499/599 Cuban Culture, Society and Politics Today: From Revolution to Globalization

Prerequisite:  Soc 499/599 Cuban Society, Culture and Politics through Film completed.

Credits: 6 Credits

Course Directors:  Professor Dwaine Plaza & Professor Amy Below

Office: 302 Fairbanks Hall      Office Phone:  737-5369


Office: 314 Gilkey Hall   Office Phone 737-6280

Office Hours: Skype appointments can also be made.

Email: dplaza@orst.edu  Amy.Below@oregonstate.edu

Course Web Page Address: Blackboard


Course Offered: June 18- 28, 2013 in Havana Cuba.


Course Description

In this course, students will review several of the components crucial to Cuba’s formation, including its historical and cultural formation, its politics, its art, its religion, its contemporary concerns, and its place in the globalized post cold war era. The highlight of this valuable learning experience is living in Cuba for ten days and being able to listen and talk to Cubans about their social, political and economic life today. In Havana students will be exposed to an active daily program of study, which will include lectures by Cuban scholars, visits to art galleries, museums, and other sites of historical and cultural interest.  Some of these locations include: Havana: Museo de la Revolucion (Museum of the Revolution) and Granma Monument; Center for the Study of Che Guevara; Ministry of the Interior Museum; Federation of Cuban Women; University of Havana; La Cabaña Fortress; Havana Vieja; José Martí birthplace museum; Plaza de la Revolución; National Arts Museum.

** This class requires LONG hours of listening, group processing, travelling and walking in the heat of Cuba. Please note that we will often start class in the morning (8:00 am) and may not be done until 10:00 p.m. Thirteen-hour days are not uncommon in this intense short course. You therefore need to bring a positive up-beat attitude to this unique once in a lifetime learning experience.  Turbulence is also very much part of the group dynamic process and when orchestrating a course of this nature. Please be mentally prepared for this.

Course Reading Materials

Course Reading Kit: A course reading kit will be available for purchase from the teaching team.

One Spiral bound note book is needed as a writing journal in Cuba

Undergraduate Student Learning Outcomes

After completing this course undergraduate students will have achieved the following:

(a) Be able to describe the historical development of Cuba from slavery to the present.

(b) Be able to understand the concept of ethnocentrism and cultural relativism.

(c) Be able to evaluate the effects of globalization and hegemony on Cuba’s culture, society, economy or politics.

 (d) Be able to compare Cuba’s healthcare system, education system, religions, popular culture and music with what exists in the United States.

(e)  Be able to describe the Cuban revolution and understand what effects it had on the lives of women and people of color.

Graduate Student Learning Outcomes

After completing this course graduate students will have achieved the following:

(a) Be able to explain, compare and distinguish the historical development of Cuba from slavery to the present.

(b) Be able to understand and evaluate the concept of ethnocentrism and cultural relativism.

(c) Be able to evaluate the way the effects of globalization and hegemony on Cuba’s culture, society, economy or politics.

(d) Be able to explain and compare the Cuba’s healthcare system, education system, religions, popular culture and music with what exists in the United States.

 (e) Be able to understand the Cuban revolution and the effects it had on the lives of women and people of color.

Summary of the Final Grade Calculation

Intellectual Engagement/Participation            25 percent

Personal Journal/ Photo Journal                       20 percent

Research paper                                                25  percent

YouTube Cuba Production                             20 percent

Final Oral Presentation                                     5 percent

Reading Presentation                                       5 percent

All graded material for the class is due on July 15th 2013 at 5:00 pm. You can submit all of your work via email to the course directors.  

*Graduate students enrolled in the course are required to make their personal journal, YouTube video, research paper and participation in the course more extensive than undergraduate students. The course faculty will meet with the graduate-level students separately to discuss additional requirement for the class.

Students with Disabilities:

Accommodations are collaborative efforts between students, faculty and Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD). Students with accommodations approved through SSD are responsible for contacting the faculty member in charge of the course prior to or during the first week of the term to discuss accommodations. Students who believe they are eligible for accommodations but who have not yet obtained approval through SSD should contact SSD immediately at 737-4098.

Behavior, Decorum and Participation:

This study abroad trip will also require considerable flexibility, maturity and cultural sensitivity.  The concepts, culture and the political system we will be exploring in this class will very likely be unfamiliar. As a result, the class may sometimes provoke strong responses or confusion.   We will work to learn to reason through these uncomfortable, but productive, moments. 

We will work to acquire a kind of cultural literacy that helps us move beyond ethnocentrism. We will, instead, try to learn to think in terms of cultural relativity -- that is, the ability to view, evaluate, and analyze a culture by its own standards and historical context. More importantly, we will practice listening carefully -- with an eye toward understanding one another.

Students are absolutely required to participate in all lectures, tours, events and activities planned by the professors and the cultural liaison person in Cuba – and to do so in a timely and responsible manner.  Students are expected to participate in discussions, asking questions freely but respectfully – keeping in mind not to offend our hosts. You are free to disagree, but not to be disagreeable.

Students are expected to comply with our host’s requests and with the requests of any guest lecturers or guides. We encourage students to get to know their own hosts, interacting with Havana’s citizens in a friendly and open way. 

Important Notes:

All assignments must be submitted in TYPED form.

During the course there may be some unforeseen circumstances which arise that alter the schedule below. In this case it will be YOUR responsibility to be in class to find out what those adjustments might be.

If you are experiencing problems with this course, its content, the readings, our teaching style, we strongly encourage you to raise your concerns at the earliest possible moment.

Course Content 

The course begins by introducing action research, active listening and relationships of power, privilege and dominance as different modes of inquiry for doing research and understanding the changes which are taking place for Cubans in the 21st Century. The subject matter then becomes more practical in the sense that the group arrives in Havana and spends ten days going throughout the city and surrounding areas in order to listen to the perspectives of different stakeholders including: school officials, human health and service providers, musicians, artists, historians, farmers, economists, and political scientists. We will also explore various cultural locations like: the Museum of the Revolution;  Granma Monument; Center for the Study of Che Guevara; Ministry of the Interior Museum; Federation of Cuban Women; University of Havana; La Cabaña Fortress; Havana Vieja; José Martí birthplace museum; Plaza de la Revolución; and National Arts Museum. Throughout the ten days students will also be reflecting on course readings, lectures, formal and informal personal experiences, writing journal entries, formulating questions for the stakeholders, processing interviews and immersing themselves in Cuban culture, society and politics. By doing all of these activities students at the end of ten days will have a better understanding of Cuba and its place in the global economy in the 21st century.

Course Outline

Listed below are the daily topics and events that will be covered in the course. This schedule is subject to change due to unforeseen circumstances. The reflection times are also flexible and can happen at the Martin Luther King center in Havana or out in the field. Reading presenters are expected to be able to lead their reading at anytime during the day. The rest of the group is expected to keep up with readings assigned each day. Please check with the course directors for deviations that may be inevitable.

Tuesday, 18 June                 

12:00pm                      Arrival in Havana at terminal 2

01:30pm                      Lunch at CMLK

03:00 pm                     Introducing Guide, Interpreter and CEG leader; schedule review

03:30 pm                     Welcome to CMLK and briefing presentation by Ailed Villalva from the Socio Theological Program

04:30 pm                     Walking in small groups around Marianao and Pogolotti neighbourhoods  

04:30 pm                     Debriefing information gather from the walking exercise

07:00 pm                     Dinner at CMLK

07:30 pm                     City Tour of Old Havana; visit the four main Plazas in Old Havana


Wednesday, 19 June Havana History (Colonial and Revolutionary)

09:00 am                     Breakfast

010:00 am                   Conference on Cuba in the Caribbean Region Context by Dr. Samuel Furé Davis; Professor at the English and foreign Languages Department at the University of Havana. Telephone: (537) 879-6132 and 870-4671 sfuredavis@flex.uh.cu

11:45 am                     Visit to Revolution Museum and Granma Memorial  

01:00 pm                     Lunch in the area

02:30 pm                     Visit to the Morro Cabaña Museum and the Che Guevara Headquarter Office  

04:30 pm                     Group session at the fortress

07:00 pm                     Dinner at a Restaurant of the Cabana Fortress

08:50 pm                     Canon-ball shooting Ceremony


Thursday, 20 June    Havana  History (Revolutionary and Post-revolutionary) and Education.

08:00 am                      Breakfast

08:30 am                      Group session

9.00 am                       Visit to Policlinico Health Clinic in Managua, with  Dr. Luis Soza

11:00 am                     Participation in the Psico-Ballet Project; time to interact with Cuban elderly and  to learnabout the impact that the Cuban Revolution has had on their own lives, with Elizabeth Gomez

12:30 pm                     Lunch at CMLK

02:30 pm                    Formal Tour on University of Havana with Nestor Mesa

03:30 pm                     Informal Tour/Exploration of the university of Havana with Dr Samuel Furé

06:30 pm                     Exchange with Cuban University Students (Lisandra Perez and Gendry Delfino) about their lives/ dreams /challenges and their views about the Cuban Revolution; mainly the Educational System

07:30 pm                     Dinner with the students at La Onda de David Paladar

08:00 pm                     Free evening


Friday, 21 June                     Havana   History (Post-revolutionary) + Education

08:00 am                     Breakfast

08:30 am                     Presentation by Rev. Raúl Suárez, including anecdotes of his experiences at the Natonal Assembly and his refections on the theme “From Revolution to Globalization”; Director of Telephone:

 260-3940 solidaridad@cmlk.co.cu    

10:00 am                     Visit to the Elementary School Hermano Montalvo in Pogolotti, with Principal Luis Garcia 

12:30 pm                     Lunch at CMMLK

02:00 pm                     Talk on CUBA-US Relations by Alfredo Prieto

03:30 pm                     Group session and preparation for Matanzas and Varadero

06:30 pm                     Dinner at CMMLK

09:00 pm                     Nightclub El Submarino Amarillo


Saturday, 22 June     Havana–Matanzas-Varadero  History; Religion y “Spiritual Culture”; Race and Stratification.

07:30 am                     Breakfast at CMMLK

08:00 am                     Departure for Matanzas

09:00 am                     Stop at the Cunamayagua view point

10:00 am                     Visit to San Carlos Borromeo Cathedral, with Sergio Diaz

12:30 pm                      Lunch at the Kairós Center and presentation on their mission and history, with Wanda Hernandez and Samuel Rodriguez

02:30 pm                     Guided Tour of the San Severino Fortress and its museum (which is part of the UNESCO Slave Trail program), focusing particularly on African religious and Orisha traditions

04:00 pm                     Walking La Marina neoghbourhood with Regla Gym; a community leader. Meeting with participants at the community venue in order to learn about how they keep African culture alive (languages, religious traditions, etc)

05:00 pm                     Departure for Varadero

06.00 pm                     Accommodaton and dinner at the Varadero Presbiterian Curch

08.00 pm                    Free evening


Sunday, 23 June                    Varadero-Havana  Religion and “Spiritual Culture”; Tourism as a development model.

08:00 am                     Breakfast at the Presbiterian church

08:30 am                     Free time

12:30 pm                     Lunch at the Presbiterian Church

02:00 pm                     Talk and informative tour of Varadero- tourism and development in the area- by Samuel Moreno and Joaquin Soreano                         

06:00 pm                     Departure for Havana

08:00 pm                     Dinner at CMMLK

08:30 pm                     Group session


Monday, 24 June              Havana   Economy and Health

08:00 am                                 Breakfast at CMMLK

09:00 am                     Free time to informally explore Centro Habana,  Old Havana and sourranding areas

Optional visit to the Rum Museum

12:30 pm                     Lunch at the CMMLK

02:00 pm                     Visit to the ELAM  Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM), with Dra. Dalai Perez and Victor Ferran  

06:30 pm                     Dinner at CMMLK

08:30 pm                     Cultural Project Afro-Cuban drumming performance


Martes, 25 Junio        Havana,   Agriculture and  Economy; Women

08:30 am                     Breakfast at CMMLK

09:00 am                     Visit to the Organic Garden Cooperative in Alamar: tour and explanation of its history and organization, with Leonel Peña

12:00 pm                     Lunch at the organic garden

01:00 pm                     Group session

03:00 pm                     Visit to the Community Transformation Project in Pogolotti, hear Cuban women talk about the problems and their participation in the Federation of Cuban Women, with Mercedes Soza and Noemi Reyes

4:00                             Group session and preparation for students’ final presentation

06:30 pm                      Dinner at CMMLK.

                                    Free evening


Wednesday, June 26 Havana   Popular Culture, Arts, and Music; Economy

08:00 am                     Breakfast

08:30 am                     Visit to a Children Orphanage

09:30 am                     Visit to Revolution Square  

11:00 am                     Tour at Cayo Hueso in Centro Habana in oredr to learn about santería and Afroreligios traditions in Cuba, with Elias Aseff

12:30 pm                     Visit Callejon de Hamel and China Towm

12:30 pm                     Lunch in the area

02:00 pm                     Visit of Casa de Africa

 04:00 pm                    Talk by Prof. Gladys Hernández about the Cuban Economy, reecent reforms, touristic sector, impact of US Embargo, relations with Venezuela and other countries

06:30 pm                     Dinner at CMMLK

08:00 pm                     Free evening


Thursday, 27 June    Havana   The Future in Cuba

08:00 am                     Lunch  CMLK

09:00 am                     Panel discussion on the future of Cuba and dialogue with Dr.  Ileana Sanz, Dr. Samuel Furé Davis and Dr. Ariel Dacal

11:00                           Written evaluations for CMLK and CGE

12:00 pm                     Lunch at  CMLK

02:00 pm                     Students’ final prepartion for evening presentations

07:00 pm                     Farewel Dinner at the “Monte Barreto” Paladar

09:00 pm                     Presentations by the students


Friday, 28 June               Havana-Miami

06:30                           Breakfast

07:30 am                     Check-in Havana

10:00 am                     Departure on Sky King SG#1302

11:00 am                     Arrival in Miami


Reading Presentations will be assigned in Havana. Each student will lead one reading for the group during the time we are in Cuba.

Day 1 June 19

What would Che say

Photographs of Early Twentieth Century Cuba

 Day 2 June 20

The White Man’s Ladies

Day 3 June 21

Slave Mothers and White Fathers Family in Cuba: Defining Family and Status in Late Colonial Cuba

Day 4 June 22

Afro Cuban Religion: Ethno-botany and Health Care in the Context of Global Political and Economic Change

On the Brink of Tourism

Day 5 June 23

Che Chevy’s Hemingways Cuban Tourism in a Time of Globalization

Cuba’s Tourism Boom: Curse or Blessing/ Cuba’s Tourism Boom: Curse or Blessing (SHARED)

Day 6 June 24

Primary Care in Cuba: Social Commentary

Cuban Medical Internationalism: Domestic and International Impacts

The Cuban Revolutionary Doctor: The Ultimate Weapon of Solidarity

Day 7 June 25

The Urban Agriculture of Havana

The Paradox of Urban Agriculture

Day 8 June 26

View Point: Bringing Social Justice Back in: Cuba Revitalizes Sustainable Development

Day 9 June 27

Preparation for the final presentations

Reflection Journal

One of your central learning activities during this course will be keeping a personal reflection journal while we are in Cuba. You should think of this writing as partly a reflection on what we are experiencing in Cuba. The journal entries might also be observations of the stakeholders’ perspectives/positions that make you wonder. The journal can be made up of observations on the way Cuban issues are presented to you by guest speakers, observations you are making during the day or at night, or linking what we are seeing with the readings covered in the reading kit.  

The final journal should include a summary of each reading in the summer reading kit.

The journal is a place to become fully involved in all the issues the course raises. Finally, use the journal to draw connections between this course and the other life experiences you have had. The journal when its finally submitted to the instructor should be typed out.  You can also include photographs taken to supplement your journal.


Grading of Reflection Journals

The reflection journal will be evaluated according to four criteria: commitment, ambition, making links to the readings, and engagement with the experiences in Cuba. Note: we expect that you will have at least 10 pages of commentary in your journal by the time you submit it for grading.

Research Paper

Apart from the reflection journal we want you to work in PAIRS to complete a research paper on a topic relevant to Cuba and globalization issues. The paper can include topics as varied as: Cuban culture, society, economy or politics in an era of globalization. To accomplish this we would like you to use the information gathered throughout the ten days in interviews, observations, information obtained from web searches, and information found in conventional academic sources (journal articles and books in the library). From all of these sources you need to select one theme that caught your interest (e.g. youth, migration, music, art, race, gender, health care, schooling, agriculture, tourism, environmental issues, sustainability issues, politics, economy, etc.). Using all the sources you can find examine and reflect on the theme you have selected. What change strategies has the Cuban government, its people or outside entities tried to implement in order to deal with the theme you have selected? Write an 8-10 page research paper.

YouTube Product

Working in pairs this project will involve the making of a YouTube video on the theme of Cuban social, economic, political or cultural development topic in the 21st century. Working with a partner, decide on a central question or issue you would like to display using YouTube media. We expect that each YouTube clip will be between 3-5 minutes in length and have an audio portion and text. Your goal is to demonstrate what you learned in this class during the past ten days. We encourage you to use the photographs you have taken as well as any material available on the Internet to construct the YouTube video which is aimed at educating those who never get a chance to visit Cuba.  Some topics which could be made include: youth, migration, music, art, race, gender, health care, schooling, the revolution, agriculture, tourism, environmental issues, sustainability issues, politics, or the economy. How can the images you use tell a story about modern Cuba and the global economy? Some technical help will be provided in how to make a YouTube video. Most of the creativity and hard work however will come from your team.

See the following website for examples of YouTube projects from last year:


Final Oral Presentations

Throughout the duration of this course emphasis is being placed on listening, observing and thinking critically about Cuba’s development from a social, cultural, political and economic perspective in the new millennium. It is in this spirit that you are asked to critically explore and present back to an audience in Cuba what you have learned on a particular topic for 5-7 minutes (working in pairs). All presenters will be limited in terms of visual resources. Presenters will be able to use PowerPoint and whatever photographs they have taken during their time in Cuba. The final presentation will coincide with a final departure dinner in Havana where we will host many of the stakeholders who interacted with the class during our visit.   

Self Evaluation

You will be asked to provide the teaching team with a self evaluation of your participation and learning in the course. The teaching team will consider your self-evaluation when calculating a final grade for your intellectual engagement and participation throughout the course (keep in mind, however, that we may not arrive at the same conclusion!). The self-evaluation will be in the form of a letter to the teaching team. The letter does not have to be formal, but you need to include comments on your performance from the following areas. How did you do as: an active listener, participant in group debriefing sessions, and as an overall collegial and sensitive member of the learning team? Did you experience intellectual growth which you feel might be attributed to your experience with this course? Overall, considering all of these factors, what letter grade would you assign for yourself using the scale of (A, B, C, D, or F)?