An extraordinarily beautiful island nation, Cuba displays the architecture and remnants of Spanish colonialism, as well as over a century of close contact with the United States, most evident in quite spectacular 1950’s automobiles that yet troll the streets of Havana. Marked into the consciousness of both countries is the revolution of 1959 and the isolation of the US embargo, during the time when Cuba was a satellite of the USSR.
In the post-Soviet era Cuba has been a popular tourist destination, as well as the host to hundreds of US and international study abroad programs. According to the Washington Post
, of the 3 million tourists who visit Cuba yearly, at least 500,000 are from the United States. US citizens travel in licensed tours, individually through Canada and Mexico, while Cuban-Americans travel to visit relatives. On January 5, the New York Times
listed Cuba as the second most desirable travel destination for 2015 (Milan, Italy was first).
Course of Study
This mini-term will examine the history, politics and culture of Cuba through a series of lectures and conversations with Cuban scholars, artists, musicians, and government representatives. The term will begin in Havana, one of the oldest cities of the Spanish empire, move to Santa Clara, the site of the last battle in 1958 before the seizure of Havana on January 1, 1959, and Ernesto “Che” Guevara’s tomb and museum. The term ends in Santiago de Cuba, in the far eastern Oriente Province, the area known for the insurgency against Spanish colonialism in the late 19th
century, the war against Spain, and the1953 attack on the Moncada Barracks on July 26, 1953 that launched Fidel Castro’s revolution.
Students will meet with prominent writers and artists, jazz, rap and Latin musicians; tour athletic facilities and meet Cuban youth teams; visit schools, clinics and medical facilities; discuss issues of race and gender equality with resident experts and LGBT leaders; visit organic farms and local self-sustainable cooperatives. Deprived of oil and gas after the demise of the USSR in the early 1990s, Cuba was forced on a crash-course of non-fossil fuel-based energy and has, in cooperation with European and Canadian environmentalists, developed an ambitious program in sustainable energy production.
Cubans are warm and welcoming hosts; however, the country has suffered considerable deprivation and is quite poor. As opposed to many developing nations, Cuba is actually evenly poor—lacking in the dramatic contrast between rich and poor that is ubiquitous elsewhere in Latin America. Inequality has increased considerably over the last decades, however.
Students will select a topic for a term paper, collect information while in Cuba and present their findings in both the paper and a poster exhibit in the Winter term. The paper will be based on research conducted in Cuba and assigned secondary sources. In addition, students will keep a journal documenting their observations. As with all mini-terms, students earn one academic credit.
At least one course in Latin American and Caribbean history, politics, or culture prior to leaving on the term, or permission of the instructor. Spanish is not required, but is recommended. Students who have a demonstrated understanding of Latin America and/or the issues facing developing nations will be given priority in the selection process.
Accommodations and Leadership
Union College has contracted with Spanish Studies Abroad, the agency that currently facilitates our full terms in Spain and Argentina. Spanish Studies is a veteran of study-abroad programs in Cuba, currently managing full and partial semester programs for Lehigh University, Goucher College, Hofstra University, University of Kansas, the Upper Midwest Association for Intercultural Education (UMAIE), and is in the process of arranging many more. The agency has had a license for travel to Cuba for many years and will provide students and the College with the required legal documents and travel advice.
Lodging will be in double or triple rooms in modest hotels and guesthouses. Food, all in-country transportation, entrance fees, and English-language tour guides will be provided. A Cuban-resident director will accompany the trip, along with a Union College professor with expertise in the history and politics of Cuba and Latin America. The group will travel together on an international charter flight from Miami (not included in the mini-term fee).
(For specific dates, contact the International Programs Office, Old Chapel, Third Floor.)
- April: Application deadline is the third Friday of spring term.
- May: Non-refundable deposit due at the Cashier's Office in McKean House, and receipt brought to the International Programs Office
- Fall term: Orientation meetings
- Tuesday, December 1: Leave Miami for Cuba
- Saturday, December 19: Program ends
View the Tentative Itinerary for Cuba
For More Information
Applications and information on costs are available on the International Programs website
. For information on the mini-term, please contact Professor Teresa Meade, History Department and LACS Program Director, firstname.lastname@example.org