Cuba

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Jim Smith, a guest on IE's people-to-people Cuba travel program in January 2013 commemorated his experience with a series of poems, which he has graciously agreed to share.
 

February 14, 2013

Cuba: Feel the Beat of Bolero

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While traveling to Cuba during IE’s people-to-people journey, music will be an ever-present companion. If you hear melodic guitar, a romantic tune and a beat that makes you want to sway your hips, there's a good chance that you're listening to bolero music, a genre of song and dance that originated in Cuba.

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Participants on IE's people-to-people Cuba experience travel to this orchid garden in Soroa. Through our interaction with the garden’s keepers, guests not only learn about endemic species, but more importantly, the relationship between Cubans and land. The most interesting story of course, involved the story of how Cuban women once used the national flower – mariposa – to relay secret messages. During the Cuban fight to overthrow the Spanish, Cuban women would wear the mariposa in their hair.

December 10, 2012

Cuba's Bee Hummingbird

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Who said birds had to be big to be spectacular? There is a wide variety of flying creatures in Cuba, but one of the best is so small that you might mistake it for an insect. The bee hummingbird is only slightly heavier than a paperclip, and at just over two inches in length, could perch comfortably on your thumb. The male claims the title of the smallest bird in the world.

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Cuba has two endemic species of woodpecker, but the one you're most likely to see on International Expeditions’ people-to-people Cuba travel program has a rather royal look. The Cuban green woodpecker dons a crown of red feathers atop its head, and its eyes are striped with white. The rest of its body is cloaked in green feathers, with bright, vibrant yellow coloring underneath. It's smaller than most species of woodpecker, and has a shorter bill, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in its gorgeous coloring.

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Imagine you're walking through the thoroughfares of Havana, gazing over tobacco crops in Vinales valley, rumbling along in a vehicle on the way to Topes de Collantes. In any of these scenarios, you're likely to hear the traditional music of Cuba. The sounds may prompt you to move your feet to the beat, or bring you to a performance of a traditional dance group. There are many different kinds of music in Cuba, but one of the most popular is Rumba.

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A guest on People-to-People Cuba program wrote some poems about his experience and graciously agreed to share them—all are accounts of Cuba seen through the eyes of birds. James Blackburn's poetry includes stars of Cuba's endemic bird species: the Cuban emerald hummingbird, the limkin, the Cuban tody and the red legged thrush.

 

The Cuban Trogon
by James Blackburn

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Cuba is a country filled with cultural and historical significance, and one of the prime examples is the island's Valley of the Sugar Mills. Along with the neighboring city of Trinidad, this region was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998 and now serves as an intriguing archaeological site for visitors to explore in Cuba.

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Part of what makings traveling to a new country special is the sensory experience. You see new landscapes and architecture, taste delicious new foods, breath in the scent of forests or ocean, and you hear things too — music, the chatter of birds, and of course, new language.

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Cuba's rich and long history, coupled with isolation from much of the developing world until recently, has created a unique culture on the island nation that will intrigue and surprise visitors as they delve into the daily lives of locals on International Expeditions’ people-to-people Cuba travel program. There's even a religion among parts of the Afro-Cuban population on the island, known as the Santeria religion, that may be completely unfamiliar to individuals from other parts of the world.

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