Amigos/Enemigos: UW-Parkside Cuba Trip
By Melissa Rodriguez
"You have to have a real sense of adventure to pull off Cuba" said Dr. Maria Martinez of the UW-Parkside English Department at the start of the Worldfest lecture "Cuba: The Forbidden Island."
Martinez, along with 11 students and two staff members, presented the experiences they had during a study abroad trip to the rural city of Baracoa, Cuba, during Winterm 2013. The adventurous group members: Justin Armstrong, Shannon Curtis, Jeremy Durick, Zachary Gripko, Devan Haney, Nick Kaminski, Ema Kelley, Katherine Kuhlmey, Dale Lovejoy, Zachary Patterson, Myah Pazdera, Ryan Ridley, and Christopher Zanowski, were eager to talk about what they saw and did.
As they began sharing, their rich stories captivated the audience who no doubt had similar apprehensions or views about Cuba that the study abroad students themselves had before setting foot on the island.
"When I used to think of this communist nation, I thought of the Soviet Union," said Ryan Ridley, a sports management major. "I was expecting things to be very drab and gray...but when we got there things were colorful, vibrant, it's a beautiful culture. Everything seemed to have an upbeat attitude towards it."
Martinez, whose family is native to Baracoa, took the group to many places over the course of the trip: hiking up a mountain, traversing waist-deep rivers, etc. The travelers shared various aspects of the trip showcasing the bright art and culture of the people of Cuba. Each of them had a particular subject they touched on during their presentations, from political relations and art to biology and the healthcare of the island.
At the end of the lecture, a photo montage created by Zachary Gripko was played showing all the pictures taken with his camera while on the trip. The majority of the students expressed great interest in returning to Cuba again having fallen in love with the people and the country.
"They invited us into their homes and they shared with us" said Shannon Curtis a UW-Parkside senior majoring in Spanish.
Baracoa is located on the southeast tip of the island lies next to a mountain range and a cove known as the Bay of Honey. Martinez remarked, "There is a story that if you bathe in the river of honey--or the 'Bahía de Miel'--that you will always have to return."Whether the legend of the river is true or it was simply the charming people, these study abroad students seem likely to return to relive their great memories, in their hearts if not on the next trip to Cuba which is set for Winterm 2014.