Hyacinth Parker is a sophomore pursuing an Environmental Studies major and a Spanish minor. She spent this past Winter Term in Havana, Cuba.
From January 12th to the 25th, eight Oberlin students and one professor, Ana Cara, went to Havana, Cuba. There we spoke to political analysts, religious leaders, artists, architects, musicians, etc. to get a sense of what Havana, and by extension Cuba, was really like.
Our adventures in Cuba allowed us to use Spanish every day. Everything from buying fruit on the street to talking with our hosts to visiting students at the Superior Institute of Art was done in Spanish. While many of us already had a background in Spanish, we also had a fantastic translator-interpreter – Alberto González Rivero, author of Born to Translate Cuba – who helped us bridge the gap.
While many Cubans have family members in the United States, English was definitely not the most commonly known second language. English was prevalent in many of the tourist locations. Many vendors used the language to try to attract North Americans to their stands. However, US-Cuban relations and the Cuban tourist industry are much more nuanced topics than I can cover here –come learn more at our presentation!
Though English was not always present, it was fascinating to learn how many Cubans knew Arabic, French, and especially Russian because of their travels, work, or study abroad experience. Our Cuba trip was a refreshing reminder and reinforcement that the United States is not the center of the world. Overall, the Cuba trip was an amazing experience, allowing us to immerse ourselves fully in Cuban Spanish, food, music, and other aspects of Cuban culture.
To learn more, please join us at our presentation on February 23rd at 7pm in Craig Lecture Hall.