IMG_0740cuba 2By Julia Clifton

Elm Staff Writer

Since 2015, the departments of music and anthropology have co-sponsored a two-week trip to Cuba during the January term to immerse students in Cuban music and culture.

When the trip began, the United States lacked a Cuban embassy, and students could only reach the island on charter planes.

Since then, the trip has changed a great deal­ — not only in terms of travel and our relations with Cuba, but also with the activities of the trip itself.

New this year was an extended stay in Trinidad, which allowed to students to see more of the city and better embrace the culture.

The trip was led this year by Professor Ken Schweitzer, associate professor of music, and Dr. Aaron Lampman, associate professor of anthropology.

According to Schweitzer, the main goal of the trip is to introduce his students to the reality of Cuba, as opposed to the way Cuba is often portrayed in the news in the United States.

“Despite all the political rhetoric that makes Cuba seem like a scary, dangerous, or problematic place, I want to show my students that it’s warm, friendly, open, just fascinating,” Schweitzer said.

Many of the students observed the resilience of the Cuban people in light of all the turmoil they have endured.

“Every person we encountered in our time there was welcoming, kind, and happy. In the face of all the adversity that Cubans have faced over the years, they have become stronger and it shows in their connections with each other,” junior Maura West said.

To show their students the warmer side of Cuba that isn’t shown in America, the professors also conveyed the culture of the country through immersion in food, dance, and music. Students stayed in the homes of Cuban residents and ate their traditional homemade food.

Additionally, the group toured Havana and Trinidad, two of Cuba’s major cultural centers. In Havana, students visited art stores, watched a cabaret perform at the Hotel Nacional, and viewed the El Capitolo building, which resembles the U.S. Capitol building.

In Trinidad, students experienced the natural landscape of Cuba through horseback riding in the mountains and visiting an organic farm.

“We took tours of different historic sites, listened to live music performances, took singing and dancing lessons, and swam and explored the beaches and mountains of Cuba,” sophomore Samantha Robinson said.

Despite the demanding nature of the excursion, many participants thoroughly enjoyed their time in Cuba.

“It’s a busy trip but it’s also so much fun,” junior Emily Kreider said.

Schweitzer emphasized that the excursion is not just for those interested in music.

“We design the trip to be interesting to students of all disciplines. And, since we started, we’ve always had a mix of majors. Art people enjoy it, theater people enjoy it. This is the thing, it’s designed to be broadly appealing. Anyone can go on it and learn stuff about things that they find interesting.” Schweitzer said.

This trip is open to all majors and runs every January. For more information about applying for next year, visit the ethnomusicology page on the Washington College website.

The Elm

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