A Revolutionary Trip to Cuba

On December 11th, 15 of us from Columbia Business School traveled (legally) to Cuba for what ended up as one of my all-time favorite trips.

Prior to starting graduate school, I had read that travel to Cuba was legal for American graduate school students provided they travel under a specific university license and jump through a number of other administrative hoops.  And just like that, I decided that my pre-graduation bucket list needed to include “visit Cuba.”

Getting the license, however, was not quite that easy.  My friend Hilary and I recruited an advising professor, created a course syllabus, obtained university approval, brought together a group of students, worked with the government and the school…and FINALLY, after 7.5 months of work, we obtained the final approval to proceed with our course studying the political economy of Cuba and, most importantly, spend a week 90 miles off the coast of Florida.

It was an adventure I will never forget, simultaneously like so many places I have been and unlike anyplace I have ever been.

Represented in photographs, here are the highlights:

Arriving in Havana, Cuba!

Arriving in Havana, Cuba!

The best mojitos (Hotel Nacional)

The best mojitos (Hotel Nacional)

Havana club rum

Havana club rum

Loving the old cars, downtown Havana

Loving the old cars, downtown Havana

Sunset on the Malecon (waterfront esplanade)

Sunset on the Malecon (waterfront esplanade)

Rooftop Drinks at one of Havana's best Paladars, Atelier

Rooftop Drinks at one of Havana’s best Paladars, Atelier

The Havana coastline and the Hotel Nacional in the forefront

The Havana coastline and the Hotel Nacional in the forefront

Aerial shot of Havana

Aerial shot of Havana

So many Cohibas

So many Cohibas

Cigar rolling station

Cigar rolling station

This man holds  the Guinness World Record for longest cigar

This man holds the Guinness World Record for longest cigar

Liz & I stop for a photo in Revolution Square with Che Guevara in the background

Liz & I stop for a photo in Revolution Square with Che Guevara in the background

The 1950s cars, like stepping out of a time warp

The 1950s cars, like stepping out of a time warp

Pride/Propaganda?

Pride/Propaganda?

Exploring old town Havana

Exploring old town Havana

The entire group in old town Havana

The entire group in old town Havana

One of the old town buildings under restoration

One of the old town buildings under restoration

Cafe in old town Havana

Cafe in old town Havana

Old town Havana (restored)

Old town Havana (restored)

The group enjoying an amazing dinner at the private restaurant (paladar) La Guarida

The group enjoying an amazing dinner at the private restaurant (paladar) La Guarida

Incredible live music at Casa de la music

Incredible live music at Casa de la music

Taylor & me enjoying the nightlife at Casa de la Musica

Taylor & me enjoying the nightlife at Casa de la Musica

The Industriales baseball field reminded us very much of our beloved Fenway

The Industriales baseball field reminded us very much of our beloved Fenway

At the Industriales baseball game

At the Industriales baseball game

Uno! Dos! Tres! Industriales!

Uno! Dos! Tres! Industriales!

Day trip to Vinales, Pinar del Rio (group photo!)

Day trip to Vinales, Pinar del Rio (group photo!)

Win & I are ready for our cave walk!

Win & I are ready for our cave walk!

Stalagmites and Stalagtites

Stalagmites and Stalagtites

A tobacco farmer rolling Cigars

A tobacco farmer rolling Cigars

Tobacco

Tobacco

Tobacco farm in Vinales, Pinar del Rio

Tobacco farm in Vinales, Pinar del Rio

Happy Hanukkah from the bathroom of the Hotel Presidente

Happy Hanukkah from the bathroom of the Hotel Presidente

Live Jazz

Live Jazz

Beth Shalom Synagogue in Havana

Beth Shalom Synagogue in Havana

Inside Beth Shalom Synagogue in Havana

Inside Beth Shalom Synagogue in Havana

Happy Hanukkah!  Feliz Januka!

Happy Hanukkah! Feliz Januka!

Letter to the Jewish community from Stephen Spielberg

Letter to the Jewish community from Steven Spielberg

Visiting the Havana Club Rum museum

Visiting the Havana Club Rum museum

Cuban flag in the old town

Cuban flag in the old town

So much Havana club rum

So much Havana club rum

On the water in Havana

On the water in Havana

What is a trip to Havana without going to the Tropicana?

What is a trip to Havana without going to the Tropicana?

Bringing school supplies to a local elementary school

Bringing school supplies to a local elementary school

The most poised 3rd grader explains his art on the life of Jose Marti

The most poised 3rd grader explains his art on the life of Jose Marti

Cigars rolled in front of us...$1 each!

Cigars rolled in front of us…$1 each!

Mariana & I visit the best/worst communist ice cream parlor in Havana

Mariana & I visit the best/worst communist ice cream parlor in Havana

The best/worst communist ice cream I've ever had (wishing Chavez a speedy recovery)

The best/worst communist ice cream I’ve ever had (wishing Chavez a speedy recovery)

Winning = convinced immigration to stamp my passport!

Winning = convinced immigration to stamp my passport!

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