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The Cuban Experience: an immersion in its culture and society

 

SPAN 306/406 / ETHS 306:

During three weeks of the summer, students will have an opportunity to study in Matanzas, a city located on the northern shore of Cuba, about 60 miles from Havana. Traditionally Matanzas has been cradle of well-known artists, poets, painters and musicians. The Cuban National Dance –danzón– was created there. Matanzas holds two famous nicknames: “Athens of Cuba” due to its cultural prominence, monuments and architecture, and “The City of the Bridges” due to the many bridges that cross its three rivers. The city has a population of about 170,000 and flourishes alongside a beautiful bay, surrounded by hills and mountains.
As its primary objective, this course immerses students in daily Cuban culture, develops and strengthens their proficiency in the Spanish language and invites them to interact with the local Cuban community. They will interact with artists, intellectuals, musicians, academic faculty, historians, and writers. Students will also meet scholars and visit places related to their academic majors. For example, students majoring in health or medicine will visit the Latin American School of Medicine (Escuela Latinaomericana de Medicina), where Cuban doctors and professors will receive them.

The course will focus on Cuban culture and history. The main topics to be covered include: music, literature, theater and history. Each topic will be enriched by visits to museums, cultural and musical activities and performances. For instance, they will visit the National Museum of the Slave Route (Museo Nacional de la Ruta del Esclavo) and attend Afro-Cuban ceremonies there. Professor Punales–Alpizar will coordinate the classes in conjunction with local professors.
The design of the program will provide students with knowledge of Cuban culture and history; it will increase their oral and written production in Spanish as well as their understanding of the language. More importantly, the program will provide unique insights into Hispanic culture, specifically into the cities where the program takes place, through the study of literature, visual arts, films, and music closely tied to the history of these cities.

Students will take classes at Editorial Vigía, an important publishing house and main cultural institution in Cuba, with experience working in language, cultural and service–learning programs with universities from Canada and Spain. Students will have the opportunity to do service–learning while volunteering in Vigía. There they will actively participate in the editing of a bilingual, hand–crafted book, which will include their names in its credits. This will allow them to be completely immersed in another culture and language and will enhance their Spanish skills. More importantly, they will become familiar with different ways of working, thinking and interacting. The study– abroad experience will expand their understanding of the world and will situate them in a new and higher international level of human communications.

Ediciones Vigía will coordinate all facilities, transportation, housing and meals that students will need for their trip abroad. It will arrange for transportation from Varadero International Airport. Students will fly round-trip, direct from Toronto to Varadero.
Because they will be near Havana, the capital, students will visit and participate in events there. Cultural trips might also include “Romerías de mayo”, a traditional Cuban festivity that is held in May every year in Holguin, about 400 kilometers east of
Matanzas.

This three–week course is foreseen as a first step in developing more ambitious programs in Cuba in the future, such as a one–semester program. It offers a strong beginning in strengthening links between Case Western Reserve University and Cuban cultural and scientific institutions.

COURSE DESCRIPTION

This is a three–week study–abroad intensive course that takes place at Editorial Vigía, in Matanzas, Cuba. The course combines the unique advantages of a total immersion environment in Spanish with a classroom curriculum that includes conversation practice and study of relevant cultural, literary and historical issues. Students complete three hours of classroom instruction and an hour and a half of publishing workshop four days per week. In addition, they participate in organized visits to historic sites and museums connected to the culture curriculum. The focus of the culture curriculum is the study of Cuban history and culture through its literature, visualarts, films, and music. After applying and being accepted into the program, students meet for personal advising with the program director and professor, and attend four different one–hour orientation-information meetings in the spring semester. After successful completion of the program, students receive 3 upper-level credits in Spanish.

The course is interdisciplinary in approach and provides students with the tools they need to analyze and understand the complexities of modern Cuba.

Students will have formal classes taught by their professor, and talks and meetings with specialists on Cuban literature, art, architecture, history and others aspects of culture and society. In addition, they will attend lectures, participate in discussions, and take field trips that will expose them to many aspects of Cuban culture, such as art, architecture, music, dance, film, literature, artisan work, folklore, history and urban growth.

Page last modified: October 13, 2015