Open travel to Cuba by U.S. citizens used to just be a dream. Unless you were willing to creep in through another country without your passport, you were not going. End of story. Last year, however, the Obama administration made the dream more of a possible reality when it relaxed travel restrictions even further than ever and allowed several authorized and licensed companies to arrange and organize legal travel tours to the island nation.
One such licensed company is New Rochelle, NY-based Insight Cuba, which has been arranging travel to Cuba in limited ways for more than a decade. The company expanded operations tremendously from 2000 – 2003 as it offered legal, “people-to-people” educational exchange programs, but U.S. policy toward Cuba reverted during the President George W. Bush administration and travel was once again severely curtailed until last year.
In January of 2011 President Barak Obama directed “the Secretaries of State, Treasury and Homeland Security to take a series of steps to continue efforts to reach out to the Cuban people in support of their desire to freely determine their country’s future.” The thinking being that one-on-one interactions between citizens of the two nations was the best assurance of developing mutual understanding and reciprocal trust.
“Purposeful” travel, including religious, cultural and educational was now permitted. Fortunately, events such as Havana’s International Jazz Festival and various sporting events count as cultural travel, so opportunities to explore the rich heritage of Cuba and its people are once again accessible.
In order to participate in the travel programs coordinated by Insight Cuba or other licensed companies, you will have to register to travel under their license and authorization. This process can easily be completed online on the companies’ respective sites.
One themed tour being advertised by Insight Cuba is dubbed the “Cuban Music & Art Experience.” It is a 9 day/8 night excursion in Havana and Santiago de Cuba that, according to the online description, “provides an opportunity to explore the thriving arts scene through performances, discussions, and events in both Havana and Cuba’s second cultural mecca - Santiago de Cuba. In this tour, you’ll gain insight into this island’s fascinating musical and artistic evolution.”
The description sounds rather academic, but it’s probably pretty safe to say that once the music starts pumping and the people start moving, academic reserve will give way to the universal connecting cords of the African Diaspora…the sway of the rhythm and the beat of the drum.
To learn more about legal travel to Cuba and tour packages, go to Insight Cuba