Join us for a gay tour that blends together the sophistication, heritage and promise of Cuba’s capital with three days of exploring smaller towns that are rarely visited by foreigners. On this trip we will have a special emphasis on the arts of Cuba, and the role of the LGBT community.
After five decades during which Florida Straits have served as a wall instead of a water bridge, the recent announcements by the Presidents of Cuba and the United States herald the start of rapid changes to daily life in Cuba. At this momentous time we invite you to join us for a People-to-People exchange with leaders of social change in Cuba and some of the country’s most creative artists.
• Tour the studios and galleries of artists working in Havana
• Explore the gay gathering places in Havana
• Visit the city and country residences of Ernest Hemingway
• Dine in critically acclaimed restaurants and paladares
• Learn more about the roles and rights of LGBT Cubans
• Tour fascinating historic colonial and revolutionary landmarks of this island nation
• Travel to the less-visited colonial cities of Cienfuegos and Trinidad and small agricultural communities along the way
Day 1 -
Plan your flight to arrive in Havana this morning, in time for a lovely group luncheon. When dining together, we’ll discover unexpected cuisine at some of Havana’s top-rated private restaurants (paladares).
After lunch, we’ll visit the community art project of Muraleando. Artists, musicians and dancers have turned this once neglected neighborhood into one of the city’s centers of self-expression. Hear the stories of the project from community leaders and local residents.
After settling in, you will have time to exchange currency at the hotel. Later we’ll go as a group to a charming, privately-owned restaurant nearby.
Day 2 -
Each morning during our time together in Cuba, we will have breakfast at the hotel before meeting in the lobby around 9 am to embark on our historical, arts and studio tours.
This morning enjoy a presentation from a representative of the City Historian’s Office of Havana. We will learn about the city’s accomplishments and the ongoing challenges in restoring Havana. With this meaningful perspective, we will explore Old Havana, founded in 1519, on a walking tour through the city’s historic squares. We will see examples of the city’s colonial architecture and meet with some of Havana’s cuentapropistas (independent business owners).
Our lunch today will be at a popular paladar, located near Cathedral Plaza.
After lunch, we will continue our exploration of Old Havana, stopping at a graphics workshop cooperative and an architectural restoration training facility, where workers are learning how to bring run-down buildings back to their original glory.
We will end the afternoon at Hotel Ambos Mundos, which was home to author Ernest Hemingway for seven years. For those who wish, visit room 511, which now serves as a small museum to Hemingway. A bit later, join the rest of the group at the hotel’s rooftop for a cocktail and share stories of the day.
After returning to our hotel for a chance to rest and freshen up, we’ll depart for a delicious dinner in Old Havana. For those who desire a later night out, we’ll catch some live music at Café Taberna.
Day 3 -
This morning we will visit the National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX). The center’s mission is to contribute to “the development of a culture of sexuality that is full, pleasurable and responsible, as well as to promote the full exercise of sexual rights.”
A special highlight of the day (schedules permitting) will be to meet CENESEX’s Director and LGBT rights activist Mariela Castro Espin. She is the daughter of President Raul Castro, and uses her powerful name to advocate for LGBT Cubans, especially those with HIV and AIDS. In 2008, she also ensured that Cuba’s national health system will provide medical care and legal assistance for trans-gendered Cubans who wish to change gender.
We’ll have lunch together then visit the University of Havana for an enlightening discussion with students and staff. This afternoon we will also visit KCHO, a self-supported, non-profit art studio, gallery and cultural center.
After returning to the hotel, the evening will be at leisure. We will provide suggestions for nearby restaurants and activities.
Day 4 -
Today we will leave Havana and journey to Cienfuegos, a city with a rich history of mixed French and Spanish Colonial influences.
Following lunch toegether, we’ll embark on a walking tour of Cienfuegos to learn about the French-styled architecture. We’ll have the chance to shop at some local stores and learn about Cuba’s double currency system. Tonight we’ll enjoy dinner together and a performance of the Choir of Cienfuegos, an internationally acclaimed vocal group.
Day 5 -
This morning we depart for a day trip along the Caribbean coast to Trinidad, a colonial city colored in pastels! We’ll meet with a representative of the Office of the City Historian to hear about the city’s designation as a UNESCO World Heritage site and its modern challenges.
Our walking tour will take us down cobblestoned streets and past Colonial Spanish buildings to meet artisans, antiques collectors, and longtime residents who have transformed their historic homes into casas particulares.
We’ll return to Cienfuegos this afternoon for an evening at leisure.
Day 6 -
Today is our last full day in Cienfuegos, and we’ll visit a former sugar mill complex that closed in 2002, impacting the town’s economy and people. We’ll meet teacher and local historian Nancy Robaina, who will inform us about the community’s transformation and how it copes in the aftermath of the mill’s closure.
We’ll stroll the grounds of the Cienfuegos Botanical Garden, once a Harvard-funded research garden for sugar cane, now an extraordinary collection of tropical specimens. A botany expert will talk about Cuba’s efforts to maintain the rich biodiversity of its extraordinary plant life.
After lunch, we’ll visit the Benny Moré Art School, where gifted students from throughout the province take classes in music, dance, and the visual arts. We’ll have time to relax a bit before dinner together tonight.
Day 7 -
Today we’ll journey north toward Havana, with a stop along the way to visit the historic Bay of Pigs. Trace the dramatic events of the bay’s recent past and step foot on the Playa Girón, one of the two landing sites for the 1961 U.S.-backed Bay of Pigs invasion.
After lunch together, we will visit Finca Vigia, the Cuban home of Ernest Hemingway, elements of which will feel familiar to anyone who has visited The Hemingway House in Key West, Florida.
Late this afternoon we arrive back in Havana and will have the evening to explore the neighborhood around our hotel and dine independently.
Day 8 -
This morning we will meet with the members of “Proyecto Palomas” a community project aimed at providing happiness for all Cubans. We’ll listen to the stories of the LGBT youth community and the project’s goal of empowerment through art and dance.
We’ll visit the Museum of Decorative Arts, located within a beautifully restored mansion in the once-prominent neighborhood of Vedado. The former residence of Maria Luisa Gomez Mena, the Countess of Revilla de Camargo, now houses an extensive collection of highly artistic and historic pieces from Europe and Asia.
After lunch on the famed Malecon, meet with a panel of Cuban experts from various backgrounds for a question-and-answer session to discuss such topics as economic reform and women’s and minority rights.
This evening’s cozy farewell dinner will be at a special location where we can savor our memories of our time in our neighbor to the south. Those with energy left over will be able to head out on the town for the last night in Havana.
Day 9 -
We will depart Havana today, and say goodbye to this charming, hospitable, and surprising country.