La Habana and Cienfuegos

Dec 16, 2017 - Harmony V

Today we said farewell to the Atlantic to drive 220 kilometers to the Caribbean side of the island. Flat land, some of it ancient, as it originated several million years ago elsewhere in the early Pacific to be then pushed against the North American plate, becoming part of it.

We passed through several farms. We assume that most are organic farms, since at the beginning of the 1990s Cuba did not have access to fertilizers or pesticides from the Soviet Union. We could see orange and grapefruit plantations, as well as plantains and sugar cane. It looks like a very fertile land, with greenery on both sides of the road; a highway transited not only by cars, but from time to time, by tractors, carriages and horses. We had lunch at Fiesta Campesina, a lovely place in the countryside, surrounded by trees, and like always in Cuba, by music.

Before departing La Habana, we had had two morning options. We could either go to the cemetery or visit the Revolution Museum. The cemetery has amazing mausoleums of marble and the first octagonal church of the island. At the revolution museum we got to see the Granma, the boat in which Fidel and eighty more men traveled from Yucatan peninsula to Cuba in 1956, to start their revolution.

Early in the afternoon we arrived to Cienfuegos, in the Matanzas province. This is a maritime city lying on the shores of a massive bay, founded in 1819 by French settlers. We were welcomed by “Cantadores de Cienfuegos” choir. They sang “a capella” all kinds of music: African, religious, traditional Cuban and from the US. Each song included a briefing on its origin by its seven-year director Honey Moreira. Following the performance, the guests had one-on-one conversations with the performers, about travel opportunities, choir selection processes, training for singers in school. Honey told us that their mission is to keep corale music alive in Cuba, that they find great singers, however it is difficult to find tenors. They practice three hours a day, and they each receive a salary from the government. Some of the singers have been in the group for 30 years, like Alejandro, and a few for a year like Gabriel Santana, who was the main voice in a traditional Cuban song that made us all get up and dance.

Right before sunset we arrived to our home for the rest of the week, for the maritime portion of our people-to-people expedition.

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About the Author

Paula Tagle

Expedition Leader

Paula grew up in Guayaquil where she obtained an undergraduate degree in geology from the Polytechnic University of Guayaquil. She enjoyed many field trips all around Ecuador and during her vacations traveled in Central and South America in the hope of learning more about her people and culture. The last year of her studies she worked at a mine looking for a more ecologically responsible way of recovering gold. Interested more in volcanoes than in raw materials, she came to Galápagos, a mecca for geologists, in 1992. She was bewitched by the other wonders of the islands and became a naturalist guide for the Galápagos National Park.

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