|Catedral de San Cristobal|
|City view from Cámara Oscura|
One day we watched a cooking demonstration and ate lunch at a state-run culinary school. The demonstration was fun — I was the volunteer assistant — but the lobster at the meal was overcooked and rubbery for everyone, not a great recommendation for a cooking school. On top of that, the chef told us that the recipe for the entree was in the cookbook they had for sale. It wasn't, but we didn't discover that until several of us had already paid for the book.
One morning we visited a coop organic farm. It's a self-governing community of people who are trying to find better ways to grow food and increase crop yields. They say they recycle or reuse everything, which is great, but I saw a lot of what looked like good fruit that had fallen to the ground and was just lying there, being allowed to rot. While I'm sure it will be used for compost, I wondered why it hadn't been harvested. We had a long lecture about Cuban political ideology (but more on that in my next post). This was also the location of our only volunteer activity; members of our group picked beans for about an hour.
|Front of Hemingway's house|
|Graves of Hemingway's dogs|
Earlier that morning we had visited a private farmers' market, even though we had been warned multiple times by the tour coordinator not to buy anything uncooked or to buy food off the street. Everything in the market was sitting out in the 90°+ heat, including raw meat (yum!). I don't think anyone bought anything, and just think, if we hadn't gone there, we probably could have finished our art project . . . .
|Mogotes near Viñales|
Then, however, we took a side trip that cost an hour to see an unfinished, primitive (read: amateurish) wall mural at a location that appeared to be marketed primarily to get tourists to spend money on piña coladas. We were told that the mural was created to commemorate someone having proven that it was possible to travel by canoe from the mouth of the Amazon to Cuba. The reason he was trying to prove the canoe trip was possible was because he had a theory that Cuba was populated not by migration of native peoples from the Florida peninsula, about 200 miles away, but from the Amazon. I would be more willing to give some credence to that theory if I saw the research in a respected, peer-reviewed, scientific journal.
The visit to a tobacco farm after that was much more educational. We learned about the five different types of leaves that go into a cigar, how the leaves are dried and prepared, how much of the crop the farmer is required to sell to the state (80%), and even what happens to leftover pieces of leaves. Then we saw a demonstration of rolling a cigar by hand, which was pretty cool. The cigar was rolled extremely tightly and showed great craftmanship. And then — of course — we were given the opportunity to buy cigars at a very special price. Supposedly cigars purchased there didn't count against the customs maximum, but I declared mine anyway, because they were the only ones I bought. And if you're interested in getting a genuine Cuban cigar from me (a plain-wrap Cohiba), let me know!
|Plaza de la Revolución|
My Cuban Adventure, Part 1, is "In Search of Family History."