|What librarians, writers and bibliophiles say about Cuba|
University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario
University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta
THIS WAS MY first visit to Cuba and it was a wonderful introduction to a fascinating country. Most Canadians who visit Cuba go for the warm weather and beautiful beaches, but I like to learn about a country's people and culture when I travel. During this one-week tour we visited a well-chosen variety of cultural and artistic sites and were able to meet key directors, staff, artists and writers.
For those of us who didn't speak Spanish, our guide Tatiana provided excellent translation. She also gave us a glimpse into everyday Cuban life with many details about her own family, Cuban education, music and other social, political and cultural institutions. She arranged for several additional events not on the tour schedule in response to individual interests, including a concert, a ballet performance, the Tropicana nightclub, as well as visits to artists' homes, and an excursion to Ernest Hemingway's house. We couldn't have asked for a better, more knowledgeable, or more amiable tour guide.
The hotel, bus and restaurants were all good. We were inspired by Cubans' enjoyment and respect for books and reading, but were saddened by their difficulty in acquiring library materials from the States. A few of us have begun to work on donating and shipping books to Cuban libraries via Canada. We hope the new US president will soon make it much easier to express our support and solidarity with our Cuban colleagues. I would love to go on this tour again next year!
Enoch Pratt Free Library, State Library System, Baltimore, Maryland
When I learned about the February 2009 Librarians tour, I contacted an official of the Asociación Cubana de Bibliotecarios (ASCUBI) Cuban Library Association. This is an important professional organization in the country and the equivalent to the American Library Association. I was very fortunate to introduce several ASCUBI officials to one of my colleagues on the tour, and she was most pleased. The visit to the University of Havana was very good. And the ultimate question is, how can we help from afar Cuban libraries and librarians? Finally, on another note, the Havana Libre was an excellent hotel.
Click here for an excellent Cuba book list compiled by Herbert B. Rogers.
Click here for an extended interview with Herbert B. Rogers on his impressions of Cuba.
Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, Texas
I ENJOYED the tour very much. I want to give a special mention to Tatiana. She was excellent. She was warm and kind while at the same time forceful enough to keep us on schedule each day. I had never taken tour like this before and was a little concerned about how it would go. With Tatiana at the helm it was a complete success. From the tour I'll remember the kindness and generosity of the people of Cuba most of all, Tatiana included.
Lehman College, City University of New York, New York City
Our group of 21 people representing libraries all over the United States and Canada kept a rigorous schedule. We met with colleagues at Cuba's National Library, and conducted a bilingual conversation about their international programs and services to the disabled. Stops also included the impressive library at Casa de las Americas, a meeting with the Union of Cuban Writers and Artists (UNEAC), a tour of the Museum of Literacy, as well as a daytrip to Ediciones Vigía, a designer of innovative and stunning artists' books, located in the historic 19th century city of Matanzas.
Havana is a stunningly beautiful city. Habana Vieja is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and has more colonial buildings than any city in the Western Hemisphere. Many are finally being restored, but entire neighborhoods are decaying due to the economic impact of the U.S. embargo. Our Cuban hosts welcomed us, and we reassured each other of hope for positive change with the new U.S. Presidential administration. The rhythms of the music and dance and the warmth of our Cuban neighbors will stay with me for a long time. I had an absolutely splendid time and Tatiana was the best guide imaginable!
Click here for Kenneth Schlesinger's report in LACUNY News May 2009.
Click here for Kenneth Schlesinger's article in Lehman College March 2009 (Vol. 9, No. 4).
Magic Valley Alternative High School, Twin Falls, Idaho
Deborah Ward, Librarian
Magic Valley Alternative High School, Twin Falls, Idaho
Twin Falls, Idaho [February 23, 2009] YESTERDAY, AT 1:00AM, we returned from our trip to Cuba. Our visit coincided with the 50th Anniversary of the Revolution, a new administration there and here, and was filled with hope and optimism for a closer relationship between our two countries.
The 18th Annual Havana International Book Fair we attended was held in La Cabaña Fortress, a military outpost built in the 1700's to protect Havana Harbor from pirates and the other European superpowers. We were in awe at the tens of thousands of Cubans who celebrated books along with many publishers and writers from all over the world. Our purchases may give Magic Valley Alternative High School the largest international collection of books in Idaho!
HABANA VIEJA [Old Havana] was the oldest place we have ever been. It dates back to the early 1500's when Cuba was a colony of Spain. Here we witnessed colonial architecture at plazas and cathedrals, and saw Ernest Hemingway's a resident of Idaho, too stomping grounds.
We visited several art galleries and met with members of UNEAC (Union of Cuban Writers and Artists) founded in 1959. We attended musical and dance performances and developed an enthusiastic appreciation of Cuban art, music and dance first hand.
LIBRARIES ARE where it's at in Cuba! We loved the José Martí National Library, Casa de las Américas National Library, and all of the school libraries we visited. The people of Cuba were warm and welcoming. We enjoyed a block party in a neighborhood in the suburbs of Havana that included rich conversation, great food, music and dancing.
We were thrilled to carry with us so many donation from Idaho: soap, shampoo, tooth brushes, Idaho pins and other treasures from the Department of Commerce and the Idaho Potato Commission, a book written by Lori Otter [partner of Idaho governor Butch Otter], pencils, etc. All were so appreciated. Thank you again for making this trip possible for us.
Vancouver, British Columbia
Havana, Cuba [Day 4, 2009 Librarian's Tour] I AM HAVING a fantastic time. Already thinking about planning a return visit! Our guide Tatiana is a goddess of plenty plenty of laughter, smiles, surprises and information.
Postscript I've been away in Cuba for a holiday and also to check out the coffee culture in Cuba. Coffee is available everywhere in most hotels and restaurants, but I didn't see too many coffee shops.
There was one coffee shop near to my hotel on 23rd Street and the Avenue of the Presidents. It served quite a decent Cuban coffee, which was like an extra strong espresso. The cost of the tiny cup of concentrated coffee was one CUC [Cuban convertible peso].
While I was at this coffee shop, I saw groups of university students huddled around tables talking earnestly about issues. Considering that Havana is a university town, it only makes sense that this kind of scene would occur.
In general, Cubans enjoy a rather potent cup of coffee and the more timid coffee drinker should be prepared to add hot water, lots of sugar and milk to tame it.
Unfortunately, I was in Cuba for only a week and so I didn't get to explore Havana as I would have liked to. But from what I did see, coffee isn't nearly as prominent a beverage as say, aqua minerale and their own unique version of Coca-Cola.
However, I think that I should reconfirm my observations by taking another trip to the island! A pronto!
Click here for Lori Thiessen's attempts to work online from Cuba.
Click here for more observations by Lori Thiessen on Coffee encounters in Cuba.
Cowles Library, Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa
I WAS PRIVILEGED to be part of a group of North American librarians who visited Cuba on the occasion of the 18th Havana International Book Fair, known in Spanish as the Feria Internacional del Libro de La Habana. Cowles Library and the Drake University Center generously supported my trip for the Humanities.
The Book Fair attracts a huge number of visitors every year from all segments of Cuban society and all parts of the island.
Click here for wonderful short video clips by Mireille Djenno from her 2009 Librarians tour.
Return to the 2010 Librarians, Writers and Bibliophiles Havana Book Fair Tour
|Copyright © 1997 - | BC Consumer Protection Travel Registry 34338 | Ethical Green Travel|