Cuba: A Polarizing Paradise. Join us this May!
Cooper Roberts, RPCV Burkina Faso, Next Step Travel Team
Seize the opportunity to engage in historical and colorful conversations with the welcoming Cuban people on a licensed journey to the Caribbean’s vivacious and resilient pearl.
Cuba. What comes to mind when you hear that word? Classic cars and communism? Cigars and the embargo? Guantanamo and Buena Vista? There is perhaps no country in Latin America that evokes such polarizing images. So, this past December, a dozen intrepid explorers joined NPCA’s Next Step Travel program to better understand what it means to be Cuban in our current times. And they did it the way Peace Corps Volunteers know best: by getting on the ground, talking to locals, and exploring the heart of the issues.
They started their adventure by visiting Old Havana: the vibrant, cultural and historic center of the island. Led on a private walking tour by their local guide, one traveler shares, “I could listen to Dayana [the local guide] all day! She was full of important information, and lots of fun.” Throughout the trip, they learned from Dayana and her family, including why she left the countryside to come to Havana, how she still supports the rural village where her mother is from, and how to make traditional Cuban coffee, while visiting her home.
The weekend also included many “amazing [meals], with something interesting in each and every place: rooftop views, old homes with classic sculptures, rum and cigars, candlelight. Each was marvelous in its own way.” At one meal, they were treated to a local treat: dinner with a former Cuban diplomat. Carol Chappell (Russia, 1992-1994), described hearing about his perceptions on the island and its people as a highlight of the trip, continuing to say, “The Next Step Travel trip to Cuba was everything we expected and more: Educational, fun, and informative. My husband and I are still telling people about this all around great trip!”
Throughout the trip, they dove into aspects of Cuban life and the Cuban economy. Visiting a cigar factory, they learned about this export and a lifeblood of the marketplace. In a ration store, the benefits and limitations of the system were, quite literally, visible on its shelves, which were dusted with flour. They visited community-based organizations and local non-profits, with leaders who were “eloquent in their descriptions of the country…. helping us to understand how Cuba works.” Their nights would be spent in a typical Cuban fashion, tasting the island’s best rums and listening to jazz and rumba -- all of which have been exported to the world.
Pauline Banducci (Philippines 1978-80) shared, "YOU MUST GO TO CUBA - LIKE RIGHT NOW!! It is a wonderful country with lovely people. I loved visiting and learning about the culture and hardships of Cuba, alongside amazing RPCVs." We hope you’ll join us in May!