Cuba here we come!

The week has finally come that the group of us from American are leaving to spend a week in Cuba! We will leave on Saturday for Miami where we will spend the night, then Sunday leave for Havana on a Marazul Charter flight with our lovely Center for Global Education representative Jessica Haas!

As of now our itinerary is still tentative because it has to go through so many approvals within the Cuban and the U.S. governments before we are allowed to have any official meetings or visits with community groups.  However, we are excited to be able to meet with the Ministry of Education, the U.S. Interests Section (similar to a U.S. Embassy in other nations), an agrarian university in Pinar del Rio, a women’s collective, Skate for Peace, University students at the University of Havana and the list goes on.

Our days will be filled with meetings and dialogues with Cubans about their education backgrounds and experiences as well as visits to museums like the Literacy Museum and the Museo de la Revolución. We will have some walking tours, bus tours, dances with community members, and a formal private dinner in a Cuban Paladar. We will have workshops on the theoretical framework of popular education (Paulo Freire), and an incredible time staying at the Martin Luther King Center that houses visitors from all over Cuba and all around the world who want to take part in social jsutice to deepen their understanding of Cuban culture.

As you can see our 8 days are jammed pack with all sorts of activities surround education, Cuban history, the economy, young people and community. As internet access will be spotty while we’re at the MLK Center, we cannot guarantee that we’ll be able to upload posts or photos while we’re on the ground. We will try! Otherwise, we will post daily logs once we’re back in the U.S.

A big shout out to American, the Center for Community Engagement and Service, and the incredible Alternative Break program! We wouldn’t be here without you :) Can’t wait to share with all that we see and learn with our community once we return!

-Maria Schneider

Will the Real Terrorist Please Stand Up? by Saul Landau.

In one month, we will be headed to Cuba for spring break. In preparation, we’ve all been doing our best to learn as much as possible about Cuba. This quest led me to IPS a few weeks ago. They were screening the film Will the Real Terrorists Please Stand Up by Saul Landau. This film went in depth about many aspects of Cuban-U.S. relations that are often swept under the rug in the U.S. The documentary (which is available on netfix!) covered the history of U.S.-Cuba relations, focusing heavily on the case of the Cuban Five.

The provocative title is not only used to catch your attention. In reality, Saul seeks to highlight real terrorist actions taken by the U.S. against Cuba. The movie covered events from the Bay of Pigs under Kennedy, to the 1976 plane bombings and continuing through to the bombing of two tourist hotels in (see article for more info on Posada and the bombings: Why Posada Should Still Be Tried for Terrorism). Over this period of time, seven attempts were made on Fidel Castro’s life. The majority of these events were coordinated in Miami, where the largest faction of Cuban-Americans reside.

In 1990, fed up with the attacks on its land and citizens, Cuba sent intelligence agents into Miami to infiltrate the groups suspected of coordinating some of the aforementioned attacks. The U.S. caught wind of them, and tried them for conspiracy to commit espionage, conspiracy to commit murder, and a number of other charges (26 in total). The agents were tried in Miami, convicted for the all 26 charges, given the maximum sentences (two, consecutive life sentences) and held in solitary confinement. Since their conviction, there has been a growing movement calling for their release, or, at least a free trial. The case made its way through the court system, reaching the steps of the Supreme Court, where it was denied review.

As we prepare for our trip, it’s important we remember there are many ways to view history. In Cuba, the Cuban Five are heroes; symbols of strength and resistance. The more I learn, the more I realize the story of Cuba I’ve heard may not be the most accurate. I truly recommend Landau’s film (did I mention its on Netflix?!) and or some more information on the Cuban Five check out some of these sites:

Organization most involved in calling for the release of the Cuban Five: http://www.thecuban5.org/wordpress/index.php

Outlines the push for a swap from Cuba’s perspective: http://openchannel.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/12/01/15602211-cuba-pushes-swap-its-spies-jailed-in-us-for-american-contractor-held-in-havana?lite

Written by Katie Burk

Welcome to the blog for American University’s Alternative Break to Cuba!

Welcome to the 2012-2013 American University Alternative Break to Cuba group blog! We are a group of AU students and two wonderful AU faculty that will be traveling to Cuba this March to learn about access to higher education in Cuba. We are a part of a collective movement through Breakaway http://www.alternativebreaks2013.org that seeks to create social change in our own local communities and greater international communities all across the globe beginning with a social justice issue and a group of dedicated, passionate young people who want to make a difference and advocate for change!

Why did we decide to travel to Cuba?

Following in the footsteps of Monica Shah and Jessica Guttenberg the first students to lead an alternative break to Cuba with American University (read for more information on their motives for proposing this alternative break http://www.american.edu/cas/news/alt-break-cuba-2012.cfm), Cindy Zavala and myself Maria Schneider are decided to continue the work that they started wih community partners at the Martin Luther King Memorial Center in Havana, Cuba and the Center for Global Education in Minneapolis, MN. Not much is known about Cuban culture, or Cuban people from those of us in the United States because of the complex history between the two nations that differ so vastly both politically and economically. Unlike many negative stigmas that Cuba has from United States’ eyes, education is something that Cuba has been idolized for since the Literacy Movement in the early 1960s when the literacy rate grew from 65% to 96% higher than any country in the Western Hemisphere.

It is important for us as young people, who believe in equity for all people, to learn about the negative stigmas foreigners have of Cuba and strive to educate our own communities about how those barriers of ignorance and difference can be better understood. So why not start with the one universal right that all people have to an education?

That is why we are here. We hope you enjoy this blog of different voices, perspectives and experiences and stay tuned for more about the service we are doing, films we are seeing, people we are meeting and who we are as a group. To learn more about CGE our community partner in Minneapolis visit their blog http://cgecuba.blogspot.com/!

¡Chao!