First Trinity Students Travel to Cuba as Part of Trinity in Trinidad Study Away Program

Student Says, ‘Sometimes Cuba is Reduced to a Revolution. For Me this Experience Humanized the Country’

​Hartford, Connecticut, February 8, 2018—The first Trinity College students to go on a study tour to Cuba recently shared their experiences with the Trinity community. During the fall 2017 semester, students in the Trinity in Trinidad study away program had the opportunity to spend eight days in Cuba on a trip led by Professor of History and International Studies Dario Euraque. The study tour was a part of the program course, “Exploring the Caribbean through Theory and Practice.” The goal of traveling to Cuba was to give students a broader sense of the Caribbean beyond the English-speaking region of Trinidad, Euraque said.

Trinity students with Professor of History and International Studies Dario Euraque (back, center) in Cuba.​
 Four Trinity students and one student from Vassar College accompanied Euraque on the College’s first study trip to Cuba. While in Cuba, students were able to listen to lectures on Cuban history, culture, art, music, and the African diaspora. They also visited museums and did some exploring outside of the classroom. A large component of the trip, “did not just involve visiting the area, but engaging with Cuban scholars through lectures,” Euraque said.

The Trinity student travelers—Laura Cadavid ’19, Elijah Hernandez ’19, Paola Otero ’18, and Clear Tavarez ’19—spoke about their experiences during a Common Hour talk presented by the Center for Caribbean Studies on January 30 in Mather Hall’s Alumni Lounge.

Cadavid compared and contrasted the food between Trinidad and Cuba. “I was surprised that the Caribbean islands weren’t culturally in unison,” she said. Cadavid explained that the food in Trinidad had a lot of Indian influence, while the food in Cuba was more what she expected the food to be like in the Caribbean. “In Trinidad we were at the University of West Indies in a dorm, whereas in Cuba we were with host families who cooked for us, which definitely affected our experience,” she said. “The most important thing is to not just focus on what is different between the two countries, but why they are different,” Cadavid said. “A lot of the differences between the two countries is based on the role that other countries—especially the U.S.A.—play in their development.”

Tavarez spoke about the political aspects of the trip and how the socialist society in Cuba functioned. “I felt like Trinidad was the mini-U.S.A. of the Caribbean, and the difference between the U.S.A. and Trinidad was not as great as the difference between the U.S.A. and Cuba,” she said.

Otero spoke about the experience of living with Cuban families during the trip. “Staying with host families really shaped a lot of our views and thought process on Cuba,” she said. She explained that the meals in Cuba lasted a lot longer and the families were willing to engage and make the students feel welcome. “Sometimes Cuba is reduced to a revolution. For me this experience humanized the country,” Otero said. One of the host families consisted of a husband and wife who worked as radio personality and engineer, respectively, who spoke to the students about their struggles politically during the 1990s and early 2000s. “Even with their level of education and being a prominent family, they still went through very difficult times, which was very eye-opening,” Otero said. She also added that everyone in Cuba has a deep understanding of Cuban history. 

The Common Hour concluded with a question and answer session in which students and faculty in attendance got to hear more about the students’ experiences abroad. “I had a fantastic time and fell in love with Cuba and I think that anyone who has the chance to go should really go and learn from it,” Tavarez said.

The opportunity to learn about and study in Cuba comes on the heels of the launch of the Center for Caribbean Studies in 2016. The Trinity in Trinidad program is one of many Trinity study away programs. In Trinidad, students take courses taught by Trinity faculty, as well as classes at the University of West Indies. This program offers academic opportunities in a variety of disciplines including international studies, music, film studies, chemistry, literature, and political science. For more information about the Trinity in Trinidad study away program, please contact Study Away Assistant Director Zachary Macinnes.

Written by Sophia Gourley ’19

Below: (Clockwise from top left) Students listen to a talk by Dr. Jesús Guanche called 'The Formation of Cuban Identity with emphasis on Indigenous Populations and African Slaves'; Students at Castillo de Los Tres Reyes Del Morro, Havana; Old Havana; Students at the Museum of Fine Arts, Havana.