HAMMOND — Days after President Barack Obama made a historic visit to Cuba, eight students from Purdue University Northwest’s Calumet campus, and associate professor of history Kathleen Tobin traveled to Cuba for spring break.
Despite the decades-long trade embargo, the president went in an effort to normalize relations and he became the first sitting president to go to Cuba in almost 90 years.
PNW students traveled to the island country as part of their Latin American Societies class, and to study the culture, education and life on the island.
Tobin and the students visited a variety of places during their trip from March 4-12. Each of the students presented a report to the general class and other professors and students who dropped by Thursday to hear about their experiences.
Annie Gensel, a pre-med major who went on the trip, said she looked at their health care system. She said health care is universal in Cuba, but the country does not have as much specialized equipment as in the United States. She said the country has a system that allows healthy people to see a doctor once per year, and those who need more assistance see a doctor more frequently.
“They focus on prevention,” Gensel said. “They even have doctors who make home visits.”
The infant mortality rate is 4.63 deaths per 1,000, less than the U.S. which is 5.87 per 1,000, Gensel said.
Student Noemi Rojas-Arrambide said she was interested in the Cuba’s politics. She said Cuba has a very well-educated population but not enough jobs and low wages. She said there is a decaying infrastructure, and the tourism industry has created a system of the haves and have nots.
Senior history major Myriah Oliveras started her presentation off with a poem called “Black Woman” written by Nancy Morejon published in 1975.
“Cuba is a true melting pot,” she said. “There are lots of Afro-Cubans and much African culture but it’s almost hidden. There is subtle racism, rather than in western culture where it is more blatant. There is not an acknowledgement of racism in Cuba. Education is free and the population is very well educated.”
Student John King said Cuban cigars and Cuban rum are popular in the country. “They make a lot of rum because they drink a lot of rum,” he said, drawing laughter from other students.
All of the students talked about the great food and restaurants in Cuba, and that music is an integral part of Cuban life. Some of the popular dishes in Cuba include moros y cristianos (black beans and rice), ajicao (a stew of meat and vegetables), and lechón asado (roast pig).
Laneah Ravn, a graduate student and instructor at PNW Calumet, said Cuba was the playground of Americans in the 1950s and many people visited Havanna.
Carmen McCollum, nwi Times
April 6, 2016