Isle of Youth, Cuba

Dec 20, 2017 - Harmony V

The early morning brought us the bay of Siguanea at the Isle of Youth.  Our party reached the harbor and quickly boarded a bus with destination to Modelo prison, former penitentiary that was home to thousands of convicts during the Batista regime.  The prison is now a museum that tells the story of a famous inmate, Fidel Castro, and how he struggled to keep his hope of a revolution alive despite the isolation that the prison provided during his 18 month stay in the early 1950s.  Making our way to the main buildings that housed thousands of prisoners before the revolution of 1959, it is truly a trip back in time.  The buildings are “panoptic” which essentially means that a single position in a tower in the center of the circular building could potentially keep track of thousands of inmates that crowded the 5 stories and thousands of lives.  It was a life in the open, a big brother type of experience that deprived one of any privacy.  Complete control.

Following our visit to Modelo prison we continued our way to the maternity home in Nueva Gerona.  This is a clinic where pregnant woman in high risk are medically treated and kept under watchful eye for any complications.  We had a presentation by the clinic’s only doctor and later we had a chance to interact with 6 pregnant woman who are currently staying at the clinic.  Their stories and situations were explained and our travelers got to know details of their lives, their care, and future expectations after giving birth, it provided an insightful perspective of the Cuban health system. 

Following our lunch at a favorite local restaurant we drove to the central park of the city and visited the provincial art school where we had a chance to interact with the principal, teachers and students who performed for our group in a friendly atmosphere.  It was a great way to not only interact, but for our travelers to exchange stories with young students who attend the art school and specialize in various instruments and dance.  After our great encounter we continued our journey through the main street of Nueva Gerona where we met shop keepers, students and every day citizens.  Our travelers had the chance to explore stores, cafes and interact with locals for the rest of the afternoon.  Our trip to the island ended with a bus ride back to harbor where we boarded a small boat that took us back on board our vessel.  A wonderful day filled with photographic opportunities and meaningful exchange.

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About the Author

Fabio Amador

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Fabio (Fe) Amador is a Senior Program Officer for the National Geographic Society/Waitt Grants Program, which is dedicated to funding exploratory research around the world. He has traveled and worked extensively throughout Latin America and is presently collaborating with research projects in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, Peru, El Salvador, and Madagascar. He has also traveled regularly to Cuba over the past five years on educational and scientific missions for National Geographic. As a trained archaeologist, his interest in Taino Indian culture (which spanned the Greater Antilles, including Cuba) is focused on the sacred landscape and the use of caves for ritual activity. In his role at National Geographic, Fabio uses imaging and visualization technologies to provide new ways of capturing data and to document the experience of conducting research and exploration. His initiative in supporting worldwide research has resulted in a workshop titled The Art of Communicating Science. This capacity building initiative is aimed at students, scholars, explorers, government agencies, and stewards of the cultural and natural patrimony, so that they can be trained in how to develop, design and use imaging technology to document, protect, and communicate the importance of their heritage through exploration, discovery, and storytelling. Fe's continued effort in communicating science has allowed him to use photography, cinematography, and other multimedia tools to reach large audiences through his public lectures at universities, presentations at international scientific and professional symposia, publications in scholarly journals and on National Geographic’s Explorers Journal and NatGeo News Watch online blogs.

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