Cuba, Baseball and Hemingway

By Benjamin Goggins December 2 was a perfect day under the Cuban sun.  My old friend Joe Kelley and I were in San Francisco de Paula (on a group trip) for a baseball game played on a storied field.  In the light filtered through a wall of mango trees, with every crack of the commemorative Canadian-maple bats and pop of the gloves, you could hear Ernest Hemingway cheer the boys in his old front yard. We were in Cuba visiting the many places associated with Hemingway.  We were at the Museo Hemingway, the Finca Vigia, on that particular day to see the annual Gigi All-Stars exhibition baseball game and celebration. We were there because we had read a very special book, The Homerun Kid: The True Story of Ernest Hemingway’s Baseball Team, by Oscar Blas Fernandez Mesa and Brian Gordon Sinclair.  Mesa was the Homerun Kid; Sinclair, a Canadian, is[...]CONTINUE READING

Cuba Travel Association RESPECT Opposes Cuba Travel Warning

  U.S. travel association opposes Trump administration’s Cuba travel warning and pullout of embassy staff   RESPECT Responsible Ethical Cuba Travel • September 30, 2017 Contact: Bob Guild, RESPECT Co-Coordinator201-755-0217respect@respectassociation.org   Meeting in Cuba, RESPECT*, the largest association of U.S. organizers of travel to Cuba, unanimously rejected the Trump administration’s Cuba travel warning and its decision to withdraw diplomatic staff from its Havana embassy. The reaction came in response to Washington’s announcement that it is withdrawing 60 percent of non-emergency staff from the U.S. Embassy in Havana and is warning U.S. citizens to avoid travel to Cuba. The justification for both is unexplained health problems that 21 Havana-based U.S. diplomats have reported. In addition, unidentified U.S. officials said the Consulate in Havana would suspend issuing U.S. visas to Cubans, indefinitely. The U.S. Embassy will continue to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in Cuba. “Based on the evidence thus far and the[...]CONTINUE READING

What a Cuba Tour Can Do !

Buenos Chicas and Scott, I am in the process of reconnecting with my regular life with some difficulty today. I continue to feel that something is missing…Where is the itinerary of activities, the morning hugs and smiling faces of my new friends, the “welcome drinks” mid-morning, the wonderment of new sights, the charming solicitations and brilliant smiles of Yasmani and Profy, Scott’s amicable and persistent patience moving me through the daily agenda, the humidity that set my personal record for bad hair days and compelled me to drink more water than I normally consume in a month? Gosh, you mean I have to set my own schedule today? Cook? Ambulate without the support and laughter of 10 other people? I keep wanting to look around and count 9, 10, or 11.  It was a magical and fantastical trip. Unfortunately, I lack the eloquence to tell each of you how much[...]CONTINUE READING

Dancing in the Changing Cuba Business Landscape

(posted on Linkedin – 26 March 2016) – by Scott Schwar nd so it begins… the Cuban dance with U.S. investors.  It stepped up and out in a new Cuban Foreign Investment Act (May 2014) and the executive actions of President Obama to normalize relations first announced in December 2014.   The most visible dance partners were seen this March when Starwood Hotels and Resorts signed an agreement to manage three hotel properties in Havana, Cuba.  This announcement was enhanced with an amended merger agreement between Starwood and Marriott International, Inc. The Cuban hotels are attractive even before the anticipated Starwood renovations and luxury upgrades. The landmark historic Hotel Inglaterra (1875) enjoyed recent Cuban government restoration alongside the recently restored Grand Theater and the nearby Capitolio, soon to once again house the Cuban National Assembly.  It faces Central Park from which the avenue Paseo del Prado leisurely strolls down to the[...]CONTINUE READING

CUBA Travel Changes Bring Hope …and Confusion

Excitement projected vividly across the emails I received from Cuba the day President Obama announced new Cuba policy changes on 17 DEC 2014. Genuine joy was expressed and further confirmed when these NEW Cuban Assets Control Regulations implementing Cuba policy changes were published in the Federal Register on 16 JAN 2015. The President brought us much closer to Cuba but only Congress (per the Helms Burton Act) can end the embargo and restore full Cuba travel for tourism. The general public feeling is that everything is now open. The reality is that restrictions remain. The final answer will be in the regulation of the rules, but an upfront vision of easy travel is misleading. For example, a Chicago Tribune article (16 JAN 2015), “U.S. Eases Cuban Trade, Travel Rules” stated that the change will open the floodgates for tourists to book their own direct flights to Havana. It then went[...]CONTINUE READING

CUBA…15 Years Later

Since making my first trip to Cuba in May 2000 and now 30 visits later, people often ask if Cuba has changed.  For many years, I couldn’t say that Cuba was markedly changing but the view is now clear that Cuba is changing within.  On the outside, the old autos are in even better condition and used increasingly serving visitors as taxis.  The four main plazas in Old Havana are almost completely restored and the pre-Revolution swank of Obispo Street shows in the return of chic clothing stores.  Well appointed “Paladares” (private restaurants) are opening daily with trained employees they steal from long standing government restaurants.  These window dressing changes point to a positive Cuban energy and hope that is driving Cuba’s recent moves to private enterprise.  Meanwhile, the enthusiastic street response to recent changes in U.S. and Cuban diplomatic relations further highlights the historical affinity between our two countries.[...]CONTINUE READING

Why Hemingway and Cuba?

Author Ernest Hemingway, a citizen of the world, is still one of the most studied authors in the U.S. and very much alive in the Cuban experience – his love for Cuba was reciprocated in his lifetime and continues today as an upcoming mid-June 2015 Hemingway Colloquium* in Havana demonstrates. The people read him and talk about him fondly; perhaps his personality especially striking a chord in Latin American macho sensibilities. Hemingway resided in Cuba for nearly 20 years and on Cuban television, the day he was notified he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, he described himself as a Cuban “sato,” slang for mixed breed dog. I’ve had the pleasure of observing this love for Hemingway in Cuba over the past 16 years while leading numerous cultural, medical, legal, religious, athletic and student groups to Cuba. During these years, I have developed relationships with many Cubans in all[...]CONTINUE READING


Visit CUBA, Attend Hemingway Colloquium: 15-22 JUNE 2015 Dear Cuba Traveler, Our upcoming 15-22 JUNE 2015 Cuba Tripincorporates the 15th Ernest Hemingway International Colloquium in an educational program that will bring you into close contact with Havana, the Cuban people and Hemingway scholars and aficionados from Cuba and around the world for $3,495 per person double occupancy, Single Supplement: $350. We’ll be staying at the historic and newly renovated luxury Hotel Capri de Havana just off the Malecon on the Gulf of Mexico. In addition to a full itinerary of people to people activities, your trip will include a Cuban tourist Visa in accordance with the new U.S. Treasury Department License for people to people travel programs, an experienced U.S. based tour leader, a bilingual Cuban guide with us the entire trip, health insurance while in Cuba, most meals, in country ground transportation (air conditioned) and the round trip flight[...]CONTINUE READING

Announcing NOVEMBER 2014 Cuba Tour

CUBA Open Tour – a Road Trip – 06 – 13 NOVEMBER 2014 – Early Bird Pricing Our fully licensed Cuba tour features top hotels including 5 nights at the historical and stately Hotel Nacional de Cuba in Havana just off the Malecon on the Gulf of Mexico and the four-star Hotel Las Cuevas overlooking the city of Trinidad.  In addition to a full itinerary of people to people activities, your trip will include a Cuban tourist Visa, U.S. Treasury Department License and Letter of Authorization to travel, an experienced U.S. based tour leader, a bilingual Cuban guide with us the entire trip, health insurance while in Cuba, most meals, in country ground transportation (air conditioned) and the round trip flight between Miami – Havana.   Travelers on our CUBA tours often use words like eye opening, interaction, diverse, understanding, educational, challenging, spectacular, safe, trip of a lifetime, and transformative.  One recent traveler wrote: “We brought home from Cuba memories of an intact culture and people with a deep artistic spirit.  Conversations[...]CONTINUE READING

18 – 25 JUNE 2014 CUBA Trip

The 18 – 25 JUNE 2014 CUBA Trip is getting ready to depart. This U.S. licensed visit has been designed to coincide with teacher vacations for a “people to people” exchange trip that will appeal to anyone looking to experience Cuba as it deals with new economic opportunities for its citizens. Since a licensed trip to Cuba cannot be the typical Caribbean beach vacation, our travelers are ready to really get to know another society and culture. We tour the historical legacies of the country but then go the next step in meaningful structured and unstructured interaction with the people that encourages mutual understanding and insights. As a result, most of our travelers describe their tour as one of the most memorable of their travels and many describe it as the best trip they’ve experienced. Special features of this tour include: Lodging in the elegant and restored Hotel Nacional, overlooking[...]CONTINUE READING