Cuba Up Close: Join us in February! 'Cuba Natural 'details below.
Cuba Up Close: Join us in February! 'Cuba Natural 'details below.
Our “Cuba Modernity” trip was truly memorable. Among the standout experiences for me was a gorgeous a cappella concert, just for our tiny group, by a small-town community chorus. I was prepared to be politely attentive, but instead, I was blown away. It was neither the first nor the last time we witnessed how seriously the Cubans take their music. My husband was riveted by a casual talk by a Cuban economist friend of Joe’s. In his living room, he talked about his own daily life as a consumer as well as the country’s current difficulties. We ate very well, and our lodgings were all clean and comfortable, and most importantly for me, air-conditioned. With the exception of a few officious airport workers, we found the Cuban people to be friendly and open. In the two minor airport incidents, Joe was always by our side, expertly translating and easing our minds. We highly recommend any trip that Joe leads in the future.
---Ann Hackworth, Roanoke, VA, April 2023
Traveling to Cuba with Joe Scarpaci was an exciting adventure that opened my eyes to the beauty and hardship of Cuban life. Joe was an expert tour guide, having full command of the language, territory, and people. We felt very safe during our whole journey. With Joe’s many people-to-people connections we visited a preschool where the students won our hearts with their songs, pictures, and pure joy of living; a seminary to hear a lovely choir perform and share a meal; and discussed the day-to-day lives and challenges of Cuban people wherever we traveled. And doing yoga each morning with Joe [a Yoga Alliance Certified Teacher] was another gift!
--Boo Pack, Roanoke, Virginia, March 2023
"Our man" in Havana, Trinidad, Cienfuegos, and Viñales, knew exactly what was outside the window of the tour bus and behind the many facades in Old Havana. His wealth of knowledge added an intellectual richness to our faculty/staff trip that no other U.S. academic or Cuban tour guide could. Joe has a knack for finding varied voices from within the country — dancers & filmmakers, entrepreneurs & state shopkeepers. He encourages them to clearly offer their personal views of a lovely land, its life, and its politics, and he reflects from his own perspective as a highly experienced and educated outsider as well. It would be silly to hope that Joe or that any personal guide could deliver ‘the real Cuba’, for the place is complex, contested, and rapidly changing. In place of that false hope, Joe finds voices (and some amazing restaurants, too) that he knits together into a unique and evolving experience of a changing Cuba."
-Allegheny College Mellon Internationalization Grant Faculty/Staff Tour, Jan 3-13, 2016.
I'm certain that our school trip to Cuba would have been significantly less successful without Professor Scarpaci as our scholar. He was extremely organized and knowledgeable, and he had everything running like clockwork. His congenial competence put everyone at ease instantly and allowed us to get the most out of our time in Cuba. He quickly became like a friend and colleague to the faculty, and with the students, he struck the right tone and interacted with them like their fun Uncle Joe, who's always up for a laugh while commanding their respect and attention. If I am ever part of another trip to Cuba, either professionally or personally, Joe is the first person I will call.
- Jim Miller, Philadelphia, March 2016.
"Thank you so much for your enthusiastic and informative input during our tour in Cuba. I so enjoyed your information as well as your engaging personality.
- Leonora Horwin, Los Angeles, May 2016.
"We wanted to let you know how much we enjoyed traveling to Cuba with you recently. It was such an incredible trip. The experience we had would not have been available to us without your prior established relationship and insight...and your understanding of the culture and people...The trip was one of our most enlightened and rewarding ones."
- Pat and Rod T., Pittsburgh, Jan. 2014.
Wonderful trip, the journey had all the trappings of a Caribbean vacation, wonderful weather, beaches, water, food, etc, but it was so much more. Joe was our companion and well-informed guide who had an almost encyclopedic knowledge of Cuba. That knowledge made for a rich experience, his walking tours of Havana were lively and interesting but Joe also had a great familiarity with other places throughout the country, Trinidad, and Cienfuegos. We visited a school in Havana and brought badly needed supplies, crayons, etc. This added so much to our trip and the delight on the children’s faces will stay with us for a long time. We had a great driver, El, Morro, who patiently carted us around the country. Our accommodations allowed us to interact with the locals and see how Cubans live. Again, another enriching experience.
-- Bob Carden, Wash. D.C. , February 2023
Joe creatively shared his tremendous knowledge of Cuba and all things Cuban. Dr. Scarpaci's local contacts provide access to important sites and detailed knowledge that only specialists can provide. The Center's expert trip planning resulted in just the right balance between active and overwhelming. Not to be forgotten is that our trip was simply fun! Joe’s eclectic sense of humor added an unexpected element to an already memorable experience.
--Marian and Gary Silverman, March 2020
The trip provided a great opportunity to see many local and migratory birds in numerous locations. We had great guides who were able to find difficult-to-locate birds. Additionally, we were able to see other attractions, the people, and how they lived in rural and urban settings. Rural Cuba is not well developed however the meals were great and the lodging met our needs. Time in Havana gave us an opportunity to explore the city on many levels. As a photographer, I had ample opportunity to get great bird shots as well as urban images. Samples of my work can be found at: http://davidpearcephotography.com/cuba-2020/.
--David Pearce, Blacksburg, Virginia, February 2020
The birding trip to Cuba arranged by Dr. Joseph Scarpaci exceeded our expectations on many levels. The knowledge of Cuba that Joe brought to the group enriched our experiences and appreciation for the struggles the Cuban people endure on a daily basis. His professionalism, communication skills, and personal attention made us feel very secure in this country unknown to us. Joe has extensive knowledge in urban planning, geography, and architecture that gave us a great perspective as we traveled from the mountains to the Caribbean and then to Havana. The food, accommodations, and transportation were well worth the cost. This trip was not just for birdwatchers but also for naturalists and people who want to experience another culture without intrusion.
--Pat & Stephen Boyle, February 2020, Blacksburg, VA
"Thank you for your leadership and guidance on the recent study abroad trip to Cuba. The trip provided a substantial breadth and depth of experiences to underscore the inherent complexity of Cuba’s culture and history. The study abroad experience in Cuba with the Center for Cuban Culture and Economy has renewed my own interest in sound cultural community development strategies, particularly in relation to urban agriculture, agroforestry, food sovereignty, and natural resource conservation."
--Eric Bendfeldt, Extension Specialist, Community, Local, and Regional Food Systems, Community Viability Program, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Department of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences, Virginia Tech, March 2018
I have many memories to share and insights, I believe were special to your expertise, contacts, and knowledge. So much was packed into the week. I couldn't have wanted or asked for more...Be sure that I have already begun to recommend your tours and will continue to do so."
-Sheila Franklin, Ft. Lauderdale, January 2018
"Thank you for everything you did to make Cuba such an unforgettable trip! It was such an amazing experience, and now I am super interested in Cuban-American relations and how I can get involved.."
-- Cat Buffington, Virginia Commonwealth University, June 2017
"I wanted to email you to thank you for everything you did for us while on the trip. Without you, we would have been lost. "
-- Garon Morgan, Virginia Commonwealth University, June 2017.
"Thank you, so much for your leadership, advice, and guidance over these past couple of weeks. It has truly been an amazing experience."
Quinton Mason, Virginia Commonwealth University, June 2017.
Cuba travelers are curious. Over the years, I've noticed a self-selection process. Folks that join us are mostly amiable and curious. We see the world with a critical eye but also understand the scale of what we are experiencing: the local, national, and global scenes. Thanks to all of you above for sharing your insights and entrusting our Cuba team to put together a memorable experience for you.