WC Students Learn Culture, History, and Music in Cuba

By Jack Despeaux
Student Life Editor

Her freshman year, when she found out about the seminar, she called up her parents in hysteria, said sophomore Gabby Rente, who is of Cuban descent.

Screen Shot 2018-01-23 at 9.12.39 AM“As a child, my dad made it a point to tell me about my family’s history; that way I appreciated what we had, so it had always been a dream of mine to see Cuba one day,” she said. “I didn’t realize how soon that day would come. Me going on this seminar meant that I was the first person in my family to go back to Cuba in 50 years.”

Rente, an English and International Studies double-major, attended the annual academic trip to Cuba that Professor Kenneth Schweitzer and Professor Aaron Lampman led earlier this month.

Junior anthropology major Charles Marchesani went as well, and said that the point of the trip was to “give a very cultural experience about how the people really are” in Cuba.

This year, from Jan. 2 until Jan. 12, Schweitzer and Lampman, who are music and anthropology professors, respectively, helped Rente see the university from which her great-grandmother graduated.

The two professors brought students to the cities of Havana and Trini dad, and even brought students into the Cuban mountains on horseback. Marchesani said that the horseback riding through thScreen Shot 2018-01-23 at 9.12.53 AMe wilderness was “so enriching,” and Rente said that it was “terrifying, but with amazing views.”

When asked how else the professors made the trip fun, Marchesani said, “They showed us how Cubans have fun.” Marchesani said most nights the professors would inspire students to learn salsa and other dances in different music clubs.

There was a culture shock, according the Marchesani, regarding the socialist society. Hewas particularly impressed by the Cubans’ housing, as there seemed to be a home for everyone. Marchesani also said that he felt extremely safe, noting that Cuba has one of the lowest crime rates in the world.

Schweitzer taught students about the music of Cuba, which has been woven into the culture.

Marchesani said that the Cuban people live Screen Shot 2018-01-23 at 9.12.46 AMthrough the music, and that the music is a part of the Cuban religion, Lucumí.

Rente and Marchesani were both excited to talk about how there are drummers in Cuba who perform a style of drumming known as Batá, which is intended to play toques, or ritual songs, to orishas. Orishas are human-like gods in Cuba, and the toques and music from the drummers is used as a way to appeal to and praise the orishas.

The worship of the orishas through music was a major focus of the trip, as it combined the studies of anthropology and music, while also providing students with an opportunity to see a beautiful country.

Both Marchesani and Rente recommended the trip for students in the future. The trip costs approximately $3,300 for 10 days, with that cost including a round-trip flight from Miami to Havana, a one-night stay in a hotel, other forms of housing—Rente said the students lived in a very pleasant and friendly Hostel—two meals a day, transportation, as well as museum, concert, and gallery fees. The Cuba trip counts for four credits towards either anthropology or music courses, and students of all majors are welcome. For International Students, going on the trip also counts for experimental credit.

The trip also provides the uniquely modern ability to see Cuba, something that Americans have mostly been without for over half of a century.

Marchesani said that “the Cubans want to be friends with us.” Both Marchesani and Rente only had praise for their new Cuban friends.

Trips like these also provide unique experiences for students that may not otherwise be possible.

“My family was excited that I went to Cuba. Yes, they might have been exiles, but they understood why I wanted to go. It was to cherish my family’s history. In Cuba, I missed my family terribly, but I cherished everything. I brought back gifts for everyone, and it was the first time in a long time that many of my relatives had something from Cuba. It was just an emotional, nostalgic moment. I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” Rente said.

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