Isle of Youth, Cuba

Dec 20, 2017 - Harmony V

The early morning brought us the bay of Siguanea at the Isle of Youth.  Our party reached the harbor and quickly boarded a bus with destination to Modelo prison, former penitentiary that was home to thousands of convicts during the Batista regime.  The prison is now a museum that tells the story of a famous inmate, Fidel Castro, and how he struggled to keep his hope of a revolution alive despite the isolation that the prison provided during his 18 month stay in the early 1950s.  Making our way to the main buildings that housed thousands of prisoners before the revolution of 1959, it is truly a trip back in time.  The buildings are “panoptic” which essentially means that a single position in a tower in the center of the circular building could potentially keep track of thousands of inmates that crowded the 5 stories and thousands of lives.  It was a life in the open, a big brother type of experience that deprived one of any privacy.  Complete control.

Following our visit to Modelo prison we continued our way to the maternity home in Nueva Gerona.  This is a clinic where pregnant woman in high risk are medically treated and kept under watchful eye for any complications.  We had a presentation by the clinic’s only doctor and later we had a chance to interact with 6 pregnant woman who are currently staying at the clinic.  Their stories and situations were explained and our travelers got to know details of their lives, their care, and future expectations after giving birth, it provided an insightful perspective of the Cuban health system. 

Following our lunch at a favorite local restaurant we drove to the central park of the city and visited the provincial art school where we had a chance to interact with the principal, teachers and students who performed for our group in a friendly atmosphere.  It was a great way to not only interact, but for our travelers to exchange stories with young students who attend the art school and specialize in various instruments and dance.  After our great encounter we continued our journey through the main street of Nueva Gerona where we met shop keepers, students and every day citizens.  Our travelers had the chance to explore stores, cafes and interact with locals for the rest of the afternoon.  Our trip to the island ended with a bus ride back to harbor where we boarded a small boat that took us back on board our vessel.  A wonderful day filled with photographic opportunities and meaningful exchange.

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About the Author

Fabio Amador

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Fabio Esteban Amador is an archaeologist and explorer and a host of the National Geographic Mundo television series Mysteries of the Underworld. Originally from El Salvador, Fabio Esteban studied fine arts at the Art Student League of New York and the School of Visual Arts. Following his dream to become an expedition artist, he then studied archaeology at Rutgers University and went on to earn Master’s and Ph.D. degrees in Mesoamerican archaeology at the State University of New York, Buffalo. His doctoral research involved excavating and mapping ancient Maya settlements in the Yalahau region of the Northern Yucatan peninsula, seeking clues into how these early societies expressed their identity through art and iconography.

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