The eastern half of Cuba, known as The Oriente, is often considered Cuba’s most interesting region because of its physical beauty, cultural diversity, and historical significance. Surprisingly, it is also the region of the country least traveled to by visitors. With its Afro-Cuban origins and its history as the cradle of Cuba’s numerous revolutionary movements, The Oriente offers photographers endless opportunities to discover and experience the unexplored Cuba.
After six years exploring the western half of Cuba, Santa Fe Photographic Workshops now offers programs to The Oriente. To provide local cultural history and help with gaining all-important access behind the tourist veil, Cuban photographer Jorge Gavilondo joins us for the entire trip. Carrie McCarthy from The Workshops joins us as well.
Our week-long cultural exchange explores urban life in Cuba’s second largest city, Santiago de Cuba, as well as small-town life in remote Baracoa. As we travel by motor coach through The Oriente, the bucolic countryside beckons and frequent stops allow us to meet and photograph the local campesinos y pescadores (farmers and fishermen).
The group meets in Miami for an orientation meeting the evening of Thursday, January 12. We fly from Miami or Fort Lauderdale (to be determined) to Santiago de Cuba early the next morning and spend the first two nights at the Hotel Casa Granda in the heart of the city. Santiago de Cuba is the island’s most exotic and ethnically diverse city—more Caribbean than Cuban. Religion, music, and dance dominate the cultural scene of this coastal gem and are the focus of our photographic excursions. In addition, a delightful ferry ride to visit the fishing village on the near-by island of Cayo Gramma is a photographic treat.
Leaving behind the vibrant, big-city energy of Santiago de Cuba, we travel by motor coach along the breathtaking La Farola and are transported back in time to Baracoa—in the isolated, beautiful and laconic area of Cuba where Christopher Columbus landed on his first voyage. The gentle, old-world atmosphere of this lushly Caribbean seaside town offers a welcome contrast to our previous urban experiences. Meeting and photographing the local people and their frontier culture, visiting coconut farms, and river walks up Rio Miel and Rio Yumri are the highlights of our four-night stay at Hotel El Castillo in picturesque Baracoa.
On Thursday, January 19, we travel back to Santiago de Cuba to spend the evening and celebrate our Oriente adventure together at our final group dinner, then depart early Friday morning for Miami or Fort Lauderdale (to be determined).