Last updated: 01:09 PM ET, Thu September 08 2016

Cuba Travel Network Focuses on American Heritage in Cuba Tour

Tour Operator | David Cogswell | September 08, 2016

Cuba Travel Network Focuses on American Heritage in Cuba Tour

Photo of Havana by David Cogswell

For the last half century, while the United States has held Cuba under an economic embargo, the country became for Americans like a black hole in the middle of the Caribbean.

Since it was forbidden for Americans to travel there, Cuba became almost nonexistent for Americans.

The largest island in the Caribbean became a nonentity. And during the 50-plus years of the embargo, Cuba has developed so independently from America that it seems today to be very foreign and remote, even though it’s only 90 miles from the U.S.A.

Ironically, the extreme antipathy that grew up between the two governments took place precisely because of how closely connected historically the neighboring countries are. The histories of Cuba and the U.S. have been tightly intertwined from the very beginning. If the two countries had not been so closely connected, the falling out could never have been as bitter as it has been.

Now as U.S.-Cuba relations are gradually thawing, the Cuba Travel Network has produced a tour itinerary designed to shine a light on the historical connections between Cuba and the U.S. The tour is called American Legacy.

The itinerary is built around a selection of sites chosen to illustrate the historical Cuban-American connection.

It shines a light on some individual Americans who lived in Cuba, such as Ernest Hemingway, who lived in Cuba from 1939 till 1960, one year before his death. But that 20 years was not all of Hemingway’s time in Cuba. He wrote seven books there, including “A Moveable Feast” and “Islands in the Stream.”

From 1932 to 1939 Hemingway spent his winters in Cuba at the Hotel Ambos Mundos in his own special room, 511. It was in that room that he wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls, which was based on his experiences during the Spanish Civil War. Fidel Castro said he learned some things about guerrilla warfare from reading that book.

The tour will visit Cojimar, the village where Hemingway docked his boat, Pilar. It was the setting for his book “The Old Man and the Sea.”

The itinerary will also visit Finca Vigia, where Hemingway lived during most of his time in Cuba. His house, which is now a museum, was where Hemingway wrote ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’, ‘The Old Man and the Sea’, and ‘A Movable Feast’

It includes a visit to the mansion of Irénée Dupont, the founder of the Dupont company that built a fortune selling gunpowder and later became known for such synthetics as nylon, neoprene, Lycra and Teflon.

Dupont’s mansion, which he named Xanadu, overlooks the beach at Varadero, one of Cuba’s most popular beach resort towns. Guests of the tour will spend the night there.

It includes a visit to Matanzas, the sugar cane capital of Cuba that was once part of the holdings of American tycoons such as Milton Hershey. Hershey built a sugar mill there after World War I and a town for the workers he employed there to produce chocolate products.

The itinerary will also include the kinds of people-to-people encounters that are still required for Americans visiting Cuba. These will include meetings with artists at the Cuban Art Factory, a complex of multiple gallery and performance spaces in a former cooking oil plant near the Almendares River in Havana's Vedado neighborhood.

Photo by David Cogswell

There will also be a stay in Las Terrazas, an ecotourism site and home to a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, with a visit to a small coffee plantation

The itinerary serves as the skeletal structure of the trip, but during the traveling time between the sites noted on the itinerary, the influence of America on Cuba will be richly in evidence in many ways, such as the many 1950s American cars on the streets, and the design of Cuba’s national capitol building, which is a dead ringer for the U.S. Capitol in Washington.


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