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Cuba - Contradictions, Creativity, Comparisons: A Journey of Racial and Gendered Self Reflection

Cuba Alt Break

The Program:

The social justice focus of the program will emphasize intersectional racism, with a focus on gender, sexuality, class and religion. We hope to analyze Cuban society through these different lenses, while reflecting on American society and comparing systems of racism within the U.S. and Cuba. Learning about afrocubanism, the history of the socialist revolution in Cuba, and its ties to US race relations and civil rights movements, we will explore these intersections with other identity topics including gender and sexuality and their creative expression. Finally, by using Cuba as a mirror for the US experience, we will consider our own privileges and oppression within Cuba's complicated context.

Engagement Itinerary:*

Monday, May 15
Arrive to Havana
Check-in at bed and breakfasts, known as “casas particulares,” or “private homes.”
Discussion with Tomasito Fernandez, author of El Negro en Cuba: Colonia, República y Revolución, Welcome dinner at the home and studio of a family  artists, at the AltaMira art loft.

Tuesday, May 16

9 am Discussion with urban planner Miguel Coyula

11 am Walking tour of the Old City. Wander through the Plaza Vieja. See the Plaza de San Francisco. Visit Plaza de la Catedral and the Catedral de San Cristóbal de La Habana. Visit the Plaza de Armas.

1 pm Lunch as a group in Old Havana.

3 pm Visit to La Casa de África for a tour of the museum and discussion with scholars about the slave trade

5 pm Spend the afternoon in Regla. A ferry ride across Havana Bay, Regla is a working-class, Afro-Cuban community with a thriving local culture. Meet with Magia López and Alexey Rodriguez of the hip- hop/jazz duo Obsesión about their experiences and views on race and gender equality in Cuba.

7 pm Dinner with Regla community members at the home of Alexey Rodriquez.

Wednesday, May 17
10 am Discussion with Roberto Zurbano, from La Casa de Las Américas, regarding race relations in Cuba.
11:30 am Discussion with Las Krudas, a female hip hop group, and tour of their neighborhood. Discussion would focus on the black experience in Cuba as well.
1 pm Lunch with Las Krudas and community members. 2pm Discussion with Eduardo Roca, better known as “Choco,” one of Cuba’s most prestigious Afro-Cuban painters, whose art focuses on important social issues.
4 pm Meet with Barrio Habana, a nonprofit organization that leads a community sports-arts program in Old Havana for children, at-risk youth and elderly people.
7 pm Dinner with Barrio Habana community activists and program participants.

Thursday, May 18

9 am Visit the National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX). CENESEX has made headlines on and off the island for its innovative work in LGBT rights and success in keeping HIV- infection rates low.
11 am Visit to the studio of painter Michel Mirabal for a discussion of his work and community programs.
1 pm BBQ at the home of Michel Mirabal.
3 pm Rumba classes with a local instructor. 6 pm Join the members of the Alta Mira co-op for an art workshop with community members.
7:30 pm Dinner at the AltaMira loft.
10 pm Visit La Fábrica de Arte Cubana for live music and art.

Friday, May 19

9:30 am Visit to the Museo Yoruba de Cuba, in Old Havana. This museum is dedicated to santería and features music and art that has influenced the contemporary Cuban society.

11:30 am Lunch in China Town with historian Maria Teresa Montes de Oca, a specialist on the Chinese community in Cuba. Will give participants a chance to understand the history of another minority group in Cuba, and see Cuba’s diverse ethnic make up.

2 pm Tour of the historic art deco Barcardí building, the former home of the rum company and at one point the largest building in the city, which has become a sort of coworker space. We will visit with young Cubans who have launched tech start-ups on the island.

4 pm Enjoy a performance by Habana Compás Dance

7 pm Dinner at the home of Magia Lopez, Obsesión group member, with members of the local community.

Saturday, May 20
10 am Discussion with Marta Nuñez, Cuban sociologist, about the Cuban education system and her experiences.
12:30 pm Lunch at La Roca Restaurant
2 pm Visit to the Patronato de la Casa de la Comunidad Hebrea. We will meet with Adela Dworkin, an active leader within the Jewish community

4 pm Meeting at the Archdiocese of Havana for a conversation with Orlando Márquez, church spokesman, to discuss the changing role of the Catholic Church in Cuban society, economic reform and current events.
7 pm Dinner at the residence. 8:30 pm Discussion with members of the LGBT community, followed by a tour of notable LGBT institutions including Las Vegas Cabaret and Fashion Bar.

Sunday, May 21
Free Morning
12 pm Lunch at Paladar Atelier with Cuban cuentapropistas for a discussion about their private businesses in Cuba.
2:30 pm Visit Callejón de Hamel, a neighborhood that has been converted into a cultural center, rich in Afro-Cuban religion, art and dance. Scholar Elias Assef will provide an overview of Santeria and other Cuban religions with African origins. Participate in the weekly Rumba which takes place every Sunday in this neighborhood.
6:30 pm Dinner in small groups with project partners Obsesion, AltaMira and Barrio Habana.
9 pm Visit to El Sauce a popular site among the Cuban community where a local DJ plays a live show every Sunday night

Monday, May 22
Morning Check out of casas particulares and depart for the airport.
TBD Depart Havana (pending flight information).


Quick Facts



Meet Your Student Leaders!

Elena Thorpe is a sophomore majoring in Public Health at American University. She traveled to Cuba with AU in 2016, and is excited to be able to lead this program. She's passionate about analyzing and dismantling perceptions of race and privilege, and is confident this program will be an educational and formative opportunity do just that.

Sophia Celeste Vos is a sophomore in the School of International Service. Her concentrations of study are in Justice, Ethics, and Human Right, and Latin America. She is enthusiastic about leading an Alternative Break to Cuba in order to facilitate critical dialogues for participants, learn from community partners, and expand her worldview.