Discussion in 'Salsa' started by Claire_Brummell, Apr 27, 2005.
Thank you so much for this info - much appreciated!!
Yeah. Bummer that not too many people here can help. Most of the active DF posters are from the US, which severely restricts travel to Cuba. :? I'm glad someone here was able to help. 8)
Well it was worth asking the question - I'm just grateful for the responses I've had!! Thanks guys!
I'm glad you asked. DF is getting bigger every day, so you never know what you may get. :wink: (Forrest Gump paraphrase. Sorry. I couldn't resist.)
LOL - can I go for the box of chocolates too?
A travel study group from the university I work at went to Cuba last May (or maybe it was the year before last!). The course was titled "Cuba at the Crossroads" but you didn't have to sign up for the 3 credit class. Besides the daily lectures, they were to visit the Cuban Institute of Ballet, meet with Cuban artists and musicians, visit other museums and cultural centers and meet some Cuban journalists, elected officials and other students. I would have loved to go!!!
I will have to go look up the diary of the group that they posted on the web. See if they saw any salsa type dancing or anything.
That would be great - thankyou!
This was what one of the students wrote for day four:
"This day we spent visiting the Institute of Fine Arts, a middle school and El Barracon, a women’s community project. The highlight of the day was definitely the community project, because we were graced with a performance by the folkloric dance group, Okan-Tomi. This community-based dance troupe gave us a performance that mixed the many cultural styles of dance in Cuba, including the stately "danzon" of the early 1900s, some incredible Casino-style salsa (imagine a salsa square dance) and Afro-cuban dances inspired by Santeria, Cuba’s syncretic religion that mixes Catholicism and a worship of African animist deities. This is a group that has also modernized its repertoire through the incorporation of a variation on a dance honoring the deity, Oya, protector of the dead, with an unbelievable reinterpretation of the Michael Jackson video, Thriller. It was a sight to behold."
I went in January of 2003 but it was with a BIG group, and completely organized by someone else so I don't have much planning detials to share :? It was organized by a dance travel company based in Colorado (forget the name but could look up an email), and was on a special license from the US
It was just for a week, but it was long enough to see and learn a lot of things that greatly imapacted my dancing and style.
Anyways, they're right about the gouging of tourists, if you can't pass for cubano (my 2 months of spanish lessons didn't cut it ;-) ) you get ripped off - like having to pay $20 cover at Casa de la Musica compared to <$1 for the locals
There were lots of sights to see, and I actually enjoyed Varadero. It was beautiful & relaxing and entertaining. But then again, everything was arranged for us because it was with this large organization. But a lot of tourists also complain about the fact that it's a closed off area to natives :?
We stayed in Miramar, so we always had to drive through la habana to get to the teatro nacional and other sites where we took rueda, santeria and percussion lessons, and also taking tours and seeing some local performing groups, including the national ballet company
I also went to that castle that alemana mentioned...there wasn't any live music, I only remember those local boys were much more intent on hitting on the white girls in my group and trying to get more money out of us - that was the most annoying thing, everywhere you went cubanos hit on American women to get money/gifts out of them
So I remember a lot of inconsequential things that may not help much with planning a trip, so just do your best, carrying lots of cash (safely) and have fun! Cuba will be what you make of it
I think it would be a good idea to go with a study group or do a salsa dance trip to Cuba. I have always been an individual traveller, but when going to Cuba I think an organized trip is much more beneficial because travelling in Cuba is just totally different to other countries and much more difficult.
Since you are in the UK, that should not be a problem. One of my German girlfriends went to Cuba on such a trip, she took a Spanish class, stayed with locals in Havana (organized by the travel agency), went to salsa events etc. She loved it and went back a couple of months later.
I know Lena Bernardo in Stuttgart who has a salsa dance school specialized in Cuban salsa and organizes dance trips to Cuba: http://www.viadanza.com/vd_tanzreisen/index_3.html. The site is only in German, unfortunately. You should find trips like that also from the UK.
When I was there, there was live music here and there, but you cannot compare Cuba with Puertor Rico. Both islands are very similar in their Latin culture, but things work totally different! Then, it was more that we found dance places here and there because we knew some locals. By ourselves I do not think we would have found any salsa place. We also went to an open air concert by NG La Banda in old Havana in an old amphitheater but we could only do that because we went with those local boys who protected us. We got a special place in a separate area away from the crowd (because we knew those guys) and they did not allow us to take anything with us, no money, no purse, no nothing. It was a quite dangerous place.
Oh, definitely! Be prepared to always have some guys after you who want to be friendly, want to show you sites and this and that, and then they want your dollars. This is when you are not with Cuban locals you know and you can trust. And always watch your stuff! Never leave your purse, backpack or whatever out of sight! There are a lot of people "specialized" in stealing from tourists. If you have a bra that you really need during your trip (because you can wear it under certain dresses or shirts), do not leave it out in the open in your hotel room, lock it away. It is not so much the money value when it gets stolen, it is more that you do not have the right bra for under your special dress anymore when you want to go out and you certainly cannot get another one in Cuba. Those are the things that were hot commodities when I was there, and that disappeared.
I just went to Cuba in February and had a super time. We stayed in a smaller town called Santa Lucia (near Camaguay) and while the hotel was older, it was very clean and the staff was friendly, not intrusive at all.
We ensured that we brought items from home to leave with the people, small things like childrens toys, pencils, soap and shampoo were very much appreciated.
In general, the countryside is beautiful, but, the people are very poor and don't have very much in the way of housing or possessions. The colonial city of Camaguay is/was beautiful but because of the poverty the buildings are run down. Someone said the average salary for workers there was in the neighbourhood of $14.00 USD/month.
What was very noticeable was the music. There was music everywhere we went!! People were constantly moving or dancing no matter what they were doing. In the farmers market, on the streets, at the factories.
There were two clubs that we went to regularly where the music and dancing were phenominal. I cannot begin to describe the rhythm and beauty of the dancing. It's simply amazing. Everybody dances, and, they all dance well.
I'm going to go back for sure
S_A, thanks for the info. I'm not from the UK, I'm from Greece. Probably a tiny misunderstanding here. I do hope I can arrange a group trip at some point. Did your friend organise this through her danec school, her university or on her own through a travel agency? I'm very interested in this kind of info, thanks again!
Welcome to DF, Pam! I'd love to hear more about your dancing experience. Did you learn anything from the salseros Cubanos? What styles do you do?
From the browsing I've done on Cuba travel, things aren't all that cheap over there(although they are for locals). Could anyone offer a ballpark figure for a 2-week vacation in Cuba if you want to see the sights, stay at hotels and NOT sleep with cockroaches, eat decent food, and go out and dance and drink at night?
yep it's not cheap it's been awhile but I think the package I got cost ~$1200 (included charter flight from/to maimi, hotel, bus tours, lessons, some evening entertainment...) for the week. Then there was the flight to/from miami, and other misc touristy expenses
I guess that's not bad if it was all-inclusive.
Any Americans on DF ever visit? If so, have you received that letter in the mail subpoenaing you to court/ paying the hefty fine yet?
a american friend of mine did. she went to cuba, and the U.S customs found out. They opened her bags, and gave her a lot of 'communist' barbs. Then they found out she had the cuban flag in her bag, so she got even more heat. They let her go, but a year later, she got a letter saying she had to pay a fine of approx 1000 dollars.
but she was american citizen. I don't know how it works for non-american citizens. A friend of mine from mexico told me she goes back home, and to cuba from there, and the mexican/cuban officials don't stamp the passport (i don't know how this works exactly - perhaps by request, or by bribes) if you are a mexican living in america.
I've known Japanese people who have been many times, yet they do not get any flack as their country does not have the absurd embargo the US has with Cuba. Cuban goods enter this country(Japan) freely, like they do in other nations, excluding the United States. We get all the Habana Club good stuff and Monte Cristos!
I went to Cuba in May of 2001, and let me tell you.. It was beautiful.
I stayed at the Hotel Nacional in Havana. My stay there was amazing. I'm not quite sure what sort of trip you are planning, but I definitely recommend that hotel. They really help you get around in regards to where to go and how to get there. They eliminate alot of the worrying with who to trust and who not to. Alot of people come back with stories of having things stolen and being really afraid of having things stolen, however, i feel like worrying too much about that sort of thing will take away from your experience while you're there. Fortunately, I didn't have a bad experience while I was there, and so maybe I'm being too naive.
The hotel was fabulous. There is a live band every night, and you can get serenaded while you eat. Basically, there is live music playing all the time. It makes you just want to constantly be dancing. Speaking of dancing, I didn't get the chance to go to a real salsa club, but I did go to a club with some stand-up comedy as well as dancing. Silly me forgot the name, so that doesn't really help. But I did dance with someone who was Cuban, and I noticed that their style of dancing is wayy different from how I dance salsa. The beat's the same.. so is the rhythm.. obviously; they're Cuban.. and Cubans definitely know how to dance haha. But I didn't really find there to be a structure or a standard way of dancing. Here, you have side-to-side or a back and forth. Me, personally, I prefer and only dance to the back and forth salsa, but it really depends on where you learned it and who you learned it from, in addition to what country you may be from and so on. Dancing with him was still fun though. We danced salsa on stage. =D
The staff at the hotel would always recommend to go to Coppelia. It's an ice cream parlor really near Hotel Nacional. I never got to go because there was always a loooong line, and the person I was with never had motivation and patience to wait. My loss because I hear it's delicious. =T
What else... The weather was amazing, a bit humid most of the time. The people there were the most friendly I have ever encountered. I stayed in Havana but took day trips to Varadero and Old Havana.
The trip to Varadero was with a tour group that was arranged with my hotel. I recommend doing that because signing up for tours outside of the hotel is what can be dangerous. I read someone's post about Varadero not being worth going to, but I had a different experience.. perhaps because I went more recently? But the beach there was gorgeous.. clearest waters I've ever seen. The people were friendly as well, and no one tried to rip money off me or anything. That's why I think it's really important to go in a group.
Old Havana is a great place to go to, especially if you're interested in learning something about the past. I really liked the architecture for some reason. It's nothing like Rome, or anything, but the colors of buildings were so pretty to look at. Everything was so lively, just like the people.
I'm so jealous that you get to go hehe.. I most definitely intend on going back someday. I'm nowhere near married or engaged for that matter, but I tell everyone that I want to have my honeymoon there.
Have a fun and safe trip! =)
Hi lilSalma! Welcome.
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