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Travel Program

Cuban Discovery: A People-to-People Educational Exchange

March 14-22, 2015

View a Google Earth Virtual Tour of the itinerary.


Cuba: Historically rich, culturally diverse, environmentally magnificent. For decades, the Caribbean’s largest island—roughly 90 miles away from U.S. soil—has been but a mystery, perceived through secondhand sources and beyond the grasp of most American travelers.

Now that People-to-People exchanges are possible, we invite you to embark on a captivating journey that reveals Cuba’s complex history and culture. This trip is specially designed to broaden your understanding of this nation of stark contradictions molded by a turbulent past. Time seems to stand still as you watch vintage 1950s-era automobiles roll along cobbled streets past beautifully preserved Spanish colonial buildings. As the hub for economic and political heritage, Havana presents an ideal setting to interact with local citizens and uncover new perspectives. You will gain insight into the country’s thriving arts community through discussions with independent artists and visits to performing arts schools and studios. You’ll also journey beyond the spirited capital to fertile tobacco and sugar cane fields that permeate the countryside, revealing a glimpse into rural Cuban life. Along the southern coastline, you’ll visit the beautifully preserved colonial cities of Trinidad and Cienfuegos—both UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

This exclusive opportunity to explore Cuba is organized and operated by Go Next, Inc., which holds a People-to-People license from the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), authorizing registered travelers on this educational exchange program to visit Cuba. Go Next invites you to personally experience the people, culture, landscape, and architecture of this distinct Caribbean nation on a week-long journey developed for alumni and parents of Hamilton College and those of our travel partner, Connecticut College. 

With an intimate group of just 25 travelers, you will share enriching activities that illuminate the realities of Cuban citizens, providing an ideal gateway into their daily lives. Through informative and educational People-to-People exchanges, you will uncover Cuba’s lush beauty, paradoxes and remarkable intrigue on this unforgettable adventure. Don’t miss this unique opportunity to unravel the mysteries of a fascinating country through its most candid, inspiring source—its people.

Our featured faculty member, Carl A. Rubino, is Winslow Professor of Classics at Hamilton College. A long-time devotee of Cuban history and culture, he has visited the island five times to speak and give workshops on the problem of time and the impact of the theory of evolution upon ethics. He is Vice President of a non-profit association supporting research in Cuba which funds workshops there, sponsors visits to the U.S. by Cuban scholars, and purchases scholarly and scientific books for use in Cuba.

Professor Rubino has published and lectured extensively on classics, comparative literature, literary theory, and issues in science and the humanities. His work in Cuba has led to a number of publications, including a coedited book, Emergence, Complexity, and Self-Organization: Precursors and Prototypes (2008, paperback 2010), and “The Consolations of Uncertainty: Time, Change, and Complexity,” a chapter in Reframing Complexity: Perspectives from the North and South (2007).

  • Take a walking tour of Old Havana, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, filled with timeless Spanish colonial buildings, churches and palm-fringed plazas.
  • Connect with faculty at the University of Havana*, Cuba’s oldest university and one of the first established in the Americas, and discuss the Cuban higher-education system.
  • Tour the former residence of the Governors of Havana (Palacio de los Capitanes Generales), a Cuban Baroque mansion and museum which showcases colonial-era art and artifacts.
  • Gain insight into Cuba’s film industry and culture at the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry, created in 1959 to improve the quality of Cuban films—focusing on education and artistic expression.
  • Visit the District of Alamar, a 1970s social housing project of Soviet-style concrete apartments—that today is home to thousands of Cubans.
    – Chat with locals about organic farming at Organopónico Vivero Alamar, one of Havana’s largest and most successful cooperative urban gardens.
  • See how art can transform a neighborhood at Muraleando, a vibrant community outreach project founded by local residents.
  • Travel south of Havana to Las Terrazas, a self-sustaining community and UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, surrounded by lush, forested hills.
    – Get a rare glimpse into rural Cuba’s medical services at a local clinic.
    – Sample coffee at Café Maria, where the owner and her family welcome visitors and explain the role of coffee in Cuba’s culture.
    – Learn about independent artist Lester Campa’s unique paper recycling process at his private studio.
  • Visit the home of renowned ceramicist and painter, José Rodríguez Fuster, known as the “Picasso of the Caribbean.” See how his creative vision has transformed the local neighborhood into a colorful, artistic landscape.
  • Interact with children at a primary school* and engage with administrators and teachers to discuss the challenges and opportunities of Cuba’s educational system.
  • See the fishing village of Cojimar, the setting for Ernest Hemingway’s book The Old Man and the Sea, and visit Finca Vigía, the mansion where he lived from 1939-1960.
  • Meet with independent Cuban booksellers at a used book market and learn about the culture and impact of literature on society.
  • At dinners held in privately-owned restaurants or private homes known as paladares, hear first-hand from the owners about the entrepreneurial climate in Cuba.

  • Admire the colonial architecture of Cienfuegos, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the “Pearl of the South,” and see the Punta Gorda Peninsula.
  • Meet with a local choir or visit an art school and discuss the role of art and music in Cuban society.

  • Take in the charms of Trinidad, a Spanish colonial town and UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Learn about traditional ceramic techniques at the Casa del Alfarero, a pottery house founded and operated by the Santander family for generations.
  • Visit the beautifully restored 18th-century Hacienda de Manaca Iznaga, located in the Valley de los Ingenios, once a center for sugar production, and see its exhibition of plantation life in the days of slavery.
  • Tour a bed and breakfast where you will learn about this new entrepreneurial opportunity for Cubans, a business typically operated by the state.
  • Join a Santeria practioner at the Templo de Yemaya, and delve into the history and basic principles of this Afro-Cuban religion.
  • Enjoy dinner in a private home (paladar), where you can meet with a multigenerational family and experience a bit of local daily life.

  • See the picturesque town of Sancti Spiritus, home to Cuba’s oldest church and one of the original seven Cuban cities founded by the Spanish.
  • Visit a ration store where the store manager will explain rationing, the two currency system and the difference between Ration Stores, Cuban Peso Stores and CUC stores.
  • Witness how a variety of produce, meat and local products are displayed and sold with visits to an outdoor food market and industrial goods market.

  • Enjoy dance, theater and music performances by the students at the Santa Clara Music and Performing Arts School, and hear how the performing arts have influenced Cuban life.
  • Stop at the Museum and Mausoleum of Che Guevara (time permitting).

View the travel brochure for additional details and make your reservation today!

For more information, contact our travel partner, Go Next, at 800-842-9023.

Questions? Please call Claudette Ferrone, associate director of college advancement events, at 315-859-4019 or cferrone@hamilton.edu.