By Jennifer Janviere
This past December, I was among the lucky few Americans who are able to travel to Cuba legally via an academic research license. I went to the country on a week-long tour as a member of a group of educators. The tour centered around the Cuban educational system, and during this trip we were able to get an up close and personal look inside elementary schools, a teacher’s union, a local version of the Boys and Girls’ Club, the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) and even the University of Havana.
Highlights of the visit included seeing cultural sites of Havana and its many diverse neighborhoods, the National Art Museum and the Museum of Literacy (Cuba boasts a 97% literacy rate). When were weren’t visiting educational facilities, the group also viewed Jesuit churches in the squares of Old Havana and took a ferry across the Bay of Regla, (the center of Afro Cuban culture) where we learned about traditional Yoruba religions mixing with Catholicism to produce the modern day Santeria religion.
The trip was also a valuable opportunity to talk with many people that we as Americans don’t often get to meet, and to learn about their daily lives, hopes, aspirations and struggles. The visit reaffirmed the realization that there are more similarities that unite us as people than differences that separate us, and gave me hope for the future of diplomatic relations between our two nations.
Jennifer Janviere is a multimedia specialist and instructor in the Diederich College of Communication at Marquette University.