wintersession students in CubaIn January 2002, Professor Judith Rollins of the Africana Studies and Sociology Departments (with Professors Johnny Webster and Lori Roses of the Spanish Department) organized and directed Wellesley College’s first Wintersession in Cuba. The three-week course was based at the University of Havana (UH) and focused on women, race, and cultural expression.

Morning lectures at the University of Havana were followed by afternoon site visits and evening cultural events. Among others, the lecturers - all professors at UH - included Francisa Lopez, Sonia Enjamio, Enrique Sosa, Mayra Sanchez, Rigoberto Pupo, Ana Cairo, and Norma Vasallo, director of UH’s Women’s Studies Program.

Afternoon site visits included a guided walking tour of the Old City, the Museum of the Revolution, the National Center of Sex Education (CENESEX), and the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC).

wintersession students in front of Cuban muralCultural events – mainly at UNEAC (the Union of Cuban Artists) – included lectures on Cuban theater and arts, musical performances, and film showings. For example, Fernando Perez showed and discussed his award-winning film “La Vida es Silbar” (“Life is to Whistle”). And Gloria Rolando showed and discussed her films on Afro-Cuban history and culture: “El Alacran” (“The Scorpion,” on black carnival); “Ogun” (on Afro-Cuban religion); “My Footsteps in Baragua” (on English-speaking Afro-Cubans); and “Root of My Heart” (on the 1912 massacre of approximately 6,000 black Cubans in order to suppress the Independent Party of Color).

In addition to these excellent lectures, site visits and cultural events, having the opportunity to observe a society based on socialist principles, to explore Havana during free hours, and to have informal conversations with Cuban undergraduates and others provided an invaluable experience for the twenty-one students who took part in the College’s first Wintersession in Cuba.