Experience Cuba: Howard University’s First Cultural Excursion To Havana

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In collaboration with Spanish and Journalism department, Howard University hosted its first semesterly cultural excursion entitled ‘Spanish for the News Media’ to Havana, Cuba during December 13-18.

The five-day expedition explored various aspects of the communist country in order to provide an opportunity for students to delve into the language, culture, and history of Havana in addition to sharpening journalistic skills by documenting every experience.

Anthony Brown, a junior at Howard, agreed.

“Being exposed and surrounded by the language enabled me to grasp it better,” Brown said. “Reading signs, conversing with people and reading menus in restaurants helps like nothing other. Journalistically, experiencing a new place and trying to consider how it from an unbiased perspective improved my ability to see things clearly.”

This was expounded upon by a surprise visit by Professor Max Barbosa, a communications professor at The University of Havana who discussed in English while students asked in Spanish the difference between the social, political, and economic issues blacks endure in the United States and Cuba. Due to Cuban Revolution led by Fidel Castro, blacks are viewed as equal- a complete contrast to the reality of many African Americans.

Two weeks since the death of Castro, all around Havana were signs and images immortalizing his death despite his desire not to be immortalized via statues and images. Castro’s death sparked an array of tourists visiting the Plaza de la Revolución for its cultural significance.

Plaza de la Revolucion. Courtesy of Daja Henry.

Howard student Francisco Joseph recounted his visit:

“I think the overall aspect for Cuba’s history really showed. The monuments weren’t erected for the people but were their to signify what they meant to the people. I think the perspective is often skewed of people thinking Cubans are glorifying their leaders, but it just is not true.”

Further historical visits included El Morro Castle, a fortress guarding the entrance to Havana Bay and Finca Vigia, home of Ernest Hemingway.

Howard student Adore Bagasao reminisced:

“The Hemingway house was breathtaking! When touring the house, we were able to see Hemingway’s typewriter, hunting trophies, graves of his dogs, boats, and the bathroom wall on which he wrote down his weight. The house almost seems frozen in time in which you can gain an insight in Hemingway’s life in Cuba. Even for those who aren’t Hemingway enthusiasts, the house has so much to offer. On the way out, we stopped at a stand for sugar cane cocktails which was one of the best drinks I had at Cuba.”

“I felt like the fortress was really inspiring to see,” Alexander Jeffrey, a sophomore at the black university, said. “It was a reminder of how their are grander things in life and even in history, It made me more appreciative of the country as a whole and their progression to where they are now. Seeing the fort reminds me that there is history behind these long standing sites and that we should sometimes stop and think”, reminisced sophomore Alexander Jeffery.

“Seeing the fort reminds me that there is [a lot of] history behind these long standing sites and that we should sometimes stop and think,” he added.

Upon meeting a group of Spelman students and Florida A&M University mathematics professor, Adam Bailey, Cuba appears to be the hot spot for cultural immersion and educational opportunities.

Howard senior Monesha Woods mentioned:

“Experiencing Cuba firsthand was a truly eye-opening experience. Not only was I able to learn so much about the culture there, but I also gained a whole new perspective on the Cuban way of living, much of which challenged my previous knowledge of the country. I left with a whole new understanding of their government and appreciation for their lifestyle.”

As the eighteen Howard students that attended reflect back on their journey to the once banned country, plans are already underway for the spring.