with open arms. When we would tell someone that we were from America, most times we were welcomed with a big smile and a sense that they were so happy to see us embracing them. Prior to us leaving America, some people said we wouldn’t get to see the real Cuba, but they were wrong.
As in any city, a guided tour is not going to take its visitors into the bad areas of town or show them the worst of the city. I do not see why anyone would think Cuba would be any different. Every evening we were left to explore on our own, and we walked through the not-so-pretty areas, sang and danced with the Cuban people and experienced their lives in their own environment.
I, however, did experience the government’s complete control when they blocked me from using the Internet for four days.
I was told it was because the Internet was not working, but I could see all other hotel guests, foreign and Cuban, having online access. In Cuba, the government owns the access to the Internet, and monitors its use closely. It was pretty clear that I was in contact with an American media site. I guess they considered this overstepping my boundaries, and they decided to intervene.
Cuba is a socialist society, but the Cuban people have more individual freedoms than they once did. We were told that restrictions are not as tight under Raul Castro’s regime as they had been in the decades under Fidel Castro. We were surprised to see that artists are free to express themselves through their artwork, and through that we were able to see the Cuban people’s frustration with their country’s past. In most situations when I asked Cubans about America, they were positive and hopeful that we may be on a path to developing a relationship.
We can’t help but worry, however, that American influence on Cuba may not be beneficial to its culture. I couldn’t imagine chain restaurants and stores on every corner. Cuban people would benefit economically from repairing our relations, but I promise Americans would be the ones to truly be enriched.
Here are some more photos from the trip: