Beacon Hill Village to Visit Cuba

Over the years Beacon Hill Village, the membership organization devoted to enriching and enhancing the experience of growing older in downtown Boston, has taken day trips to destinations like western Massachusetts or Salem and overnight trips to New Haven.

Now the program committee has expanded its offerings. Next January’s destination? Cuba.

Beacon Hill Village member Nancy R. Coolidge will lead a trip leaving from Miami in the early morning of Jan. 12 with a charter flight to Havana. Once there, the group will spend a week meeting the Cuban people, especially artists, musicians, historians and architects, to learn about the island’s history, the current cultural scene and how the Cuban people thrive despite significant hardships.

Village members will visit local artists in their studios, enjoy meals in paladares, which are restaurants in private homes, and learn how some neighbors have banded together to create an organic garden and farmers’ market. The group will travel to the smaller cities of Santa Clara, Remedios and Cienfuegos to discover life in these charming, historic towns.

Beacon Hill residents Carolyn and Bob Osteen went to Cuba last year with CCJF and Nancy as the guide, and said the experience was fascinating and well organized. Carolyn said the contradictions were profound.

“They have an ocean all around but no one can have boats,” she said. “There is a lot of land for farming, but there are no trucks to get produce to market and no incentive for planting, so they have to import food.”

Members chose Cuba as the first group trip outside of the United States because it is difficult for Americans to travel to this island on their own, said Susan McWhinney-Morse, who chairs the program committee. U. S. citizens are barred by Congress from visiting without a license.

Cross Cultural Journeys Foundation, which will make arrangements for the trip, holds such a license and has organized many trips to Cuba, some of which have been led by Coolidge.

Another reason for traveling to Cuba now is that most people expect Congress eventually will lift the travel ban as the elderly Castro leaders relax their hold on the Cuban people. Once that happens, observers expect that Cuba will be overrun by American tourists, and Cuban life will change dramatically once again.

For Beacon Hill Village, such a trip was a natural extension of the organization’s mission of providing members with a range of opportunities for growth and enjoyment, said Daniel A. Taylor, president of the Village’s board of directors.                “Members expressed an interest in this trip and have put it together,” he said. “It’s a bonus that we will be traveling with our neighbors.”

Taylor and his wife, Karen, and McWhinney-Morse and her husband, David Morse, are planning to go on the trip, which is limited to the first 20 people who register. Members will be able to sign up during the months of August and September.

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