The stereotypes, be they positive or negative, are endless regarding Cuba. One immediately thinks of socialism, Salsa, cigars to die for, beautifully restored classic American cars and the iconic image of Che Guevara. These are certainly accurate but nothing can truly convey the complex nature of a nation where ‘No es fácil’ (it is not easy to live); yet the all night rumbas, deserted beaches with sun-kissed white sands, the booming art movements, the heated political discussions, and the charming and proud character of the Cuban people themselves make this country a rare find.
My interest in the impact of Cuban immigration on race relations in Miami developed when I read an article stating that by the year 2020 it is predicted that the Hispanic population in America will have outgrown the Caucasian community. This is already true in Miami where Latinos account for over half of the population, and over 60% of those Hispanics are Cuban. Therefore, one is essentially limiting the experience of a huge sector of Miami’s cultural life by not speaking Spanish. As a result, I decided to apply for a University of Leicester travel scholarship to visit Cuba to increase my language proficiency, enabling me to interact further with the Latino community in Miami.
Although spending 3 weeks in a country as culturally rich as Cuba is its own reward, my desire to participate in an intensive language course was based on my academic desires to further investigate race and ethnic relations. The language tutoring I had on my 3-week trip to Santiago (in southeast Cuba) emphasised speaking and listening skills but also an extensive cultural and social education programme which was beneficial to my dissertation. I also extended my trip for 10 days to visit the Cuban capital Havana and practice my freshly learnt Spanish. I spent 4 wonderful days in Havana exploring Cuba’s turbulent and complex history. And, before leaving the island, I travelled to the beach resort Varadero for much needed relaxation.