Hiram College students to visit Cuba

By Heather Rainone | Managing editor Published:

Scholars from Hiram College's Garfield Institute for Public Leadership will get first-hand look at the state of U.S.-Cuba relations and policies when they visit the Communist controlled-island nation next week.

Designed as the culminating experience of a political science course, "US-Cuba Relations," the trip will be led by Hiram assistant professor James Thompson, and include 18 of the 23 undergraduate Garfield Scholars.

Preparations for the course and trip began in the fall semester with three lectures by experts on U.S-Cuba relations. Following the trip, the students will write papers on policies based on their experiences.

"This trip is not only aimed at giving students a historical perspective," Thompson said, "but to focus on the overriding purpose of the Garfield Institute -- public policy. Cuba is changing, and it is a hothouse like very few others, to see, develop and analyze the changes that will inform public policy going forward."

The trip will begin Sunday with a stop in Miami, where the scholars will tour the "little Havana" expatriate community, and hear a lecture by a survivor of the disastrous Bay of Pigs Invasion of April 1961, in which a CIA-led force of Cuban expatriates were defeated in their attempts to reverse Fidel Castro's revolutionary regime.

The next two days will be spent in Havana, where the travelers will hear lectures on Cuban history, and meet with representatives of the Cuban medical community on the island's health care system.

The students will stay at the Hotel Nacional, a playground for international travelers, gamblers and mobsters in the 1930s and '40s.

The next two days will take the group outside of Havana to the Cuban countryside, and the cities of Cienfuego and Trinidad, where they will meet emerging local entrepreneurs, and discuss agricultural policy and economics with farmers and families.

On the way back to Havana the group will stop in Santa Clara, near where Che Guevara defeated the forces of dictator Fugencio Batista to solidify Castro's and the revolutionaries' hold on power in 1959.

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