Please note: This is a representative itinerary. Features are subject to change, as availability is controlled by the Cuban government.
Day 1 - Miami
Make your own air arrangements to Miami today. After transferring to your hotel, meet with members of your group for a welcome briefing and overview of the Cuban cultural interactions planned for us during your time in Cuba.
Day 2 - Santiago de Cuba
Today we fly to the easternmost third of the island—known as Oriente—to the vibrant seaside city of Santiago de Cuba. On the way to our hotel, we pass by streets pulsing with Afro-Cuban rhythms and reminders of its colorful past. Founded by Diego Velásquez as a Spanish colonial capital in 1515, Santiago de Cuba went on to witness many storied events in Cuba's history—from the 1898 charge up nearby San Juan Hill by Teddy Roosevelt and his "Rough Riders" to the 1953 armed assault on Moncada Barracks led by Fidel Castro that launched a revolution.
Later this afternoon, we learn about Afro-Cuban religion that developed in this region during a discussion led by Carlos Yoga and his practitioners. Many Afro-Cuban traditions and religious beliefs, including Santería, trace their origins to the Yoruba and other tribal groups brought to Santiago de Cuba on slave ships from Western Africa to work on local sugar plantations.
Day 3 - Santiago de Cuba
Today begins with a visit to a program sponsored by Caritas Cubana, a relief agency established to provide humanitarian assistance to the people of Cuba. Our visit will focus on either the elderly or children—two of Cuba's most vulnerable groups. As we travel through the city, we'll also glimpse Santiago de Cuba's contemporary street life at El Tivolí, a fashionable neighborhood established by French plantation owners late in the 18th century.
This afternoon, we visit artists' studios in Santiago de Cuba, where we will speak with the award-winning painter Carlos René Aguilera and other local artists, and hear about the challenges faced by contemporary artists in earning a living through their craft. Later this evening, we'll interact with members of the local community during a neighborhood gathering.
Day 4 - Santiago de Cuba
Today features an excursion into the Sierra Maestra Mountains to explore historic Bayamo, a city with a rich tradition of Cuban national pride—and the birthplace of Carlos Manuel de Céspedes. A figure widely celebrated in Cuban history, Céspedes declared war on colonialist Spain from a Bayamo stronghold in 1868. We will visit the Casa de la Nacionalidad Cubana for a meeting about the roots of Cuban nationalism and the birthplace of La Bayamesa. Cuba's romantic national anthem, La Bayamesa, has its origins in the historic battle fought here, and its powerful lyrics (to "die for the homeland is to live") remain a source of deep pride for people throughout Cuba.
Day 5 – Santiago de Cuba
This morning's cultural exchange activities focus on another project associated with seniors or children. This afternoon, we'll meet and converse with the Teatro de le Danza del Caribe dance company—and we'll have the opportunity to see them dance before a discussion with troupe members.
Day 6 – Santiago de Cuba/Baracoa
We depart Santiago de Cuba this morning for an overland journey to Baracoa. The final leg is along La Farola, a scenic highway carved through the Baracoa Mountains that often clings to cliffs covered in tropical vegetation. Throughout much of its lengthy history, Baracoa was only accessible by sea, and La Farola was responsible for finally linking the remote coastal town with the rest of Cuba. Its completion in the 1965 was hailed as a triumph of the Cuban Revolution.
Day 7 – Baracoa
With 500 years of isolation, Baracoa retains the look of an unspoiled colonial village surrounded by secluded beaches and virgin rainforest. El Yunque, a flat-topped mountain looming above the bay, was noted by Columbus in his journal upon his approach to these tranquil shores in 1492. And it was just 20 years after the maiden voyage of Columbus that Diego de Velásquez established Baracoa as the island's first Spanish settlement.
This morning, we will learn about the demise of the region's indigenous population of Taínos during discussions at the Museo Arqueológico. This will set the stage for our interactions with local guajiros, gatekeepers of Taíno traditions and ancestors of the original inhabitants that met Columbus, when we converse with fishermen and their families living on Baracoa's bay and in a fishing village along the nearby Yumuri River.
This afternoon, our focus shifts to the origins of Afro-Cuban music during a visit to a local community to experience nengon and kiribá—the fusion of musical styles born here that developed into Cuba's signature music, the son. We'll meet with dancers and musicians who will engage us in discussions about their art and share insights into the evolution of present-day Cuban music. After dinner, we join members of the local artistic community for a musical evening.
Day 8 – Baracoa
This morning features a visit to Finca Duaba, a traditional cocoa farm, where we'll gain familiarity with rural ways of life in Cuba. We'll meet with a farmer and his family and learn how cocoa pods are harvested and transformed into a variety of products, including local specialties such as hot chocolate beverages and white chocolate sold in round, flat cakes encased in palm bark. This afternoon, we'll visit local artists in their studios. We'll view their works and learn about the challenges they face, especially since they live in such a remote area. This evening, we'll learn how many Cubans have opened up restaurants (paladares) in their homes during a visit to Paladar El Colonial, where we'll gain firsthand knowledge about the challenges faced by these entrepreneurs during a meeting with the owner and his family.
Day 9 – Baracoa/Havana
Today begins with a visit to Fuerte Matachín, a fort built in 1802 to protect Baracoa from marauding pirates. Here, we'll meet with the distinguished local historian (and curator of a museum located inside the historic fort) Alejandra Hartmann, who will enlighten us on many aspects of Baracoa's rich history. This afternoon, we leave Baracoa and board a flight to Havana.
Day 10 – Havana
Our first full day in Havana begins with a visit to the city's cultural heart, Vedado, a district of restored colonial charm situated not far from the Plaza de la Revolucion, the vast city square that has witnessed so much Cuban history. This history will be brought vividly to life by Mario Coyula—who was one of Castro's early revolutionaries. Mario, who is also a noted Cuban architect, will discuss his revolutionary past with us and provide insights into Cuba's impressive buildings on our stroll through Havana's elegant streets, plazas, and colonial squares.
After lunch, we'll meet and mingle with other local Cubans during a walk through the historic streets of Habana Vieja (Old Havana). Lovingly restored to its full historic splendor, the entire neighborhood of Old Havana has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This walk will be led by Miguel Coyula, an architect, urban planner, and professor at the University of Cuba, whose unique insights will lead to a lively discussion this afternoon.
Day 11 – Havana
Today begins with a visit to another project sponsored by Caritas Cubana, where we'll see more of the ways this organization strives to provide humanitarian assistance to Cuba's seniors and disadvantaged children. After lunch, we meet and exchange ideas with some students at the Taller Experimental de Grafica, a silkscreen printing workshop that produces some of Cuba's most avant garde works of art. Then we meet with curators of the Museo de la Ciudad, a museum in Old Havana that houses a wealth of colonial-era relics and artifacts. Later, we'll visit an artists' collaborative to meet with some local artists and view their works.
Day 12 – Havana
Our day begins with a discussion on current Cuba and U.S. relations led by Rafael Hernández, a native of Havana and author of several books on Cuban culture. Then we'll meet with members of the Ludwig Foundation, a non-profit organization created to promote Cuban culture, to engage in a discussion about the role of art and artists in contemporary Cuba.
This afternoon features a private rehearsal and recital by one of Havana's many talented dance or choral groups, followed by interactive discussions with the participating artists.
Day 13 – Havana
This morning we board our flight back to Miami.
Please note: This is a representative itinerary. Features are subject to change as availability is controlled by the Cuban government.
We also offer a reverse itinerary that begins in Havana and concludes in Santiago de Cuba.
Back to Cuba: Music, Culture & the Roots of Revolution Program >>
Back to Cuba Home >>