Centre College Alumni Travel, led by Genny Ballard, associate professor of Spanish, and Marie Petkus, Ewing T. Boles Associate Professor of Economics, as well as Cuba Educational Travel (CET), will offer a unique opportunity for Centre Alumni to experience Cuba in a way only possible through the College, March 16-24.
The deadline to register is November 10.
Closed off to U.S. tourists traveling by themselves, excursions by Americans to Cuba must fit into one of 12 categories, the most common of which is an educational, study abroad trip. While this stipulation typically only includes those receiving academic credit for their time in Cuba, the experience offered by Centre Alumni Travel is one of few trips permitted for those not currently enrolled in a high learning institution.
“Right now, not every American has open access to Cuba,” Ballard said about the opportunity available to Centre Alumni. “We are providing access that most people do not have, along with the knowledge to curate their experience in a way that is not possible without the relationships we have created in Cuba over the years.”
Committed to Centre’s philosophy of creating lifelong learners, Ballard and Petkus have arranged conversations with owners and operators of businesses within Cuba’s small private sector.
“Starting in 2013, when we took the Merida study abroad program to Cuba, we have been continually growing our network of contacts there,” explained Petkus about her past experiences in the country. “We have met and had personal conversations in people’s homes that have led to ongoing connections.”
One of the most interesting connections Centre students and faculty have made over the years is the relationship with small business owners Nidialys Acosta and Julio Alvarez of Nostalgic Cars restoration garage. A worldwide recognized symbol of Cuba, 1950s era cars have given these two businessmen the opportunity to make a living restoring beautiful automobiles to their former glory in an unconventional way.
Due to strict trade restrictions with the U.S., all of the parts they use must be brought into the country in suitcases from Miami.
Petkus comments on the unusual methods of the small business, saying that “it is a really good example of how much there is to learn about the ‘behind the scenes’ of a small business in Cuba, and what they must do in order to be competitive.”
Along with offering a window into the lives of some of Cuba’s most creative and inspiring people, the Centre Alumni Travel along with CET provides tours of the most historic places in the country, lodging in one of Havana’s top-rated hotels and informed advice and reservations
by Ben Bennett ’20
October 31, 2018
pictured above (l to r): Marie Petkus, Ewing T. Boles Associate Professor of Economics, and Genny Ballard, associate professor of Spanish