Any Tips for Our Upcoming Trip?

Question: We are visiting Cuba from April 20th to May 5th 2011. Are there any special “must see / must do” things that you think would be of interest?

Answer: You’ll be in Cuba over May Day, which is always a big event anywhere in the country. In Havana, for instance, it traditionally brings out hundreds of thousands of people from all around the city. Sometimes there are just short speeches from the head of the Central de Trabajadores de Cuba (CTC or Cuban Workers Federation) and visiting dignitaries, and often there is a massive and very colourful and lively march of workers from different sectors and institutions. Whatever, it is an exciting and energetic event. It usually starts at 8 am (on time) and goes for a couple of hours. If you’re interested in seeing this, we would recommend you get an early start as the huge Plaza de la Revolución, located in Havana’s Vedado neighbourhood where the festivities take place, fills up quickly and early. Check at your hotel or homestay, wherever you are staying, for details closer to the date.

As well, sometimes there are collateral cultural activities – music, dance, etc. – that take place around the city on May Day. It’s still too early to know the details, but again, you can check this out once you’re here.

If you’re baseball fans, we’re also in the Final Playoffs for the 50th National Baseball Series – and it would be exciting to see one of these games, as much for the top quality of the players as for the enthusiasm of the crowd.  It’s a real cultural experience.  This year, the two teams that are vying for the title are Ciego de Ávila (eastern division) and Pinar del Río (western division).  The Games begin on April 20th in Ciego de Avila for Game 1 & 2.  Then the series shifts to Pinar del Rio for Games 3, 4 and 5.  If needed Games 6, 7 will be in Ciego de Avila.

To find out if there are cultural activities that interest you during the time you’re in Cuba, there are a number of sites you can check out from home.

One site which provides some information is the Spanish and English language Portal Cubarte at Identifying itself as “The Portal of Cuban Culture”, if you click under Services at the top of its homepage, and then under Events, you will get a page listing every month for the current year and some of the activities – dance, theatre, art exhibitions, etc. – taking place that month. When you select an activity, you will be provided with the date, location, brief description, contact information and sometimes a website for getting further information.

An informative site of activities is Opus Habana, put out by the Historian’s Office for Havana and covering activities in the capital’s historic centre of Habana Vieja. This Spanish-only Cartelera Interactiva (Interactive Listings) can be found at the following site:

Updated regularly, the list of events covers a one-week period, including a brief description of each event plus place, time, and starting and ending dates if the event takes place over a longer period of time. Events include cinema and video, lectures, exhibitions, children’s activities, literary activities, musical performances, theatre and dance performances, etc.

If you enjoy art and you’re in Havana, the city abounds in excellent art museums and galleries. However, one that is a “must see” is the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes. The art collection – totalling over 50,000 works – is divided into two separate buildings, Arte Cubano and Arte Universal. Don’t miss the Arte Cubano, which is an experience that you won’t find elsewhere in the world. With over 30,000 works, it provides a comprehensive view of five centuries of Cuban art including colonial, turn-of-the-last century, modern and contemporary. Below is the contact information:

Arte Cubano, Calle Trocadero, Entre Zulueta (Agramonte) y Avenida de Bélgica (Monserrate), Centro Habana, Telephone (537) 861-3858   Website

Another excellent site published from the UK to check out is Cuba Absolutely site which has both an English and Spanish cultural calendar.