Information systems Professor Barry Floyd, Director of Student Services Amy Carter and Advisor Katelyn O’Brien led a cohort of 22 students on the college’s first official trip to Cuba. The trip coincided with President Obama’s trip to Cuba as relations between the two countries begin to warm again.
Throughout the week-long journey, students visited with business leaders in a variety of economic sectors, including agriculture and art. Students attended a discussion on U.S./Cuban Relations lead by Paul Rodriguez from the University of Havana as well as a round-table discussion about the changing forces of Cuba’s economic structure with Ricardo Torres, a macroeconomist at the University of Havana.
The students had the opportunity to visit El Trigal, Havana’s new wholesale market, which is the first private cooperative market to emerge since Cuba monopolized wholesale operations in the 1960s. While they were there, the students spoke to one of the owners, Claudio Sabron, who discussed how the market is uniquely run as a cooperative with the state. Students also had the chance to tour a tobacco farm and a classic car shop, where they discussed the inner workings of the business with the clients.
Kayla Babu, one of the students on the trip, had the opportunity to meet with Dr. Rena Perez, a former member of the Ministry of Agriculture in Cuba, during their time there. Babu and Perez met to discuss the student’s business venture idea regarding the toxic by-products of the sugar industry and distilleries in Cuba. Perez discussed with Kayla how the recent growth in the tourism industry, the lack of technology to produce more efficient agricultural processes, and the lack of pay for skilled Cuban workers has led to a decrease in the agricultural sector; however Perez expressed confidence that the county will soon bounce back and return to its agricultural roots. Kayla’s talk with Dr. Perez helped to give her an understanding of a true perspective on Cuban businesses and Cuban life in general.
The group also took time for cultural immersion, from touring historical sites including Cuba’s most famous landscape, Valle de Vinales, to taking a salsa dance class taught by a local instructor. Students also took in a Rolling Stones concert as the band made a surprise trip to the island.
To read more about the Cal Poly spring break trips, click here.
To read more about Kayla’s meeting with Dr. Perez, click here.