Havana, Cuba

Mar 02, 2018 - Harmony V

With news of winter storms hitting the Eastern Coast of the U.S. this morning, we wake up to 80-degree Caribbean weather here in Cuba. For our last day in Havana, the group split up to enjoy a guided tour of Havana’s world renowned Fine Arts Museum, and a day trip to nearby Alamar and its five-acre organic farm.

The town of Alamar was Fidel’s answer to Havana’s overcrowded neighborhoods, building soviet style housing blocks and encouraging community development outside of downtown Havana. Our Cuban guide, Isis, explained how her father and a few friends also saw a need for fresh food, vegetables, and fruits, and began farming this government provided land into the successful organic garden it is today. As Cuba naturally lacked many modern-day chemicals necessary for large scale farming, Alamar’s community-farm welcomed the challenge to put all its efforts into a purely organic farm, dependent on the symbiotic relationships between raising different animals, fruits, vegetables, and flowers all at once.

Isis walked our group through fields of leafy green lettuce, carrots, and cauliflower, explaining how the farm also finds success by working as a co-op model, investing half of the profits back into the farm and half back to the workers, based on a seniority pay scale.

Our morning finished off with a visit to the nearby farmer’s market, where locals have access to affordable organic food and where we had the opportunity to experience ‘real Cuba’ outside the tourism sector. We even enjoyed some local street food while we were at it!

On our way back to Old Havana, we took the opportunity to make a quick stop at El Morro castle and its fortress walls for unique panorama views over the sea to Havana and the new developments being constructed along its historic sea wall of the Malecón. Afterwards, we were welcomed into Habana Compás for a private performance by a percussion group who fuses rhythms of traditional Spanish dance with Afro Cuban styles, and closed the evening with even more traditional Cuban music on a picturesque rooftop surrounded by Havana’s city lights and historic skyline.

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About the Author

Erika Skogg

National Geographic Photographer

Erika Skogg is a photographer, educator, and National Geographic Explorer with experience documenting cultural stories from the United States to Morocco, Greenland, Iceland, Colombia, and beyond. Born and raised in Wisconsin, Erika’s photographic research and storytelling ideas are driven by the desire to immerse, understand, and visually preserve the region’s local Nordic culture, and in 2018, Erika received a National Geographic Early Career Grant for her project “Scandinavian American.” Erika travels to Scandinavia regularly in search of the cultural connections to our emigrant history and promote an interest in one’s own genealogy to foster a respect for the continued immigration of today.

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