Spring Breaks in the US & Cuba

Graham Sowa

The Playas del Este beaches are a popular day trip option. Foto: Caridad

College students in the United States must be one of the most marketed to groups in the history of consumers. I remember the weeks leading up to spring break were particularly filled with propaganda for the drinking, fornicating masses.

Classrooms were full of handbill sized full color ads for ski trips to Colorado and weeklong parties in the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico.

I see this use of Spring Break as a time to travel to a place about which you know nothing and will learn nothing of while you are there. Your only goal is to take advantage of that phrase “all inclusive” and get flat out drunk for a week. But it does seem exciting.

Then there is the “alternative” spring break. These usually started as service projects by campus groups to go to places like New Orleans and clean debris out of houses.

The failure, on so many levels, of the quick restoration of New Orleans has allowed a cottage industry of enterprising “not for profits” promote package deals every spring break for people who want to come help rebuild the city.

What started as groups of organized students quickly expanded to managed vacations for volunteers, now complete with their own handbills and posters around campus. How to rebuild that dignity damaged on Burbon Street should not concern the aspiring alternative spring breaker.

Of course there are those students who go home or travel independently. Then there are those poor souls that stay at the empty university. At least the fairness of time ensures that their spring break will end in conjunction with their party going comrades.

Many stay at school

At the Latin American School of Medicine most of us find ourselves in the latter group. Then again, what we have is not really billed as “spring break” but rather as a “faculty recess.”

The faculty recess takes place in late April. Due to our vacation taking place out of the spring break season, and also due to the fact that travel to and from Cuba is beyond the means of most students, we mostly stay at the school.

However, a number of students do travel within Cuba. A trip across Cuba takes weeks of forethought this time of year since the bus and train tickets are bought up quickly. Of course if one has the money there are always seats on the comfortable Transtur tourist buses.

I don’t know any Cuban students who have the money to travel on the latter, but I know plenty who didn’t get to travel home to see their families this year because of problems with the former.

For the traveling student Playa del Este is a popular day trip and the beach resort of Veradero is a popular weekend trip.

Veradero seems to be catching on to the existence of foreign students with disposable cash in Cuba, as they were offering 50 CUC a night all inclusive accommodation during the week long break. Perhaps this is practice for when the travel ban ends and we can expect Cuba to be the hot new off-limits now on-limits destination for United States university students?

Or maybe we can promote spring break in Cuba as a people-to-people exchange under the new United States Federal Government guidelines for legal travel to Cuba? Easier yet would be to hold a church service on the plane ride from the United States to Cuba. That should qualify as attending a religious function and travelers would be exempt from the travel ban with a general travel license for religious purpose.

If rebuilding New Orleans can be marketed as a spring break destination I don’t know why Cuba should expect to remain exempt from the dominance of the consumer market of the United States university.

Graham

Graham Sowa: I've been living in Cuba for three years now. I would like to blame my obvious hair loss seen in this updated photo on the rigors of life here and medical school, but it is probably just genetic. I've made some of the strongest friendships during my time in Cuba from other writers on this website. The strength of those friendships has almost restored my faith that the online world can lead to offline and real life change. On that same note I've adjusted to using internet one or two hours a month. In the meantime I have rediscovered things like flipping through the pages of books, writing stuff down by hand, and having to admit that I don't know something instead of rapidly looking up the answer on Google while the teacher isn't looking.


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