Cuba opens its borders to CLU

For the first time CLU is offering students the chance to travel to Cuba as part of their studies at CLU. The country, which has been under a U.S. embargo for over 50 years, is closed off to American tourists not under specific pretenses, such as education.

This may be a student’s only chance to go to Cuba in their lifetime, unless the embargo is lifted.

The travel seminar will take place tentatively from Jan. 4 through 14 of 2013. It will count as a single-unit political science course paired with a pre-course this fall called Caribbean Politics and Culture, which counts for four units of political science.

“It would be interesting and very informative to take students to a country that is off the beaten path,” said Gregory Freeland, director of political science at CLU. Freeland has organized the trip for students with help from the Study Abroad Office.

Freeland and 17 other participants from the university were the first members of CLU to go to Cuba.

“It was someplace the faculty and staff weren’t able to go to on their own. It was a great opportunity that we could provide for the CLU community,” said Stephanie Sullivan, Assistant Director of Study Abroad. “Something they wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise.”

Sullivan coordinated with the Augsburg College Center for Global Education, which provided the license necessary to travel to Cuba.

“It was a people to people license that we used, which was made available to us since there has been loosened restrictions on travel to Cuba for educational purposes,” said Sullivan. “That was the primary reason that we were travelling there.”

Herbert Gooch, professor of political science, spoke of the trip and how his son would be part of the first group of students participating in the travel seminar.

“For someone like me who remembers Castro coming to power and this week 50 years ago, the Cuban missile crisis, Cuba has always been a threatening mystery,” said Gooch. “For me to see a communist regime that is still operating was fascinating.”

Gooch and Freeland made sure to enjoy their time in Havana, listening to music at Jazz bars, visiting the Museum of Revolution, seeing Ernest Hemingway’s house and experiencing a country that has been cut off from the U.S. since 1959.

They loved the American-made cars from the 50s that serve as the dominant transportation. Even 50s style music was played.

“It’s almost like Cuba has been sealed off in this strange kind of time warp and now the society has to open up to the rest of the world,” said Gooch.

The recent changes in U.S. policy have loosened restrictions on visiting Cuba. Cuba itself is opening up, allowing its citizens to visit other countries without applying for an exit visa.

Cuba may not be a country that is considered closed off for that much longer.

 

Joe Wood
Staff Writer
Published Oct. 24, 2012