Jan 272017
 January 27, 2017

Alternative Spring Break 2017 - Cuba

How has 70 years of fractious and fractured relations defined the evolution of Cuba and the United States, what consequences will come from healing those rifts and how might recent changes in the leadership of both countries affect reconnection and its impact on the lives of ordinary Cubans?

A group of Duke University undergraduate students will be selected to participate in the Kenan Institute for Ethics’ alternative spring break 2017 to Havana, Cuba. The group will travel to Cuba for 5 or 6 days during the week of March 13th for an immersion into the opportunities and challenges posed by the resumption of normal relations between the United States and Cuba after nearly 70 years of tension and distrust. All costs will be covered by the Kenan Institute for Ethics.

Participants will explore the the social, economic, geophysical/environmental consequences of reconnection between Cuba and the United States, from multiple viewpoints, including the attitudinal contrasts between those who are old enough to remember the Batista government and those who have come of age only knowing post-Revolution Cuba and perhaps comparing those divisions to those found in the Cuban exile communities in the U.S. Students will examine the complexities of Cuba’s bifurcated economy, which segregates tourist income from the local marketplace, the social effects of ending ‘Wet foot/Dry foot,’ the de facto ecological protections codified by the restoration of the U.S.-Cuba relations and how Castro’s revolution had profound, if unexpected consequences for gender roles and empowerment.

Prior to the trip, the group will meet several times with guest speakers and to discuss readings. During the trip students will have evening reflections and will keep a journal documenting their questions, concerns, and experiences. These journals will form the basis of an exhibit upon return to Duke.

To apply:

Please submit your application via this form by 5 PM on February 15th 2017. Interviews will take place during the week of February 20th, 2017.

Frequently asked questions:

  • Will I need a passport?
    • A valid passport, with at least two blank pages will be required for entry and exit. Your passport must be valid for at least 60 days after departure from Cuba in the case of some nations (EU countries, including the U.K., as well as the U.S.) and 6 months for others.
  • Will I need a visa?
    • In order for U.S. travelers to Cuba to board the flight, we will purchase tourist visas, through the airline, for $85. Citizens of Benin, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Malaysia, Montenegro, and Serbia can visit visa-free for up to 90 days. Citizens of Grenada and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines can visit visa-free for up to 60 days. Citizens of Antigua and Barbuda, Belarus, Mongolia, Russia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Singapore, Armenia and Saint Lucia can visit visa-free for up to 30 days. Citizens of Barbados and Dominica can visit visa-free for up to 28 days.
  • What else is required for travel?
  • I’m not a U.S. citizen or I hold dual citizenship, how will my experience differ?
    • If you hold dual citizenship with Cuba, or are a child of Cuban emigres, in the past it has been strongly recommended not to travel to Cuba, as you may be subject to Cuban laws. If you hold Cuban citizenship, you must travel on a Cuban passport.
  • I don’t speak Spanish. Can I still apply?
    • Spanish competency is not a requirement for consideration but will make the trip much easier.
  • Where will we stay?
    • In addition to a small number of government-run luxury hotels in the major cities, Cuba operates a system of Casas Particulares, private homes which are open to tourists, provide the same amenities as a bed and breakfast and are regulated by the government. In the past, staying in a Casa Particulare was strongly recommended for U.S. citizens traveling to Cuba on educational trips and is the preferred accommodation of our on-the ground partner organization.
  • What costs will I be responsible for?
    • All travel, group meal and accommodation costs will be covered by the Kenan Institute for Ethics. Participants will be responsible for personal purchases (which may be subject to export/import restrictions).
  • Will my credit card work in Cuba?
    • As of December 2016, U.S. credit and debit cards are not being accepted. ATMs are relatively rare in Cuba. Cash is often the only method of payment.
    • There are two currencies circulating in Cuba, Cuban Pesos (CUP) and Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC).
    • CUC (pronounced kook) is the currency most tourists will use in Cuba. It is how you will pay for hotels, official taxis, entry into museums, meals at restaurants, cigars, rum, etc. Since March 2011, the CUC has been set at par to the USD for exchange calculation. Conversion into CUC can be done at exchange houses (casa de cambio, or cadeca). These are located in many hotels and in other places throughout the cities. CUC are valued at 25 times the value of CUP. Tourists are permitted to import or export a maxiumum of CUP 100 or CUC 200 at any one time. Locals pronounce the currency CUC/CUCs as “kook” or “kooks”
    • CUP are also known as local pesos and are referred to in Spanish as “Moneda Nacional” (National currency). 1 CUC buys 24 CUP and 25 CUP buys 1 CUC. There is a limited range of goods that can be bought for local pesos, and these are transactions carried out in agricultural markets or from street vendors. Because the products that can be purchased with CUP are limited, it is a good idea to change only about CUC 5-10 into CUP at a time.The USD is no longer a proxy currency in Cuba, and now incurs a 10% exchange penalty that other foreign currencies are exempt from. Therefore, if you are holding USD, it may be cheaper to convert to another currency (CAD/EUR/GBP), so long as you don’t lose more than 10% in the conversion. Ironically, if converting from CUC to other currencies, USD is one of the few currencies that are available to convert to. There is no penalty when converting to USD. As of July 2016, the only available currencies to convert from CUC at the airport were USD and the Euro. The smallest sized denominations available were $5 USD and 5 Euros.
  • What technology should I bring/what kind of access to technology should I expect?
    • Do not bring a laptop and do not expect to have much time to access technology.
    • Some American cellular carriers now offer international roaming in Cuba. Ask your carrier whether they offer it.
    • Other possible ways to make calls when in Cuba include: purchasing a Cuban SIM card and minutes, purchasing or renting a Cuban phone with minutes, using landline phones and purchasing international calling cards.
    • Older Cuban buildings will have North American 2-pin 110-volt outlets. More modern buildings will have 220-volt outlets that accept both American and European pins. NOTE: 220-volt outlets require adapters for American appliances. To cover all of your bases, you should consider bringing an adapter.
  • What is it like to visit Cuba as a woman?
    • While it is always advisable to be vigilant, Cuba is generally a very safe country for women. Catcalling is common, but rarely acted on and easily put to rest.
  • What is it like to visit Cuba as a LGBTQ+ person?
    • Cuba has become increasing more accepting towards LGBTQ+ identities. In terms of public displays of affection, it is fairly common to see men hug or women holding hands. Same-sex intercourse is legal in Cuba and the government provides free gender reassignment surgeries to its people. However, due to protest laws, there is not much LGBTQ+ activism on large, public scales. We encourage you to check out Duke GEO’s resources for LGBTQ+ travel.