Alabama Semester program in Cuba
Dr. Michael Schnepf, Director
After one full month in Cuba, I am very pleased to report that all is going well. Shelby, Lizzie, Brad, Pavia, Dillon, and Boyd have adapted well to the classes, the weather, the language, and the food. Everyone is making an effort to speak as much Spanish as possible. We have already travelled the West, to Viñales and the curious “mogotes” and to the beautiful orchid farm in Soroa. On our way to Viñales we stopped at a tobacco farm to see how they dried, prepared and twisted the famous Cuban tobacco leaves. Later in the semester, we will follow up this trip with a visit to the world renowned Partagás tobacco factory where some of the world’s best cigars are put together, packaged, and sold. We have also made a stop at the Hemingway House, where the American novelist lived for many years and where he composed some of his greatest works. Inside Habana, we have travelled to the top of the Martí Tower, some 300 feet, to see a majestic view of the city. We have also seen a great deal of Old Habana, the “malecón,” the Plaza de Armas,” and, of course, the beautiful University of Habana campus.
All the students have begun work on their semester long projects. These include in depth studies of the Cuban banking system, the role of the Catholic Church in a socialist society, and the obstacles faced by theater producers during this regime. Students are also participating in a Round Table class in which invited speakers talk on various topics each week. So far we have had the opportunity to speak with university professors, a priest, and a young woman studying to become a “santera.” In the centerpiece of the curriculum is the course dealing with US /Cuban relations taught by the Cuban professor, Raúl Rodríguez. There the students are quickly learning about the historical events that brought the USA and Cuba to their contemporary standoff. The culminating parts of this fascinating class will be two carefully orchestrated visits to the Museum of the Revolution and to the Bay of Pigs in April.
We have a full schedule for the rest of the semester. This weekend we are headed to Santa Clara to see the Che Guevara Museum and the picturesque city. Later we will make trips to Trinidad, the Bay of Pigs, and other cities. We also hope to find time in our busy class schedule for a brief offshore trip in a fishing boat, a visit to the birthplace of José Martí, Cuba’s national hero, and maybe a baseball game or two.