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The Spirit of Cuba

MC Law offers multiple study abroad opportunities each semester for students to learn about the law internationally. Learn about the amazing study abroad experience MC Law provides students in Cuba while studying Comparative Civil Rights.


As a student living on a tight budget, I never thought a study-abroad trip would be in the cards. However, after speaking to other students, I discovered that I could participate in the Comparative Civil Rights Course offered in Cuba this spring semester. Upon arriving and making our way through immigration, we checked into our rooms at the Gran Hotel Aston, located in Vedado. This hotel is one of only two private hotels where Americans can legally stay in Havana. All the other hotels are owned and operated by the Cuban government and are off-limits for Americans because staying in them would, in effect, offer support to the Cuban government.

Our tour guide was Atila Perez. He became our go-to for many things from Cuban history, politics, and culture. He also told us about the best places to shop and gave tips on remaining safe and aware of our surroundings. His patience, expertise, and pride in his country were crucial to our ability to experience and fully learn about the Cuban way of life. After dinner on the first night, Atila suggested visiting a popular after-hours establishment called the Art Factory. This popular nightclub is a collection of different rooms, dance floors, hallways, and outdoor spaces, all devoted to promoting some aspect of artistic expression, whether traditional, dance, photography, ceramic, or several others. Even the beverages served to us were made with a certain artistic flair!

On the second day, we went to Cojímar, a small fishing village where legendary author Ernest Hemingway loved to drink mojitos and wrestle with the locals. Hemingway became so beloved that a handful of local fishermen each offered a bit of brass from their fishing boats so that a brass bust could be created in his likeness and a monument built to honor his time spent with the Cuban people.
We also visited the Convento de Nuestra Señora de Belén [Convent of Our Lady of Belén], which is a community health project that assists in ensuring activities and medical care for the elderly, as well as for children from either financially disadvantaged or broken homes. Many Cubans cannot obtain products where a certain percentage of their manufacture takes place in the United States, like first aid supplies, baby items, reading glasses, and other necessary items. Here, many MC Law students stepped up and purchased several of these items to offer as donations and presented them at this health center to give to those in need.

This would not have been a true study-abroad trip if time had not been set aside to devote to doctoral lessons. Our professor, Frank Rosenblatt, scheduled a few hours each day for us to learn about governmental structure and civil rights in Cuba. He also allotted a couple of hours for a lesson each morning, followed by a session hosted by a group of students each day. We covered topics such as freedom of expression, social protest, prisoners and their rights, economic regulation, judicial review, environmental protection, and the protection of the rights of Indigenous peoples.

Cuba is the perfect example of a once beautiful and prominent nation that has been left to decay due to the embargo placed on it by the USA after political and social tension that occurred more than half a century ago. What cannot be denied is the Cuban people's perseverance, innovation, and creativity. The biggest lesson I have learned is how fortunate I am to live in a country where I enjoy certain luxuries that I often take for granted and the renewed appreciation for the freedoms and rights that I have been afforded. I am also reminded of the importance of being willing to learn and aid those who live differently from ourselves, wherever possible, in our communities and the world at large.









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