Photo Spread: Cuba, the Place of Berkeley Students' Socialist Dreams

This winter break, a few Cal friends and I set aside our textbooks to learn through experience and see what the elusive country of Cuba had in store. Days after purchasing our tickets there, President Trump set even stricter guidelines to American travel to Cuba, making our trip seem all the more clandestine. Our journey there was far more seamless than we imagined, and we arrived in Havana without any issues.

Having made a travel plan before going (as wifi access is extremely limited and thus AirB&Bs must be secured before leaving) we set out to wander the dilapidated streets of Havana for a few days before making our way to Trinidad. Luckily, we had a connection to the University of Havana and were able to spend a day with a history professor there as he weaved us through Havana’s streets, explaining every rock and pebble as it pertained to Cuba history. Although the most filled with tourists - almost all of European descent - Havana has hundreds of hidden cobblestone alleyways, hole-in-the-wall cafes draped with hanging laundry, and many busy Cubans taking advantage of the tourist hub.

About a five hour ride away in a 1970s taxi took us past horse-drawn carriages and socialist propaganda billboards to the beautiful pastel-tinted colonial town of Trinidad. With a more tropical air to it, Trinidad is a bit slower-paced, with many roads blocked off for foot traffic. We witnessed the town and surrounding mountain villages on horseback, and sped 15km towards the white sand beaches on bikes. We then made our next pilgrimage over to a well-known beach town called Varadero. While making sure to stay on the non-resort sanctioned areas of the beach, we lounged in hammocks strapped to mangrove trees while laughing in awe of the perfect weather, incredible warm, crystal clear water, and delicious food. When our skin began to crack we returned to Havana- with a one night stop along the way in the lesser known town of Matanzas whose main sight was an independent sculpture/ceramic studio filled with garish designs of human heads, pigs, and everything in between.

Stormy weather greeted us back in Havana and we spent the next six days exploring what felt like every part of the city (Havana Vieja) and its provinces. While our favorite restaurant turned out to be an Italian joint where you could get whole artisan pizzas for $4, we happily ate our way through all of Lonely Planet’s restaurant suggestions. I returned to sub-arctic NYC two weeks later and have felt incredibly grateful, informed, and decidedly less socialist leaning ever since.