Cuba lies so close to our shores and yet has been shunned by the US for most of my life. It was on my list of places to visit one day because of the contradictions that make it so fascinating. Is Castro an idealist or cruel dictator? Is he Communist or populist? Why have successive US presidents supported an embargo intended to unseat him that clearly is not working? Frail boats leave Cuban shores full of desperate people while speedier ones transship drugs. What about the missile crisis, hot Latin rhythms, food shortages and vintage cars?
As my sixtieth birthday approached, I gave myself the gift of a visit Cuba. I was also looking for a Spanish immersion program, something else on my to-do list, so when Global Exchange scheduled a Spanish immersion program to Cuba in early February of 2003, the match was perfect. Their Reality Tour promised to answer many of my questions and probably others I did not know to ask. It is difficult for US citizens to visit Cuba individually and the Global Exchange tour was one of the few that are legally licensed and approved by the Treasury Department and their reading materials sent before made the trip even more alluring.