The eastern half of Cuba, known as The Oriente, is often considered Cuba’s most interesting region because of its physical beauty, its cultural diversity, and its 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 five years exploring Havana and the western half of Cuba, Santa Fe Photographic Workshops now offers programs to the quieter and less traveled part of the island. This 12-day journey—led by frequent Cuba traveler Arthur Meyerson and our Cuba Program Director, Kip Brundage—provides a rich cultural and photographic experience. In addition to Arthur and Kip, local Cuban photographers join the trip to offer their insights and knowledge of the region as well as their local contacts. As always, Kip leads “dawn patrols” most mornings.
Our educational program starts on Thursday evening, December 1, in Miami with a group orientation meeting led by Arthur and Kip. We fly from Miami to Santiago de Cuba early the next morning and spend the first three nights at the Hotel Casa Granda, exploring the urban life of Cuba’s second largest 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 nearby island of Cayo Granma 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 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 Friday, we travel back to Santiago de Cuba to photograph Parque Gran Piedra, a coffee plantation, and specially arranged cultural events.
We depart Santiago on Sunday, traveling west along the beautiful highway through El Cobre to Bayamo, the capital city of the Granma Province. Founded in 1513 by Diego Velázquez and steeped in the history of Cuba’s past rebellions, the Bayamo of today is a quiet and peaceful city where the main modes of transportation are horse-drawn carriages and bicycles. We stay two nights at Hotel Sierra Maestra, photographing the landmarks of Bayamo’s revolutionary past and meeting its residents in parks and markets. A day trip to the coastal city of Manzanillo to explore and photograph its port city scenes ends our trip on a picturesque high note.
We celebrate our Oriente adventure together with a final group dinner and image presentation in Bayamo and depart the next morning for the flight back to Miami from Holguin.