Visiting Cuba – Holiday Tips and Tricks

Cuba has had to face decades of bad press due to prevalent social-political scenarios, but things have definitely gotten a lot better now. It is a fascinating country with a rich history, a dynamic city life, and some of the most stunning architectural wonders. It really isn’t possible to prepare yourself for a trip to Cuba – for the country always manages to catch you off-guard. But, it is always good to have a plan! Here are the places you should explore while visiting Cuba, and some holiday tips and tricks to help you when you’re there.

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Here’s Why Cuba Denied Entry to OAS Head Luis Almagro

“Cuba will never return to the OAS,” Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs wrote in a statement.

Cuba on Wednesday denied entry to Organization of American States, OAS, head Luis Almagro, who was scheduled to accept an award from a dissident group in Havana.

The socialist government also denied entry to former Mexican President Felipe Calderon and Mariana Aylwin, the daughter of former Chilean President Patricio Aylwin. Calderon and Aylwin were travelling to the same event.

Mainstream media quickly painted Cuba’s decision to block their entry as another example of the country’s so-called “totalitarianism.” But shortly after they released these reports, Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs commissioned a statement clearing up these accusations.

“The plan, plotted on several trips between Washington and other capitals of the region, was to mount in Havana an open and serious provocation against the Cuban government, generate internal instability, and damage the international image of the country,” the statement reads.

“Upon learning of these plans and enforcing the laws that underpin the nation’s sovereignty, the Cuban government decided to deny foreign nationals associated with the events described above to the national territory.”

According to the statement, Cuba refused entry to Almagro for three main reasons:

First, because of his connections to illegal right-wing groups operating in Cuba that are trying to destabilize the nation. Latin American Network of Youths for Democracy, the group that was awarding him, is connected to the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy and the Inter-American Institute for Democracy, which frequently call for the overthrow of Cuba’s government.

Second, because of his attacks on progressive and leftist governments in Latin America and the Caribbean. Almagro has been a staunch advocate of regime change in Venezuela and is also closely connected with opposition activists like Henrique Capriles and Leopoldo Lopez. Almagro has also called for “regime change” against the administrations of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and Bolivian President Evo Morales.

Third, because the Washington-led OAS has isolated and attacked Cuba since the 1959 revolution that brought the Communist Party of Cuba to power.

“They’re trying to sell to the Cubans ‘the values and principles of the inter-American system’ against the hard and undemocratic reality generated by the same system,” Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs also said in the statement.

“Over fifty years later and with the company of peoples and governments around the world, it is necessary to reiterate, as President Raul Castro assured, that Cuba will never return to the OAS.”

Calderon and Aylwin’s travel bans were issued for similar reasons.

Mariana Aylwin is seen as an ideological leader of the most conservative segment of Chile’s center-left ruling coalition. Aylwin was traveling to the island to receive a prize on behalf of her father, Chile’s first president after the end of the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

Calderon, from Mexico’s right-wing National Action Party, was president from 2006 to 2012 and oversaw the country’s war on drugs with the help of the United States.


Caribflame, February 23, 2017

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Cuba to Build Its First Mosque as Muslim Population Grows

There are an estimated 10,000 practicing Muslims in Cuba. | Photo: Reuters

Since 2015, the country’s some 10,000 Muslims have been congregating for prayers in a building space in downtown Havana.

The city of Havana is set to build Cuba’s first mosque, touted to be one of the largest in Latin America, as its Muslim population continues to grow.

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Local Resident Visits Cuba

An impressive neighborhood filled with mosaics created in the ’70s by artist Joes Fuster.

In December of 2014, President Obama and his administration announced the return of two United States citizens held in Cuba as prisoners in exchange for three Cubans convicted of espionage; this was originally going to be a prisoner exchange, but this was used to also open up embassies again in both countries after over 56 years.

Cuba is economically poor, but rich in the arts and humanities. Charles “Chas” and Ellen Lierk were able to experience this culture first hand on a recent trip to this island nation located 90 miles from the Florida coast. They were part of a trip organized by Humanities Nebraska (HN). Chas shared what he learned about the arts in Cuba at a recent meeting of the Box Butte Art Society Feb. 16. The group gets together to decide upcoming events and features some sort of entertainment within the realm of art for those in attendance. This month featured the Lierks vacation to Cuba.

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Pittsburgh boxers exchanges punches and pleasantries in Cuba

Sylvio Cercone, 16 of Brookline, matched up against Yosvani Rodriguez, both 132 pounds.

PINAR DEL RIO, Cuba — Young Pittsburgh boxers strode into a big old gym filled with 500 cheering locals Wednesday afternoon, the visitors clad in the “Apollo Creeds,” red, white and blue shorts, straight out of “Rocky.”

The red, white and blue Cuban flag hung floor to ceiling to greet them, with a classroom-sized American flag beside it. The dominance of the native flag proved something of an open. Cubans won six of the nine bouts.

But these fights in Cuba’s Western-most province, where tobacco for the most coveted cigars in the world is grown, dried, fermented and shaped, were meant to be fun. They represented the second half of a tournament that began on the Roberto Clemente Bridge last July, which the Cubans won, 7-4.

“Building Bridges Through Boxing,” say the T-shirts worn by Pittsburgh coaches, and organizer Mike Diven told the Cubans in his opening remarks that Pittsburghers preferred bridges to walls.

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Travel Destination of the Year: Cuba

Just like Tulum, Mexico, exploded as a hip vacation spot, Cuba will be the destination of choice for young, adventurous creative types in 2017. First Beyoncé went there. Then Chanel hosted a fashion show there. And last year Barack Obama became the first US president to visit Cuba in almost 90 years. The visit followed improved diplomatic relations between the two countries, including the lifting of many travel restrictions beginning in December 2014.

Travel by Americans to Cuba went up soon after Obama’s relaxation of laws, according to Brendan Sainsbury, a Cuba expert for travel guide Lonely Planet. US visits went up a reported 77 percent in 2015, and while figures aren’t out yet for 2016, Sainsbury predicts a dramatic rise after the reintroduction of commercial flights in August 2016 and the first docking of US cruise ships since the early 1960s. “Five more cruise lines have been approved for 2017,” he noted. Today, you can fly commercial to Havana directly from Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta, Houston, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, and Miami.

With its beautiful beaches, colorful buildings, delicious rum, and famous cigars, Cuba has grabbed the imaginations of adventurous American travelers. Sainsbury calls Havana “one of the world’s great cities.” Highlights include Havana’s art scene, music (from rumba to classical), and ballet. And the old town boasts preserved colonial forts (Habana Vieja) and a uniquely Cuban atmosphere.

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U.S. Senators Say Cuba’s Castro Keen to Continue Detente

Cuba’s President Raul Castro addresses the audience during the National Assembly in Havana, Cuba, December 27, 2016 in this handout photo provided by Cubadebate. Courtesy of Cubadebate/Handout via Reuters Reuters

HAVANA (Reuters) – Cuban President Raul Castro made it clear to a visiting U.S. congressional delegation that his country was intent on pursuing market reform and detente with the United States, U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy told a news conference on Wednesday.

Leahy, a Democrat who has been key in efforts to normalize relations, was leading a bipartisan group of five U.S. senators and a representative on a three-day visit to the Communist-run island to discuss ties and explore business opportunities.

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Back from amazing ★ CUBA ★ – Photographer –

Hi everyone,
We are back from an amazing roadtrip to Cuba through the whole island. I have posted 2 NEW galleries on my website. One about the global roadtrip and the other one focusing on the US evocations back on the island after 60 years. I wanted to share them with you. Of course don’t hesitate to leave me your impressions and stay in touch. Have a great day ahead! 🙂
Here the link to the roadtrip gallery :
and here to the essay I called “Cuba vs USA : So far…and yet so close” :, February 21, 2017

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Ken Hall: It’s worth the extra effort to visit Cuba

I got back from Cuba just in time to read the Sunday headline in the Times Herald-Record: “Now that Cuba is open, Americans aren’t going.”

I think I know why, and why you should buck the trend.

If you want to visit, you have to have a reason.

Nobody asks why you want to go to Russia or China. But for Cuba, you have to be on some sort of mission, not necessarily the religious kind, but that’s included in the list of allowable activities.

You need to pay $100 for a visa, which is less than it costs to get into Russia or Brazil. And it’s not hard to get one. Show up at the airline counter in Miami with your credit card, and the stamped document is yours.

When you get to Cuba, you can’t use your cellphone. Worse yet, you can’t use your credit card or ATM card.

The embargo that has been in effect for half a century still applies to United States banks, so you have to bring cash and change it for Cuban currency when you get there.

Any people who are wary of foreign travel to begin with are going to be even more reluctant to visit someplace that requires all these accommodations.

But if you have any curiosity about Cuba, don’t let these obstacles get in the way. Cuba is friendly and fascinating.

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USM students learn about ecotourism in Cuba

A group of students from the University of Southern Maine have completed an innovative, team-taught 20-day course off Cuba to learn how to develop a tourism strategy that included sustainable initiatives regarding Cuba’s pristine coral reefs and the hospitality training needs of its residents.

Led by Tracy Michaud Stutzman of USM’s Department of Tourism and Hospitality, Cuba tourism expert Jeffrey Boutwell and University of Maine oceanographer Bob Steneck, the students snorkeled on a remote coral reef and sailed on the Maine-built tall ship Harvey Gamage off Cuba as part of their “Navigating Change in Cuba: Sustainable Maritime Environments and Tourism Development” course.

Four students were enrolled in the six-credit tourism class and 14 nursing majors joined the excursion to learn about Cuba’s health care system. Students toured Havana, a sugar plantation, a botanical garden and a museum and interviewed health care providers and community stakeholders at University of Cienfuegos.

They also interviewed residents, learned about the island nation’s history, politics and culture and studied marine conservation.

“Overall, this was a life experience for everyone,” said Steneck, a professor in the UMaine School of Marine Sciences. “This is the beginning of an ambitious experiential academic program in Cuba. Although the island country is less than 100 miles from the United States, it is a completely different world. All of the students embraced the pioneering aspect of this program and brought incredible enthusiasm to the program.”

Stutzman said faculty and students appreciated the opportunities to talk with Cubans and visit a nation that, until diplomatic relations were recently restored, had been closed off from Americans for more than 50 years.

It was fascinating, she said, to experience the beauty of Cuba, the generosity of the people and the excitement of fledgling entrepreneurs.

“To be in that place at this time was unique,” said Stutzman.

The 131-foot-tall schooner Harvey Gamage was home base, as well as a classroom and research vessel for students and staff from Dec. 27 to Jan. 15. The schooner — ported in Cienfuegos harbor on Cuba’s southern coast during the course — was built in 1973 at Gamage Shipyard in South Bristol about a decade after the Cuban Missile Crisis.

They submitted their final tourism development reports and journal reflections on Feb. 1.

Staff, Mainebiz

February 21, 2017

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