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Beyond Havana: Exploring Cuba’s Interior

December 18, 2013

Rising from the earth like sentinel soldiers, the Mogote dos Hermanas stand erect amidst acres of otherwise flat fields. The “twin sisters” are part of a legion of mogotes that pepper the other-worldly landscape. These bizarre, rocky hillocks were formed during the Jurassic Period when rainfall ate away at the valley floor, dissolving the limestone and leaving only small pockets untouched.

Discovering the Secrets of La Habana Vieja

November 20, 2013

Old Havana is cloaked in mystery. Pirates and treasure, plunder and intrigue are all part of the story of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Founded in 1519 by the Spanish in the natural harbor of the Bay of Havana, the city was a stopping off point for the treasure-laden Spanish Galleons that crossed the Atlantic to the New World. Baroque and Neoclassical in style, the city’s impressive buildings were evidence of the wealth shipbuilding had brought to the colonial island.

The Flavors of Cuba

October 16, 2013

As the first and last of the Spanish colonies in the Caribbean, Cuba has a Spanish influence that you can taste. Once a major trading port, Havana welcomed boatloads of immigrants from the European country and, along with them, their distinct culinary flavors.

Cuba Tobacco Farm Tour – Havana Cigar Production Up Close!

July 6, 2012

It’s hard to believe we were in Cuba – when I was growing up this country was so mysterious and inaccessible. But thanks to YMT's new program, we are able to see this land and explore its culture. Today we were to visit a tobacco farm to see how the cigars of Cuba were prepared. We wound through mountains and fertile valleys on our trip down from Havana to our destination – a tobacco farm in Vinales, Cuba, on the western end of the island. I could see why many compared this Caribbean country to New Zealand’s landscapes – it was gorgeous! Vinales is in the Vuelta Abajo district of Cuba, and is considered one of the premier tobacco growing areas of the country, and many tobacco enthusiasts consider it the best tobacco in the world. Our guide reminded us that Christopher Columbus was credited with first introducing these fine tobaccos to Europe. The small population in the Vinales Valley is engaged mainly in growing tobacco, and old methods such as hand tilling are still widely used. Seedlings are grown in special seed beds, and after 45 days are ready to be planted out, when the tobacco seed is actually planted into the surface of the soil. The farmer will visit the growing plant around 150 times during the growing season to care for the plants. The wrapper leaves for the outside of the cigar are grown under