2015 YFU Adult Community Arts and Cultural Tour: Cuba!

Cuba Welcomes First-of-its-Kind Delegation

YFU was pleased to partner with the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, DC (GMCW) for a new travel opportunity to the island nation of Cuba! Featuring songs of empowerment from US social movements in an effort to raise awareness of issues faced by LBGTQ communities, the chorus served as cultural ambassadors, demonstrating the power of music for social change. Following a number of performances in and around Havana, the YFU and GMCW delegation engaged in forums with the public and select organizations to open a dialogue about social policy and LGBTQ equality.

A Historic Journey of Intercultural Understanding

YFU is a catalyst for positive global change, and innovative programs like this provide the ultimate reality check to a worldview based on stereotypes. This delegation was charged with a unique opportunity to encourage a new era of inclusion and public diplomacy through music. Made possible by the Republic of Cuba, licensed through People to People, and operated in collaboration with Interplanner, the first and longest running provider of travel services between the US and Cuba, this program was a first of its kind. View the press release here.  

The partnership between YFU as an educational entity and GMCW as a musical entity provided this delegation cultural sanction, where travel to Cuba is still limited to educational, religious, cultural, humanitarian and family purposes. Concerts took place at prestigious locations such as the Franciscan Monastery, and the group even met with representatives from the Cuban National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX), a government-funded entity spearheaded by Mariela Castro, daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro.  

The mission of YFU is just as vital as it ever was, and by helping people to make the world their home, we help them to appreciate differences and embrace similarities. YFU is a positive first step in a lifelong journey of international connection.

Discovering Untouched Cuba

Participants who joined this delegation were also able to enjoy Cuba’s distinctive culture, with an ambitious itinerary focused on the arts, education, health, and schools, along with the island’s unique cuisine, music and architecture. The trip was full of opportunities to meet with local business owners, artisans, lecturers, and everyday citizens for a true cultural immersion.

Cuba in the News

Cuba may be only 90 miles from Florida, but for half a century, it’s been largely off-limits to most Americans. Since 2011, Americans have been allowed to go to Cuba on tours run by licensed companies like Interplanner, YFU’s Adult Study Tour provider. On 20 July 2015, the US and Cuba formally re-established diplomatic ties. In both Washington and Havana, ceremonies marked a new beginning and potential for new opportunities. This renewed attention on Cuba has many would-be travelers wondering what the island neighbor has to offer.  

We talked to our own expert, YFU Travel Director and native of Cuba Alex Lopez to find out. “The Cuban people have endured 53 years of a U.S. economic embargo that has severely burdened the entire population. The Cuban people have always welcomed American visitors and have been able to separate the political differences between the U.S,” he said. “Who knows, maybe soon we will be the first to open the way for a student exchange program between both nations helping to heal the wounds of decades of isolation.” 

Schedule of Performances

  • Sunday, July 12: 3pm: Met members of the Marina de Gonitch Chorus.
  • Monday, July 13: 3pm: Visited the Casa de la Cultura (House of Culture) in Arroyo Naranjo, a suburb of Havana. After enjoying a special dancing and singing presentation by Cuban children, the GMCW performed. 8:30pm: Joined a block party and performed for the local residents.
  • Tuesday, July 14: Traveled to Pinar del Rio, located two hours from Havana, to perform at Las Terrazas Community Project.
  • Wednesday, July 15: 5pm: Visited CENESEX at the Casa de la Amistad (Friendship House Mansion) where the exchange with the YFU and GMCW delegation had the opportunity to engage with Mariela Castro.
  • Thursday, July 16: 9:30am: Visited the Convento Nuestras Señora de Belen (Convent of Our Lady of Bethlehem) and performed for the elderly and greater convent program community. 6:00pm: Performed at the Convento San Francisco de Asis.
  • Friday, July 17: 6:00pm: Performed in the Che Guevara room of the Casa de las Americas.

*Traveled under the People to People General License. Travel arrangements by OFAC Travel Service Provider International Planning Services, Inc. d/b/a Interplanner – OFAC license No. CU-51857A