“Cuba is 90 miles from Florida but it’s a different world.” Professor Walter Rutledge said as he spoke of his upcoming trip to Cuba this Winter Term. Recently, the United States has made it possible for educational groups to travel to Cuba, as long as they do so through a Cuban government licensed tourist provider. This Winter Term, WKU will be taking it’s first group of students to Cuba for two weeks. Students will be enrolled in Cuban Culture and Literature and will receive credit for either Honors Colloquium 300 or Honors English 399.
In order to learn as much about the Cuban culture as possible within two weeks, students will visit a variety of places. Scholars will learn about Cuban literature, religion, education, food and industry-tobacco, rum, sugar cane. First, the class will travel to Havana, Cuba for several days. Just outside of Havana is Ernest Hemingway’s home, which they will visit. They will also visit Vinales, which is an agricultural region, Trinidad, and Santa Clara, the mountainous area where Cuban revolutionary leader Ernesto Guevara is buried.
As part of the course requirements, each scholar will choose a topic and do a presentation about it. Kaitlynn Smith, who is a Broadcasting major from Louisville, KY, will be studying American and Cuban television for her presentation. Smith commented that she is particularly looking forward to learning about the Cuban perspective and why there is such a hostile relationship between Americans and Cubans.
Sarah Fox, a sophomore Music major from Russellville, Ky. will also be going on this trip. Fox will be studying Cuban music. Fox commented that she is mostly looking forward to “getting a flavor of Cuban life”.
Professor Rutledge will be teaching the courses and leading the trip. The students have several required readings to do prior to departure, including The Motorcycle Diaries, a novel about Ernesto Guevara and his journey from medical school in Argentina to becoming a revolutionist in Cuba. Rutledge commented that he found this story remarkable, and relevant to his students, because Guevara completely changed his life path in his mid 20’s.
Rutledge hopes this course will change the students’ perspective of Cuba, from the “black and white, simplistic view of Cuba” that many Americans have to a more complex view of the Cuban culture, history, and lifestyle. Each student will also write four blog postings online once they return from the trip; the link to these postings will be posted here in January.