Cuba:  Cultural and Archeological Perspectives


Humanities 360: International Studies Through Travel, 3 credits (CRN 42320)
International Studies 360: International Studies Through Travel, 3 credits (CRN 42321)
Note: students can register for one, but not both, of these courses.


A limited number of  scholarships will be available on a competitive basis to matriculated CCSU students with a GPA of at least 2.50 who are registered for at least one of the academic courses associated with this program.

Ernest Hemingway had made Cuba his home from 1939 to 1960, and where he had written seven books, including The Old Man and the Sea, A Moveable Feast and Islands in the Stream.  Situated geographically “like a cigar between the fingers of Florida and the Yucatán Peninsula”, Cuba is a country about the size of Lousiana, with a population approximately 11 million people.  The blend of cultures - African, European and American - forms Cuba.  

Cuba will provide students with a unique opportunity for experiencing the multiple layers of history that made Cuba significant in North America and in Latin America. As part of the learning process, students will examine a variety of themes and aspects related to Cuba’s distinctive culture and identity, such as colonization, the African, Spanish, and American influences.  At the same time, students will better understand its relevance today. The recent economic changes, on the island, have provoked a series of social and cultural transformations that have left Cubans and the entire world wondering what could be next for the island and the Revolution. Don’t miss the chance to witness some of these challenges.

Traveling to Cuba the students will get to experience the realities of this society first-hand in the form of visits to academic institutions, countryside plantations, guided tours, and lectures, as well as direct contact with residents.  Visiting from fortresses built in the colonial days to legendary buildings and churches of the Old Havana, with its majestic architecture, and classic American cars, it will be like stepping back in time! Student will visit historic sites: San Severino Castle (Matanzas), Pinar del Río, Sancti Spíritus, and explored Trinidad, the fourth of the seven cities founded by the conquistador Diego de Velasquez in 1514 as a base for expeditions into the “New World”. Today it is maintained as a living museum, just as the Spaniards left it in its period of greatest opulence. It is the crown jewel of Cuba’s colonial cities. The whole city with its fine palaces, cobbled streets and tiled roofs, is a national monument and, since 1988, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Course Description:
This course will examine the past 500+ years of Cuban history and the life of Cubans today. The year 1898 marks the end of Spanish rule of the island, Cuba's shift from colony to nation, and the rise of the U.S. to global prominence and significant influence in that country. The class will consider these early years of Cuba's dubious independence, the roots of revolution, and the Cuban revolution itself. Several weeks before the March break and trip to Cuba, we will begin to focus on contemporary life in Cuba with an emphasis on the everyday life in the country. Topics covered will include education, gender, ethnicity, and the arts (literature, music and visual). The course will also deal with topics such as national identity, the role of Cuba in global politics, and Cuban immigrants in the United States.

The course will be composed of three parts: (i) the class lectures on campus, (ii) the study trip, and (iii) presentations/final project. A key element of the class will be a research trip to Cuba in August 2014.  The first part of the class  will focus on some readings on the history of Cuba. During these weeks, on campus, students will need to complete the major portion of the library research for the term paper, and this term paper will need to be a topic on which students can do a modest amount of fieldwork when they are in Cuba. When students return from traveling to Cuba, they’ll have time to write up.

Learning Objectives:

Cuba is a place where centrally important lessons can be learned in many key areas of human and social development, both in terms of mistakes made and successes achieved.
In spite of economic and material difficulties, it is a broadly acknowledged reality that Cuba has achieved innovative and effective approaches to sustainability in education, health, culture, energy, and the environment. All major international organizations routinely recognize these achievements. Most recently, they were included in every global and regional comparative chart produced under the massive gathering of data of the UN/Millennium Development Goals initiative.

At the heart of those achievements is an essentially integrative approach, which redefines boundaries between knowledge and its application. Cuban initiatives activate broad involvement of the population, traditionally circumscribed to spheres of specific expertise and specialization. This integrative approach is readily evident, as well, at all levels of Cuba’s successful education system, characterized by an emphasis on balancing specialized and cross-disciplinary learning, as well as academic knowledge and service/experiential learning as two facets of a single process. Strong cooperation among schools and programs, and a high level of civic involvement of faculty, students, and professionals are emphasized.
Through this course facilitated by a well-structured academic program with travel component, students will gain an important educational advantage by becoming more familiar with how such a model works. Furthermore, the one-semester program of study on Cuba engages many, if not most, of the fundamental principles that shape CCSU’s educational mission. It would enhance students’ internationalist perspective, and expose them to practical approaches to active citizenship, community service, and interdisciplinary learning.

Topics summaries:

The Formation of the Cuban Nation – Examination of the formative aspects of the Cuba nation to the present: 1): Colonialism, sugar production and ethnic composition of Cuban population; 2) Cuban society pre-1959; 3) main challenges in national identity formation; from Cuban cultures to a national culture; society and nationhood after 1959.

Archaeology Topic- Cuba had the largest captive African population of any colony in the former Spanish empire, but its rich archaeological resources on African enslavement and plantation life have been under explored and virtually unknown outside of Cuba. In this course, students will visit and investigate some Cuban archaeological sites to compare and contrast them with captive African archaeological sites in the African Diaspora at similar time periods. For example, a massive masonry wall built around a settlement of detached captive African housing on the coffee plantation of Angerona sets the stage for analyzing the contrasting interests, goals, and lives of enslavers and the enslaved. Of particular interests are the types of material culture excavated at the African settlements to explore similar types of African spiritual practices known to have been practiced throughout the African Diaspora. We attempt to shed new light on the resistance of captive Africans to the brutal conditions they faced in captivity, through the use of archaeological data and many understudied documentary resources. In this course, the research questions and concepts that guided this research are discussed along with the archaeological interpretations. Students will visit archeological sites in Cuba (Angerona, Matanzas, Pinar del Rio and Trinidad) that are part of the La Ruta del Esclavo (the Route of the Slaves).  

Afro-Cuban Culture and Religions– part of this course will focus on cultural/religious practices derived from African traditions, tracing their evolution from the advent of slavery to the present. Emphasis will be placed on their specific function as means for cultural survival, and as practices of resistance and ethnic affirmation. Examination of the evolution of Afro-Cuban religions in the context of their interplay with economic, political, and racial historical factors shaping the experience of slavery, abolition, and key stages of the subsequent struggles for full equality to this day. Class will include films, museum visits, and trips to historic sites relevant to the Afro- Cuban experience.

Survey of Cuban Culture -Overview of artistic and literary production, particularly in the last 50+ years, with special emphasis on literature, architecture, and the visual arts.
As an example, Cuban music is exceptionally popular and easily recognized around the globe. The music of Cuba is comprised of numerous genres and styles and has a very long and interesting history that includes African and Spanish influences as well as American, Latin-American, and European styles of music.


While in Cuba, students will write a daily journal. This journal will include detailed notes from the lectures and field trips. It should also record what they learn each day, their impressions of Cuba, its people, history, culture, religion, race relations, music, and art, and any other aspect of their interest. Their task is to convince themselves that they are an informed and astute observer of the Cuban scene.

Excursions and Activities:

-Tour Havana’s neighborhoods, including Old Havana, Regla (Afro-Cuban town), Angerona (Archaeological site), and Hemingway’s house (Vigía Countryside House).
-Explore museums: including the Museum of Music, the Museum House of Africa, Afro-Cuban arts and culture at the Callejón de Hamel and the Museum of Regla.
-Visit to the Museum of Slave (Matanzas)
-Visit to Archaeological Sites in Pinar del Rio’s plantations.
-Visit to Ernesto “Che” Guevara’s Mausoleum (Santa Clara)
-Visit Trinidad and Sancti Spíritus (Sugar Plantation where Amistad Slaves arrived from Sierra Leone)

International Studies majors/minors, (or non-majors or non-minors): 

For the research paper and journal. In particular, every student must employ an explicit multi-disciplinary approach in your research paper in which you examine the historical, cultural, social, and other relevant aspects of the topic.   We will also jointly evaluate your journal on how well you integrate these various disciplinary approaches in your daily observations of Cuba.

Behavior, Decorum and Participation:

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

Students are absolutely required to participate in all lectures, tours, events and activities planned by the professors and the cultural hosts in Cuba – and to do so in a timely and responsible manner.  Students 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.

Registration Information and Program Costs

The cost of the travel program includes round-trip airport transfers in the U.S. and abroad, economy-class international airfare, multiple-occupancy accommodations, some meals and ground transportation and entrance fees to all required site visits. All personal expenses (i.e., some meals, medical, souvenirs, laundry, telephone, etc.) are not included.  

Course tuition is not included in the Course Abroad program fee. 

Fulfillment of the University's International Requirement: 

All credits earned overseas on a CCSU-sponsored study abroad program, including courses offered in conjunction with Course Abroad programs, automatically receive "I Designation" and count toward fulfillment of the University's General Education International Requirement.

Registration Form

Registration Deadline:

May 1, 2014


Will be available shortly

Travel Dates

August 8 - 17, 2014

Faculty Directors

Prof. Antonio Garcia-Lozada
Modern Languages Department
(860) 832-2895

Prof. Warren Perry
Anthropology Department
(860) 832-2613

powered by finalsite