Mitzi Stoltzman and her husband Dale are members of PTPI’s Sheboygan, Wisconsin Chapter. They recently traveled on our Educational and Humanitarian Initiative to Cuba and wrote about their experience for the chapter’s newsletter.
Cuba with PTPI: A Recap by Sheboygan, Wisconsin Chapter Member Mitzi Stoltzman
During our 1st steps onto Cuban soil, we felt the heat of the sun, the very humid air, and the wonderful view of old American cars from the 1950’s! We were among 10 people taking part in one of PTPI’s Educational and Humanitarian Initiatives – an educational and cultural experience in Cuba for one week. Cindy Spake joined us from PTPI to coordinate our travel logistics, and Cuban native Yovani Guerrero served as our guide us within the Havana and Matanzas areas of Cuba. He set a wonderful schedule of walking tours through city squares mixed with cultural stops to meet the welcoming Cuban people.
Beginning in Havana, we visited a daycare center for children of single mothers, which is run by the diminutive but very strong Sr. Theresa. Our guided tour of the Museum of Fine Arts opened our eyes to paintings spanning from the 1600’s to modern day art.
A trip to Las Terrazas National Park was an education in reforestation. So many trees were cut for housing that erosion had devastated the area. Native trees were replanted in a terraced design, including native coffee plants. Within the park, the Buenavista Coffee Plantation from 1802 had also been restored. In Matanzas City, we toured the only protestant ecumenical seminary in the country. Situated on a picturesque 10-acre hillside, the seminary has 37,000 books as well as large gardens to sustain their 400 students and the city schools as well.
|Mitzi and Dale Stoltzman with Cuban photographer Roberto Salas in Havana, Cuba
Later in the trip we visited photographer Roberto Salas in his Havana home to view the many photos he was asked to take of the Cuban revolution by Fidel Castro. The time we spent listening to his stories was unbelievable! Another highlight was when Cuban urban planner and architect, Miguel Coyula, told us about the Cuban building booms from the 1920’s to 1958 (the start of the Cuban revolution). We toured an architectural masterpiece, the Cuban School of Arts, which focuses on music, dance and theater. Numerous domed red-brick buildings were connected with redbrick arches. We stopped in two of the domed buildings to watch dance classes.
We also toured a 25-acre cooperative organic farm in the western portion of Havana that sells 90% of their fruits, vegetables, plants, juices, and herbs to the community with the remaining 10% sold to local hotels. We were sent on our way after being served a delicious meal of soup, roast rabbit, fresh vegetables and fruits.
Next we visited an elementary school with 50 students from kindergarten to 6th grade. We were shown the library, computer lab, and viewed 3rd grade students learning English using a televised language program. Our final stop was an after-school music and theater program called La Colemita: “The Little Beehive”. These students performed a portion of their newest program for us, then pulled us out of our chairs to dance with them before it was time to leave. They hugged us all “good-bye.” We left the island the next morning feeling happy to have made so many new friends.