For most of us, Cuba brings to mind vacation clichés: sun, beaches and hotels. For others, Cuba is considered one of the bastions of state socialism, forever marked by Fidel Castro's dictatorship and the communist revolution. Nevertheless, given the events of the last several months, the country seems to be on the brink of large-scale economic and political changes that could turn the society upside-down. Accompanied by their teacher, Pierre-Luc Beauchamp, four (4) students from the Social Sciences program at LaSalle College Montréal’s campus sought to better understand Cuban society and its transformations currently under way. Their destination: the city of Havana, where they carried out research on sensitive issues such as economic disparities in Cuba, the role of hip-hop in social change and the impact of prostitution on women's lives.
On-site, the students had the chance to discover some of the hidden treasures of this amazing city. From Old Havana with its exquisite architecture to the Vedado district with its retro charm straight out of the 1950s, the students were blown away. Their cultural immersion was greatly enhanced by the warm welcome of their Cuban host families. Through interviews, conversations and exploration, many questions were asked, and answered. Thanks to the support of a friendly Cuban guide, the group was able to interview journalists, doctors and professors. They also interviewed numerous people working in the informal economy: non-official guides, sex workers, and underground hip-hop artists.
Their research brought to light a new perception of Cuba, constructed on the basis of actual on-site interview work. By the end of the trip, the students were able to say that their view of Havana was like that of no other tourist. They had the privilege of hearing directly from Cubans about their daily life, their problems, and societal issues that concern them.
In the end, the students and their teacher consider themselves lucky indeed to have been able to explore this unparalleled city that will soon turn a new page in its history.