Discovering Cuba with Lauder

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By: Katie Littlefield (Lauder Chinese track ’14)

Buenos dias! Over spring break, eleven Lauder students (8 first-years and 3 second-years from several tracks) traveled with two Lauder Spanish language faculty to Cuba for an 8-day tour of the country. The Lauder Institute arranged educational visas, so we were able to enter the country directly (and legally!) via a Miami charter flight. As a U.S. citizen, I didn’t imagine having a Cuban stamp in my passport, but Lauder has made it possible!

cuba3Our trip featured visits with Cuban artists, historians, diplomats and students, and also included visits with American journalist Marc Frank and a U.S. foreign service officer at the American Foreign Interests Section, a diplomatic mission that operates out of the Swiss Embassy.

In addition to exploring historic and more modern corners of Havana, we traveled to Vinales Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in western Cuba known for its rolling limestone karst landscape and tobacco agriculture. While there, we discussed tobacco cultivation with local farmers (pictured above) and enjoyed an afternoon at a nearby beach, Cayo Jutia (pictured below, photos courtesy of Daniela Toleva, Spanish track ’15).

This trip served two purposes: a political and economic discovery for all Lauder students and a language immersion trip for the Spanish track. Language immersion (often known as mini-immersion) happens each spring semester, often with a half-day language activity in Philadelphia or New York. However, some tracks offer more comprehensive immersion options. In addition to this week-long Cuba immersion option for Spanish track, the French track sometimes travels to Quebec for a weekend activity.cuba4

I came away from my week in Cuba with a deeper appreciation for Cuban culture and a more nuanced understanding of the political and economic implications of the United States’ continued embargo policies. For more details on our takeaways, see Lauder ’15 student Roberto Blum’s post from earlier this week.

As a souvenir from our trip, here is a clip of Frank Delgado performing trova, a guitar-based genre of Cuban folk music. Enjoy!