News from Cuba — Update #3

Las Terrazas

We left Havana and traveled to Las Terrazas, in the Pinar Del Rio province, to extend our studies into the countryside.  It didn”t hurt, either, to leave the bustle and dubious air quality for the peace and fresh air of the Pinar Del Rio hills.
Las Terrazas is a lovely place, consisting of a series of pleasant small houses and apartments/condos built into the hills (thus the name “The Terraces”). It serves as a demonstration site for sustainable living, as the village has a comprehensive management scheme and operates its own vegetable gardens, restaurants, schools, art galleries, hotel, lumber production facility, museum, and other tourist facilities. While there, we interviewed several community members, including the man who is responsible for the overall ecological management plan.

The HSSSE Reaches Cuban Students!

We were also able to administer the High School Survey of Student Engagement to students at the secondary school in the village, which operates with greater autonomy from the Education Ministry than most other schools in Cuba. They were actually very accomodating, curious about our school, and helpful to us in our work. Our time in Las Terrazas also allowed us to conduct ethnographic studies and squeeze in a short hike to the top of their local mountain. We even ate at their vegetarian gourmet restaurant, which would be a remarkable find anywhere in the world, but was especially delightful to find in this remote village!

From Las Terrazas we got another ride from Ramon — who likes us so much he left Havana to drive us across the countryside — all the way to Playa Larga on the northern tip of the Bay of Pigs on Cuba’s south coast. Stories of Playa Larga, the portal to Cienaga de Zapata National Park, will have to wait for another day, except for this one report of our activities from Cydnee:

Making New Friends in Cuba

Cydnee writes:  We were able to visit a crocodile research station established by Fidel Castro at Cienaga de Zapata national park. This is a facility established to teach people about the value of crocodiles and to facilitate the breeding of adorable baby crocodiles for later reintroduction into the wild. While we were there, I was given an opportunity (OK, peer pressure had something — a lot — to do with it) to hold a young crocodile. It was very exciting. The animal felt squishy and scaly and cold, but not slippery at all –kind of like a crocodile purse. I love crocodiles now. At this research station, they are learning things previously unknown about these animals, and hope to restore the population to its historical level someday.

Our best to everyone back in the States. We will have lots of great stories, research findings, photos and videos to share upon our return!

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