Lens on the Revolution: Discovering Granma

Trip Summary

Photographers Jennifer Spelman and Carlos Otero Blanco journey with you for a 11-day workshop to Cuba’s eastern coast.

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Dates

Dec. 9 – 19, 2024

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Group Size

7 People

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Activity Level

Moderate, some walking with stairs.

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Price

$5,950 (shared room)

Trip Details

Granma Province offers a breathtaking and remote destination steeped in human history and natural wonder. Your imagination and curiosity will ignite, as pages out of Cuban history books reveal themselves with each bend in the road.

Discover the Charm of Granma

Join us as we delve into the raw beauty and compelling history of Cuba’s least traversed territory: Granma Province. It is here that Fidel and his handful of Rebels bailed from their small, disabled boat, Granma, and were forced to hack their way through miles of deep mud, dense mangroves, and slashing sawgrass before reaching dry land. The exhausted Rebels, with fewer than five firearms among them, soon encountered hundreds of heavily-armed government troops, and the battle for Cuba Libre began.

Window open to ocean, La Granma, Cuba by Jennifer Spelman

© Jennifer Spelman

Portrait of Dayton Sanchez Velazque, mine mechanic, El Cobre, Cuba by Carlos Otero Blanco

© Carlos Otero Blanco

Create Images, Capture History

Together with Carlos and Jennifer, we will trace the footsteps of these revolutionaries, where echoes of Ché’s and Fidel’s mission still linger. The UNESCO-listed Landing of the Granma National Park is not just an historical site; it is a touchstone of modern Cuban history rarely visited by US citizens. As we follow this trail you’ll find your creativity sparked to capture images steeped in cultural and historic richness. Our purpose and focus each day will be to interact with the local Cubans we encounter as we wind through history.

Connect with the Heartbeat of Cuba

Our journey isn’t just about history and fabulous vistas; it’s about developing human connections. From a deeply spiritual gathering in Niquero to the familial warmth in remote Alegría de Pío, we are immersed in the very soul of rural eastern Cuba. The bonds we will form with fellow creatives and welcoming locals, and our shared stories, laughter, food and photographs, will merge seamlessly into a rich tapestry of human exchange.

Children viewing mobile phone, La Granma, Cuba by Jennifer Spelman

© Jennifer Spelman

Portrait of Yoenis Martinez Aguilera, peasant and fisherman, Las Palmitas, Gramma, Cuba by Carlos Otero Blanco

© Carlos Otero Blanco

Journey with Us to Granma

Space on this adventurous trip is limited. The experience is unlike our other excursions. Most of the trip unfolds far from the beaten path as we intentionally avoid hotels and resorts, choosing instead the comfortable and simple local accommodations, the “casas particulares,” licensed private rooms in the homes of welcoming locals. Furthermore, we will spend more time than usual on some fairly long drives down bumpy, dusty roads, albeit with jaw-dropping views. The Granma adventure is best-suited for travelers who have visited Cuba previously – if you have questions whether this trip is the right fit, please inquire by email.

Join us on an unparalleled excursion that will challenge your understanding of Cuba’s struggle for self-governance and sharpen your perception of how Cubans live today. This is truly a journey of the eye, heart, and spirit.

Accommodations

Our accommodations for the Granma adventure are basic, but each of us will have a private room and bath with air conditioning and hot water.

It is our experience that group members find the casas particulares housing model far more fulfilling than hotel stays. Our hosts are carefully selected for their hospitality, quality of accommodations, and care for our comfort. Respectful of our privacy, they are always pleased to share their homes, their families, their stories, and their delightful company with guests.

Much of Cuban life is lived outside, and our accommodations will offer open-air opportunities for social gatherings or individual contemplation in this clean tropical environment.

Most days, we will enjoy simple, traditional Cuban meals prepared with local ingredients, including: fresh tropical fruits and juices; innovative side dishes such as yucca and plantains; home-style beans and rice; fresh pork, chicken or fish; and, crisp colorful salads. On a few occasions, we will dine in privately-owned restaurants where the ambiance is heightened, yet our choices still are limited, but prepared and served with care and finesse.

Casa particular in Cuba by Jennifer Spelman

© Jennifer Spelman

Itinerary Highlights

  • Our journey into Cuban history begins with arrival in Santiago de Cuba, the “cradle of the Revolution.” Our stay here introduces us to a diverse community of Cubans living in this fast-paced, former capital city.
  • Next, we travel the southern road that hugs the coast between the sea and sheer-faced mountain cliffs.This passage has been declared one of the most spectacular in Cuba. The sometimes rugged road combines Revolutionary history with spectacular views and humble towns populated by kind and welcoming Cubans.
  • Charming Chivirico will be a homebase for us to mingle with campesinos working their family farms.
  • Continuing westward, little-known Las Coloradas is our next home for several nights as we explore some of the most significant sites of the Revolution.
  • In Niquero we will witness the fusion of faiths and traditions that embody Cuba’s spiritualism — African traditions, Catholicism, Santería, and Espiritismo. We have been invited to respectfully document an authentic spiritual community gathering there.
  • On our adventure to Alegría de Pío, we will travel deep into the mountains to the site where Castro composed his “Manifesto of the Sierra Maestra.” In the afternoon, we’ll join a family in their comfortable compound for a memorable outdoor pork asado. The opportunity for intimate portraiture and genuine personal interaction makes for an afternoon awash in true Cuban warmth.
  • A day trip to the fishing village of Cabo Cruz reveals astonishing vistas of clear turquoise waters, and allows time to mingle with local residents whose lives are tied to the bounty of the sea.
  • Our final stop, Holguin, will be where we share images and reflect on our journey through the nation’s revolutionary past. Here, we visit with the locals while milling through elegant plazas, and absorbing a Caribbean sunset high above the town – a fitting close to a trip rich in history and natural beauty.
Fototeca de Cuba in Havana, Cuba

Travel to Cuba Legally

This trip allows US citizens to travel legally to Cuba under the People-to-People General License for educational exchanges (Title 31 CFR § 515.560). We focus on authentic connections and meaningful interactions, capturing the spirit of the Cuban people through our lenses.

Publish Your Photography

Join the community of photographers who share their images between (and on) the covers of CubaSeen, our photo zine showcasing the best of photography about Cuba. As a participant on this trip you may submit images for our next issue free of charge.

Your Instructors

Jennifer Spelman

Jennifer Spelman

Trip Leader | Co-Founder

Jennifer Spelman is a documentary photographer, educator and workshop leader based out of Santa Fe, New Mexico. She has worked extensively across Cuba since 2011.

During over sixty visits to the island, she’s experienced the friendly generosity of a people always willing to share conversation and a cup of coffee. She has come to understand that to be Cuban is to greet adversity with ingenuity, patience and humor. Life in Cuba is lived on the streets, and Jennifer is happiest amidst their constant motion and layered serendipity.

She co-founded OneWorldSeen in 2021 and co-publishes its photo zine, CubaSeen.

Jennifer is a patient educator who has co-instructed with Santa Fe Workshops and National Geographic Expeditions. Among her many other photography-related endeavors, she has traveled extensively, teaching workshops in Turkey, Morocco, India, Romania, Spain, Mexico, Japan, India, and Cuba.

Website: jenniferspelman.com

Carlos Otero Blanco

Carlos Otero Blanco

Partner | Resident Cuban Expert & Guide

Carlos Otero Blanco is a dynamic photographer who specializes in inventive conceptual projects and creative underwater photography. His wide range of thematic interests spans documentary photography, portraiture, and nature.

Carlos may be best known for his sensitive photographic study of Cuban bedrooms, with hundreds photographed since 2009. The exquisite images were published in his book, Dormir con… (To Sleep with…), co-authored with Enrique Rottenberg, which has been shown in several national and international exhibits, and was featured in The New York Times, among other publications.

Born and raised in Havana, Carlos knows Cuba He has explored its rivers, its shorelines, its cities and villages, its mountains, its farmland and, most intimately, its people. His many friends across the island light up whenever he arrives. His wit and character are threaded throughout his vividly expressive portrait series, Cuba Vive, and are readily recognizable within his diverse selection of photographic subjects from around and across the island.

Carlos has a deep commitment to the natural world, and relishes adventure photography. He has participated in studies of subaquatic archeology, and holds several divemaster and instructor titles, as well as numerous awards for his spectacular underwater photography.

Instagram: @oteroblancocu

What's Covered?

Included

  • Lodging with breakfast all days
  • 7 lunches and 7 dinners
  • Transportation within Cuba, including airport pick-up and drop-off
  • Model and location fees
  • Please review our Terms and Conditions before registering

Not Included

  • Airfare to Santiago de Cuba (SCU) and returning from Holguin (HOG)
  • Meals and incidentals not listed as included
  • Visas and mandatory Cuban health insurance. This is available for purchase from your airline with prices varying from $50-85
  • Travel insurance, which we highly recommend

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