SUYANG WU ’21
Many unfamiliar with the region falsely assume that Caribbean nations are the same culturally. However, Trinity students who traveled abroad to Cuba last semester debunked this myth at a common hour event in which they shared their experiences. The four student speakers were in Cuba for approximately a week, and they spoke about how the nation possesses its own unique characteristic in comparison to the island of Trinidad, where they completed their studies abroad. The panel also shed light on the people and realities of Cuba, which are often vastly misunderstood. The panel was led by students Laura Cadavid ’19, Elijah Hernandez ’19, Paola Otero ’19, and Clear Tavarez ’19, all participants in the Trinity-in-Trinidad study away program.
The four students traveled to Cuba with Professor of History and International Studies Dario Euraque. The common hour event was sponsored by the Center for Caribbean Studies. Cuba and Trinidad are two of the large islands that make up the Caribbean. In the panel, the speakers explained the rich history of both nations. Trinidad used to be a British Colony, making English its native language. Presently, Trinidad is a coastal nation that produces cocoa, sugarcane, coffee, and marine products to sustain its population. Its location renders abundant resources including oil and natural gas.
Even though Cuba is similar to Trinidad in its location, there are many distinctions that set them apart. First of all, Cuba is a Spanish-speaking nation. The Spanish militia occupied its territory in the 16th century, and the Cubans struggled to gain freedom. Cuba has a long-standing history of Communism, and it is currently one of the few nations in the world that still practices it. This political practice contributes to the misunderstandings of the nation and its culture, which was addressed by speakers during the panel.
The food in Cuba differs greatly from Trinidad’s cuisine. Unlike Trinidad, in which spicy dishes dominate the market, Cubans produce a large amount of seafood, rice, and sugarcane. It is also one of the many nations in the Caribbean that produces an enormous number of marine products. In addition, vanilla-flavored ice cream is one of the most famous food products on the island. During the trip, Trinity students had the opportunity to live with a Cuban host family. Students were required to communicate with their host families in Cuba’s native language of Spanish. This provided a great opportunity for students to practice their Spanish language skills. In addition, students interacted with their Cuban families during their daily lives, providing students with an authentic cultural experience while staying in Cuba.
The students expressed that their trip to Cuba was an incredibly eye-opening and fascinating academic experience in which they got the chance to learn a lot about the nation’s culture, history, geography, and more.