News from Cuba — Update #8

The view west from Villa Loma

Playa Jibacoa is an out-of-the-way beach resort area along the north coast of Cuba, roughly halfway between Havana and our departure city of Varadero.  Its location is thus ideal for our final four days of time on Cuban soil — secluded and quiet, but with easy access to our flight home.  Unlike many of the more developed beach areas, this area, and especially this resort, Villa Loma, caters primarily to Cubans.  This provides a  more authentic Cuban experience while still being quite comfortable and attractive in a worn sort of way.  It is also very affordable, especially so compared with a nearby luxury resort we stopped by to see about Internet access:  There,  you pay $150 per day just to be on their grounds!

Villa Loma translates as ‘village on a hill,’ and indeed, we were located on a high point between Playa Jibacoa proper and a smaller beach at the mouth of the Rio Jibacoa.  Across the river lies a small peninsula with an interesting and prominent natural rock spire standing proudly like a man in its center.

One of the Scariest Things We Saw in Cuba

We came to  Villa Loma to work, and work we did.  In fact, we had very little beach time due to our busy work schedule.  (Having Portuguese Man-o-Wars available in the water was a minor deterrent as well.) To maximize our effectiveness, we subdivided our team into four task groups.  One group was tasked with designing a public presentation of our research and our travel experiences.  A second took on the development of a book of narratives, reflections, and essays about Cuba.  A third began writing articles for publication, since we plan to be publishing reports of our research in at least four periodicals with different audiences.  The fourth task group is focusing on helping to develop a video that incorporates footage from many of our interviews with Cuban citizens and leaders.

These groups spent hours hashing out the details of the final products of our expedition, which is not a photogenic process.  However, we enjoyed the amenities of Villa Loma as well, especially so once we got them to turn off the 120-decibel music pounding across the grounds nonstop from the pool.  We took most of our meals in their circular, third-story bar/restaurant called El Mirador, (“the lookout”).  Since the resort was virtually empty, we rarely saw other patrons.  However, when we celebrated Caroline’s birthday, a couple of men who had just finished a bottle of rum spontaneously assisted us in singing her birthday song.  One kept at it, singing two additional songs — and sounding remarkably good, considering what his blood alcohol must have been.  We later learned that he was a professional singer.

At Work in Casa Professores, Villa Loma

While at Villa Loma we conducted our next-to last interview.  This was with their director of culinary services, who had just completed his degree in resort management and who has the vision of turning this faded resort into an ecotourism site.  It certainly has the potential for that sort of future, and his plan marks one more example of Cuba’s leadership in moving toward a sustainable future.

It was hard to leave, but every story needs an ending.  After our final group circle, we left Villa Loma with Ramon, who for this last symbolic ride (of well over an hour) refused payment!  We stopped in Matanzas for our 18th and final interview, of Dr. Viera Petrova, and then headed for the Varadero Airport.  The remainder of our travels were remarkably uneventful, though adjusting to being among English speakers again was odd, and being on a Canadian airline that  offered everything in English and French only made it more so.  We sailed into Bellingham around 1:30 in the morning of Friday the 4th of February, and in coming weeks will post news of our final products as they emerge.

Ramon Drops Us Off One Last Time -- Even Other Cabbies Admire His Awesome Car

We offer deep and heartfelt gratitude to those of you who have followed, and especially thanks to those who have supported, this incredible opportunity for study and learning!

Please stay tuned for information about how to access our presentation, publications, and video.  We are confident that they will offer valuable opportunities for learning — not just about Cuba, but about what all of us can learn from Cuba to make our own future brighter.

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One Comment on “News from Cuba — Update #8”


  1. Wow, it has really been wonderful to follow your trip to Cuba in your blog. It’s astounding that you completed 18 interviews while you were away and were able to integrate into Cuban culture the way you have. I can’t wait to see/hear all about your research analyses and your trip when you return.


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