14ymedio | Havana | 29 November 2014 — (Supplemented with information from EFE news agency) The M.V. Explorer academic cruise ship from Semester at Sea arrived today [Saturday, 11/29] in Havana bearing 624 students. The students, hailing from 248 U.S. universities, will participate in a program of cultural exchanges, conferences and excursions.
Frank González, rector of the University of Havana, greeted the group upon their arrival. The students were then transported to the grand staircase of the university where they were given another welcome.
On their first day in Cuba, the students were scheduled to attend conferences on US/Cuba relations, and to view an evening performance in the Havana Amphitheater.
On Sunday, the students were to have their choice among excursions to provinces such as Matanzas, Pinar del Río and Villa Clara. This last one will include stops in Remedios, the Monument to Ché, and the eco-tourism/art project, NaturArte. The Trinidad itinerary includes a stop at Topes de Collantes in the Escambray mountains, while in Matanzas they will be able to visit Playa Girón in the Bay of Pigs.
In Havana City, the students are scheduled to visit Ciudad Escolar Libertad (Freedom School City), the old Columbia military encampment that, after the Revolution, was converted into a school. There will also be a tour through La Habana Vieja (Old Havana) that will explain the restoration process for various buildings and streets in the city’s historic district.
The M.V. Explorer will remain docked in the port of Havana until Dec. 3.
Apparently, the program will provide these university students with a very specific vision of Cuba, one that celebrates the “achievements” of the Revolution in the areas of culture and education, among others.
May these students also be able to maximize their brief stay on the Island so that they may compare this ideal vision with the reality that we Cubans live every day.
Translated by Alicia Barraqué Ellison