La Cultura de Cuba

La Cultura de Cuba

A specially planned cultural exploration for high school students.


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This is literally history in the making with what’s happening in Cuba right now, making this an even more exciting destination for high school students than ever before. Cuba is rightly famed for being the most musical nation on the planet. The decaying neo classical buildings and vintage American cars make Havana a constant joy to explore on foot. The fact is – Havana is the safest city in the Caribbean and South America. What’s not to like?  And the best way to travel to Cuba right now is on the People-To-People Exchange visa with GeoVisions.

No one knows where all of this change will take Cuba in the longer term but for now it means there are new, but limited ways to travel to Cuba from the US to interact with the locals.  GeoVisions has a limited amount of spots for high school students wanting to visit Cuba this summer.  There are Spanish language classes each day you will need to take. And we are providing dance classes to better enjoy your evenings out and to have contact with the locals.  The dance lessons are provided from Cuban dance instructors and you would be surprised how many locals take part.

In Cuba you just have to quickly learn to “go with the flow.”  This program is open to high school students with a genuine interest in exploring Cuba through the People-to-People general license from the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the U.S. Department of the Treasury.  Any high school student finishing 9th through 12th grades may apply.  Spanish language experience is helpful, but not required.

Travel To Cuba

In its day Havana was one of the most important and wealthy cities on the planet. The source of this wealth is undoubtedly controversial and Cuba’s more recent history is testament to this controversy. The faded patina of Havana’s gorgeous neo classical architecture, rumble of classic American cars and curious soviet era high rise buildings force you to question – what is Cuba?

We would like to help you answer this question through a series of cultural excursions and encounters with Cuban people. These will be varied and will include a guided tour of a museum, a weekend excursion down ‘Paseo del Prado’ to see the free open air art classes and discussion groups, and sporting events such as baseball or basket ball games with local kids.

These cultural experiences and excursions are with our trained local guides who will show you how Cuban’s live, and the day to day issues that contrast so much with our own lives.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Your pre-departure in New York allows you to meet the group of students and leaders before you depart for Cuba.
  • Take 3 Spanish language lessons each week, taught by Cuban teachers.
  • Take walking tours of Old Havana and have the opportunity to explore
  • The Plaza de la Revolucion
    • Museo Nacional de Belle Artes
    • Museo del al Revolucion
    • Castilla de la Real Fuerza
    • The Bellamar Caves
    • El Malecon
  • Learn to dance the Salsa, Son, Rueda de Casino, Mambo, Cha Cha Cha, Rumba. These lessons are held weekly.  See why Havana is like no other city in the world.
  • Take a cooking lesson on how to cook a traditional Cuban meal.
  • Spend time in one of the oldest boxing clubs in Havana.
  • Play baseball alongside local Cuban teens and utilize your Spanish (and batting skills).
  • There are weekend trips to Vinales and Trinidad.
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  • GeoVisions students choose one sustainable project to pursue throughout the three weeks of the program.  During the week, each of these small, field-based project groups meet daily.

    Outside of your project meetings, a wide range of activities and excursions are available, allowing you to better know Cuba and benefit from the knowledge and experience of your leadership team.  The list of walking tours, dance classes, language classes and weekend trips seem to be never ending.

    If you are the kind of person who wants to improve a second language (or learn one) and enjoys exchanging unique cultures with people from other countries and is driven to find a solution to a sustainable project to leave a positive impression on the people of Cuba … you’ve come to the right place.

  • After 21 days, when you return to your home, you will have learned about the creative contributions made by Cuban artists, dancers and writers, both globally and locally. You will have been able to discuss the history and evolution of U.S. relations with Cuba over the past century and how the people of each country have been affected.  And you will gain an understanding of the impact felt by the local workforce from Cuba’s economic reforms toward free enterprise.

    Along with all of that, you will have had hours of Spanish language taught by Cuban language instructors, experienced a great deal of Cuba, and spent countless hours with the Cuban people.  In short, you will be uniquely ready and prepared for your next experiences upon returning home.

  • YES! Bring a friend or a few friends! This program is even more fun when you’re traveling with a friend. (And you’ll meet new friends while you’re there!)
  • 21 days
  • $4,999 all inclusive of round trip air from New York, accommodation, 3 daily meals and excursions in the detailed itinerary.
  • Included in this fee:

    • Round trip airfare from New York to Havana and return.
    • Health and accident insurance while on the program.
    • 3 meals daily each day during the program.
    • In-country staff and a teacher leader for every 10 students.
    • Teacher leaders will meet the group in NYC and remain with them during the entire program.
    • Accommodation throughout the program, including orientation in New York.
    • All local transport, as needed.  (Havana is a “walking” city.)
    • Airport transfers in Cuba.
    • All scheduled projects, activities and entrance fees.

    GoAbroad.com once wrote this about GeoVisions:  “GeoVisions’ programs range from the traditional experiential programs abroad to some of the most unique and enticing programs listed on GoAbroad.com.”  Our programs literally are the most unique you can find anywhere.  The descriptions on this program page are based on our experiences in Cuba for the last several years.  Because things change all over the world, it is inevitable that some details described here will not happen exactly as presented.  GeoVisions participants are encouraged from the beginning to use flexibility and patience when this happens.  Much of how you respond to unforeseen changes will be how you are equipped to take advantage of surprise opportunities from these changes.  During these times we need you to step up.

    There is nothing more important on this program than your safety. That’s why we have a highly structured program, curfews and GeoVisions prohibits the use of alcohol, drugs and tobacco on this program.  Not only do we expect you to behave in a mature way at all times, we expect you to be the ideal guest of the Cuban people.

Language • Spanish is the official language of Cuba.

Cuisine • Cuba’s cuisine is based on rice, beans, plantains, fish, and pork. Many meals are taken inpaladares, independent government-sanctioned house-restaurants. Vegetarian options are widely available.

Currency • Cuba has two currencies, the Cuban convertible peso and the Cuban peso. The Cuban peso is also known as moneda nacional and is only used by Cubans.

Climate • Cuba has a tropical climate with two seasons: wet and dry. We visit during the wet season, when rain showers are common, but not a daily occurrence. It is hot during the day — in the 80s and 90s most days — so the occasional rain shower is welcome!

Visa • Students who are U.S. citizens will travel under the People-to-People general license, approved by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), U.S. Department of the Treasury.

U.S. citizens must also obtain a tourist visa to enter Cuba. Since a valid passport is a part of the visa application, it is important to obtain your passport well in advance of departure. GeoVisions provides detailed information about how to apply for a visa. Non-U.S. citizens must check local visa requirements, including requirements for countries passed through in transit.


Itinerary

Day 1:  Arrive in New York City for orientation.  Transfer to your hotel near JFK airport.  You will join the entire group and your group leaders and have a formal orientation.  Dinner is provided.

Day 2:  This morning transfer to the airport for your flight to Cuba. Upon arrival in Havana you will be met by your Cuban program manager who will facilitate your exploration of the country’s culture and people. Today’s walking tour will familiarize you with your new surroundings (including location of services such as telephone, internet and banking/money change) and to make sure you are able to navigate this maze of streets that make up Habana Vieja.

Later after checking into the Casa, you’ll enjoy a welcome dinner at one of our favorite local restaurants.

Week 1 (Days 3-7):

Start each weekday with Spanish lessons.  After an assessment on your level of Spanish, you’ll be placed in a beginner, intermediate or advanced group.  Three lessons each morning (45 minutes each) with a 15 minute break in between.  (See details of dance lessons below.)

Get on the dance floor!  You’re in Cuba and it’s time to learn to dance! Twice this week you will rumba with Cuban dance lessons at a local studio. Cha, cha, cha. (See details of dance lessons below.)

Old Havana can best be explored by walking in, around, and through it!  At least twice this week, there will be walking tours of Havana’s lush gardens, art scenes, museums, parks and plazas.  Learn first hand about culture, politics, history from your tour guide and have the opportunity to talk with the locals.  These are not walking tours like your parents take you on! (See details of tours below.)

Boxing is Cuba’s second favorite sport (ok, baseball is the first). Visit the oldest Boxing club in Havana one afternoon.  You’ve been invited to a watch a training session there.  You’ll also have the opportunity to meet a two time olympic Gold medalist boxing champ, Hector Vincen.   This gym is hidden right near the Casa you will be staying.

Cuba is an island, so that means lots of beaches!  Directly east of the city, on the other side of the harbor, lie mile after mile of pristine beaches known as Playas del Este. Journey time is 30 minutes by bus. Enjoy the exhilarating waves that break on these pristine sandy beaches.

Weekend 1 (Days 7-9):

The first weekend will feature a two-night trip to Viñales, a three hour drive to the central western region of Cuba. Viñales is a UNESCO World Heritage destination owing to the outstanding landscape, traditional architecture and agricultural techniques still used.  The village of Viñales still remains in its original set up and character.

The trip will include a horse ride into the valley to drying houses where you can learn about the art of curing tobacco and rolling cigars, and an early morning hike to view a spectacular sunrise. Get a glimpse of the live for the people in Viñales.

Week 2 (Days 10-14):

Continue each weekday with your Spanish lessons. You’ll have more and more opportunities to “test” your skills with locals this week. (See details of language lessons below.)

Another week in Cuba… another few days of new dance lessons! (See details of dance lessons below.)

There are places to see, plazas to explore, historical places to visit.  This week may be the visit to the Catherdal or hear some of the exciting music of Cuba.  (See details of tours below.)

Cooking class.  If you’re in Cuba, eating Cuban food, you’ll want to learn how a meal is made.  Early one day, the group will work to prepare a traditional Cuban meal.  Many Cuban meals cook throughout the day and then are ready to eat at dinner.  Guess what dinner is tonight?

Baseball:  The number one favorite sport in Cuba.  Most Cubans have a passion for baseball!  You get the opportunity to play baseball with local kids one afternoon.  Use your growing Spanish language and hang out together.

Who wouldn’t want an afternoon at the beach?

Weekend 2 (Days 14-16):

Weekend in Punta Perdiz/Playa Giron

Playa Giron is world renowned because of the ‘Bay of Pigs’ invasion in April 1961 that led to the first US military defeat in Latin America. It is in the heart of the Zapata Swamp, the largest wetlands of the Caribbean islands and one of many UNESCO World Heritage sites in Cuba. There is an abundance of plant, bird and other wildlife, many of them endemic to the area.

With our expert guide, you’ll find out more about this unique habitat and its history. Visit Laguna del Tesoro (‘Treasure Lake’), Hatiguanico River basin, Montemar Great National Park, Playa Giron Museum, a crocodile farm and some of the best beaches in the Caribbean!

Week 3 (Days 17-21):

Last week of Spanish lessons each morning. Here’s the chance to gain that last bit of language this trip. (See details of language lessons below.)

Use these dance lessons to finesse your Cuban dance abilities. (See details of dance lessons below.)

So much to still explore and visit in Old Havana this week.  You won’t tour the same thing again. (See details of tours below.)

Boxing, baseball…now it’s an afternoon of basketball with local teens. These are some of the best ways to use and improve your Spanish skills while having fun with locals.

One more day at the beach?  Sounds perfect!

Day 22:

Depart to the Havana airport for your return to the US.

SPANISH LESSONS 

Each morning Monday to Friday from 09:00-11:45 you will receive intensive structured Spanish lessons (each lesson is followed by a 15 minute break). Classes are delivered by accredited and licensed Cuban teachers. On the first morning there will be a short test to establish your level and requirements – we cater to beginner, intermediate and advanced. For beginners we will focus on language that you can use during interactions with local kids during intercambio (exchange) sessions such as sports and volunteering activities.

WALKING TOURS

Walking tours will include Havana’s lush gardens, parks, and plazas. We will visit the Plaza de la Revolucion , the epicenter of Cuban politics and home to Havana’s rallies, protest, and public gatherings. Stand on the ground where millions of Cubans have gathered to listen to the speeches of Fidel Castro under towering portraits of national revolutionary heroes Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos. Take a rest in the lush  Diana Garden, one of Havana’s few non­communist memorial site, dedicated to Princess Diana of Wales. Stop at the famous and historic Colon Cemetery , considered to be one of the most ornate cemeteries in the world and the final resting place of many famous and influential Cubans. Learn about the history of the city and the Cuban Revolution as well as the current political situation from your guide, an expert in Cuban culture, politics, and history, and by stopping to talk with locals.

We will also take a walk through Havana’s vibrant arts scene. Visit some of the many galleries and exhibition halls that make this one of the most important cultural areas in the world. Visit the  Workshops and Galleries above La Mina Restaurant  and see photographs of Authentic Cuba by local artists at Cuba’s  Phototheque. At each stop have the chance to talk with hosts and curators about Cuban art culture and its place in Cuban society. 

Walking tours by type, may include:

1) Gardens and Parks: This tour takes you to many of the open spaces of the old part of the city, including: Luz y Caballero Plaza, Hans Christian Anderson Ecological Park, Central Plaza, Fraternity Plaza, Simon Bolivar Plaza, Ruminahui Plaza, Diana’s Garden and Mother Theresa de Calcutta’s Garden.

2) Art Galleries: Visit some of the many galleries and exhibition halls that make this one of the most important cultural areas in the world, including: Workshops and Galleries above La Mina Restaurant, Oswaldo Guayasamin Gallery, Carmen Montilla Gallery, Cuba’s Phototheque, Wilfredo Lam Contemporary Art Center, Habana Factory.

 4) Museums:  The city and country are a museums gallore, these are to name a few that you can visit in Old Havana: San Salvador de la Punta Castle and Museum, Museum of the Revolution, Memorial Granma, National Museums of fine arts, Jose Marti’s birth place Museum, Museum of Colonial art, Museum of the City.

5) Music: Visit  some of the classic theaters and concert halls of Old Havana: San Felipe Neri Oratorio, Grand Theater of Havana, Amplitheater of the Historic Center, Lesser Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, San Francisco de Paula Church. 

6) Canon Shot, Fortress of San Carlos de la Cabana: Every night of the year,  a well dressed platoon of Colonial soldiers emerge from the past to fire a canon shot over Havana Vieja. This is to signal to the town that the gate to the harbor has been drawn and that all are safe within. We cross the bay by colonial barge and walk via Che’s first post revolution residence and on up to the Fort, in time for the 9pm spectacle. 

DANCE CLASSES

These will take place at a professional dance school – Casa Del Son – 5 minutes walk from our Casa. The school is vibrant and exciting with Cuban and international students all looking to improve their salsa, and learn other dances such as Son, Rueda de Casino, Mambo, Cha Cha Cha, and Rumba. Its important to pay attention because later in during the program we will be hosting a Salsa party at Casa Jakera with prizes for the dancers (and forfeits for those who do less well!).


  • July 1 arrive in New York. July 2 flight to Havana. Return to New York on Saturday, July 22.

  • Each weekday morning, Spanish lessons are provided from 9 am until noon.  After lunch, the activities include:  dance lessons, visits to local historic spots, walking tours and learn the insider information, sports with local teens, visits to the beach, etc.

  • In New York, the group will have an orientation with the GeoVisions group leader.  In Havana, there will be an orientation on Day 2 with our Cuban staff.

  • The group will be led in English.

  • Spanish lessons are provided each weekday, with an opportunity to use Spanish throughout the program.

  • 15-17 years of age.  You must be finishing grades 9, 10, 11, or 12.

  • New York for departure.  Havana, Cuba is the main location for this program with weekend trips to Vinales and Punta Perdiz/Playa Giron.

  • Group flights from New York, round trip, included in the price of the program.

  • Your continued good health and safety during your time abroad is of critical importance to GeoVisions, and to the success of the program.

    GeoVisions has arranged accident and health insurance services for the duration of your program.  You will be sent details of the plan appropriate to you before departure.  Please read the information about the plan carefully.

    GeoVisions takes your health very seriously. We have specially trained staff on duty 24 hours a day, 7-days a week to assist you wherever you are.

  • Included to and from the airport.

  • All local transportation is included. Plus, Havana is a safe “walking” city.

  • Havana has a unique distinction, being the safest city in the Caribbean and Latin America generally. There are a number of reasons for this, but what it means for the curious traveller is that you will be able to enjoy unprecedented access to local people as you wander around the ‘barrio’ that makes up Havana Vieja.

    You will be staying in ‘Casa Jakera’, a licensed Casa Particulare, sharing a dorm room with fellow students. Breakfast and lunch are served here and this will be the hub of program activities, including Spanish lessons, group discussions, planning meetings and social gatherings.

    Casa Jakera was opened at the end of 2015 and features shared bedrooms, separate shower and toilet facilities, dining rooms and lots of comfortable indoor and outdoor space (including spacious roof terrace). As with most of Havana you will enjoy taking in the atmosphere in this central location which is truly unique.

    GeoVisions accommodations are located in convenient areas for the program content and provides a great positive group environment and safe interaction with locals.

  • Breakfast, lunch and dinner are included each day.

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