I’ve found it difficult to describe my first trip to the island, albeit a trip that lasted only a couple of days. I did my research, as most do before traveling anywhere new, but felt as if it was hardly enough. It’s now Saturday and I’ve been home since Tuesday, yet there’s this disconnect. Usually there’s a sense of having seen something more than what I was able to in Havana.
I thought I’d be able to scratch the surface of the city within a couple of days of being there, but Havana was different. Havana felt like a city of secrets. Not the bad kind, but the kind waiting to be uncovered to reveal something unexpectedly spectacular — a wonderful mystery I haven’t quite yet cracked.
Piña coladas and mojitos, Cohibas and Havana Club, old cars and even older buildings. On that level, Cuba was just about everything I expected, yet, on another, not at all.
Contrary to the clichés, this isn’t a place stuck in time. Sure, you’ll see a lot of vintage cars and architecture and be given an idea of what the city looked like 60+ years ago, but the people are still very much in the loop. The obstacles Cuba has faced, and is still facing, are obvious, but the pride, strength and resilience of this country is even more obvious in its people — and that might be what I found most beautiful.
In 32 days, on May 3rd, some colleagues and I will be taking a group of students from the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications to Cuba as part of an immersive multimedia storytelling program — an intensive, hands-on, 10-day workshop.
With the help of a few friends, we’ve managed to lean on the expertise of experienced professionals who’ve been working to tell this island’s stories for decades, the Miami Herald’s Cuba team and CBS’s Havana bureau chief among them. I’m grateful for these people on the outside who know both sides of the story so well, and who are able to pass along the knowledge to our team.
I am excited to go back — but, even more so, I’m looking forward to seeing what the students produce and take away from their time here.