Cuba at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science

I, Zeb the Duck, and Soapy Smith Duck visited the Cuba exhibit.

Cuba exhibit

But where is Cuba?

Where is Cuba?

Cuba, the largest Caribbean Island nation, is only 94 miles (150 km) from our state of Florida.   But for many decades Americans could not visit this tropical island.   Cuba and the United States have very serious political and economic differences so travel between the countries has been prohibited or restricted since the 1960s.   This exhibit at our museum looks like a main street in Havana, Cuba.

Havana street

You will see store fronts, small businesses and Cuban people.   And the cars.

Old US car

Cubans still have old cars from the United States.   Those built in the 1950s and early 1960s.   The Cuban people have developed incredible mechanical skills.   They cannot get original parts for replacements, so they improvise.   The automobiles still run and are in great condition.   These large American cars are very popular as Cuban taxis now.   In recent years, Americans have been able to visit Cuba on approved tours, if requirements are met.   I, Zeb the Duck, and mom visited Cuba in December 2013.   The exhibit in Denver shows many things we saw on the streets of Havana.   Cars are scarce and very expensive in Cuba, so bicycle taxis are also popular.

Bicycle taxi

Many Cuban people ride bicycles and many others walk wherever they need to go.   The food is delicious.

Cuban food

We, Zeb and Soapy, would like to sample these, but mom said no.    Many of the coral reefs in the Caribbean are sick or dying, but the Gardens of the Queen Reef is healthy.

Cuba’s coral reef

The fish around the reef are beautiful.  The two main crops of Cuba are sugar cane and tobacco.

Tobacco shop in Havana

This is a tobacco shop.   The hand rolled Cuban cigars are among the best in the world.   Often you will hear music in Havana.

Cuban musicians

Many musicians will sit on the street, against a building and play.   The music is wonderful and the Cuban people appear to be happy, always with a smile on their face.  They love to play games.

Let’s play Dominos

Men playing Dominos along the street or in plazas are also common.   There is much more to this exhibit.   The wetlands, southeast of Havana, on the southern coast is definitely worth a visit.   There is also a display recognizing Cuban immigrants in Denver.   If you want to see this exhibit, you need to hurry.   It will only be here until Sunday, January 13, 2019.   While at Denver’s Museum of Nature and Science, take time to see the IMAX film, Cuba.

IMAX film about Cuba

The film features a man who dedicated his life to preserving Cuba’s old architecture and a young ballet student.   The largest ballet school in the world is located in Havana.   And the film features Cuba’s coral reefs and discovers why Cuba’s reef is much healthier than others in the Caribbean.  We hope you visit this exhibit this week.   And visit other museums near your home also.   You will find something interesting.

Havana, Cuba with Chanel the Bear

I, Zeb the Duck, want to share with you the photos Chanel the Bear sent from her Cuban cruises.   Chanel and her mom, a Tour Manager, are approaching Havana, Cuba now.

Hotel National in Havana from cruise ship

The National Hotel in Havana is old and was a favorite of American tourists in the 1950’s.   We stayed here when we visited Cuba with Chanel and her mom in December 2013.   The history, not only the famous American actors, sports figures and others that stayed here, but the canons and evidence of the missile crisis between the United States and Cuba in the early 1960’s, is vast and fascinating.   Chanel docks in Havana now and takes us with her.   We go to the home of José Fuster, a prolific artist.

Jose Fuster’s Fusterlandia near Havana

He has decorated his courtyard, his outer wall, and much of the neighborhood.   It is a fascinating place.   Isn’t this classic car, in front of Fusterlandia fantastic?

Classic car near Fusterlandia

We love it!  And here is a horse cart.

Horse cart near Fusterlandia

Cuba is such a fun place to visit.   Heading back to Old Havana, we stop to mail a card at this mailbox at the post office.

Mailbox at the post office in Old Havana, Cuba

Continuing our visit of Havana, we watch this dance group near San Francisco Square in Havana.

Dance group near San Francisco Square, Havana, Cuba

Chanel, thank you so much for the photos.   What fun you must be having and your photos bring great memories for us and all who have visited Cuba.   Next time we will see more of Chanel’s photos.

Photos from Havana from Channel the Bear

My friend, Channel the Bear, sent photos to me, Zeb the Duck.   Channel and her mom just returned from a couple weeks in Cuba.   Havana, Cuba has great statues.   Here Channel found a friendly arm for a temporary resting place.

Channel in Old Havana

Channel in Old Havana

The shiny leg indicates that others also found this statue to be a good stopping place.   This statue makes us all smile.

Channel by another statue in Old Havana

Channel by Sancho Panza, Don Quixote’s squire, in Old Havana

This is Sancho Panza from the famous story of Don Quixote.   We like this statue and Channel just makes the photos great.   Here my friend, Channel, is sitting on a window ledge.

Channel

Channel

She looks so Cuban.   We love it.   After a day of exploring Old Havana, humans and bears get hungry and thirsty.   Channel and her mom are in El Floridita, one of Havana’s historic and favorite restaurants.

Channel with statue of Ernest Hemingway in El Floridita in Havana

Channel with statue of Ernest Hemingway in El Floridita in Havana

This restaurant first opened in 1817.   In 1914 Constantino Ribalaigua Vert began working here.   By 1918 he was the owner.   But most important, in the early 1930s, as a bartender, he is credited with inventing the frozen daiquiri.   Channel, I hope you and your mom tried one of these famous beverages.   My mom tells me they are really tasty and refreshing.    But humans should not have too many of them at one time.   When Ernest Hemingway was in Cuba, this restaurant was a favorite hangout of his.   Maybe he came here just to see Channel?  Thanks for the photos, Channel.   They remind us of the great time we had in Cuba with you a few years ago.   We think it is great that your mom is a tour director and you go there often.   Thanks Channel.

More Photos from Cuba

Zeb the Duck here.   My friend, Channel the Bear, was in Cuba again.   She and her mom go often.   Her mom is a travel guide to Cuba for Friendly Planet.    Channel is sitting on a canon at the Hotel Nacional in Havana.

Channel on a canon at Havana, Cuba's Hotel Nacional.

Channel on a canon at Havana, Cuba’s Hotel Nacional.

When I was there, this was my favorite hotel in Havana.   In the 1950’s, before Fidel Castro took power, this was the hotel for the rich and famous Americans.   They still have great old photographs there.    This is a restaurant in Havana, and that large building behind is the Hotel Nacional.

California Café in Havana, Cuba with Hotel Nacional in background.

California Café in Havana, Cuba with Hotel Nacional in background.

The California Café name says the Americans have not been forgotten.   This last photo is the famous Varadero Beach.

Varadero Beach, Cuba

Varadero Beach, Cuba.   Beautiful Caribbean Sea.

This is great Channel.   When we were in Cuba, we were not allowed here.   It is beautiful.   We, the Colorado Traveling Ducks, hope you will go to Cuba soon to see what it is like now.   Cuba may be opening up to American tourism.   We understand that Carnival Cruise line has a subsidiary company that will begin cruises to Cuba twice a month.   The cruises may begin early May.   Go soon, before it changes.   We loved the friendly Cuban people and we think you will too.   Thank you Channel for these great photos.

Plaza of the Revolution in Havana, Cuba

In Havana, Cuba, I, Zeb the Duck visited the Plaza of the Revolution.  A huge plaza!

We came mainly to view three major monuments.  The first is to honor Jose Marti.  This monument at 138.5 meters is Havana’s tallest structure.  Jose Marti is a national hero in Cuba.

Monument to Jose Marti

Monument to Jose Marti

Jose Marti helped organize the Cuban Revolutionary Party, laying the groundwork for the Second Independence War with Spain.  Jose Marti was killed early in this war.  He was elevated to the status of martyr in 1895.  In front of Havana’s tallest structure, is a 17-meter statue of Jose Marti seated, in the Thinker position.  This monument has a museum and an elevator that takes you to the top for fantastic views of Havana.

The second monument is on the side of a telecommunications building.  A picture of Camilo Cienfuegos is on the outside of the building with the words, “Vas bien Fidel.”  These words are not always well known to non-Cubans, but were important during the revolution.  The story behind these words is that during a speech by Fidel in 1959, Fidel paused and turned to Camilo Cienfuegos who was standing behind him.  Fidel asked Camilo “Voy bien Camilo”  (Am I doing OK Camilo).  Camilo Cienfuegos replied, “Vas bien Fidel” (You’re doing OK Fidel).

Honoring Camilo Cienfuegos

Honoring Camilo Cienfuegos

About that time someone in the crowd released white doves and one landed on Fidel’s shoulder.  This reinforced the idea that Fidel had received a divine calling.  Soon, “Vas bien Fidel” became a rallying call for the revolution.  Camilo Cienfuegos was very popular with the Cuban people, second only to Fidel Castro.  Camilo Cienfuegos died in a plan crash October 1959, traveling from Camaguey to Havana.  He became one of the earliest martyrs of the revolution.

Monument number three, honoring Che Guevara is on the Ministerio del Interior building.  The huge mural of Che Guevara contains the words “Hasta la Victoria Siempre”  (Always toward Victory).

Honoring Che Guevara

Honoring Che Guevara

Che Guevara, a trained physician, from Argentina, met Raul Castro in Guatemala.  Raul later introduced Che to Fidel Castro in Mexico City in 1955.  The meeting of Che Guevara and Fidel and Raul Castro changed the course of history.  Che Guevara was a definite leader in the Cuban revolution and later helped with other revolutions until his death in October 1967 while he was in Bolivia.

You will notice that I, Zeb the Duck, am not in any of these photos.  The monuments are just too big for a duck.  However I was at the Plaza de la Revolution.

Zeb the Duck, bus driver

Zeb the Duck, bus driver

My job was very important—I drove the bus.

John Lennon Park in Havana

John Lennon, the Beatles and their music were banned in Cuba during Lennon’s lifetime.  John Lennon is in Havana now and sits in a park named for him.

Bronze of John Lennon in Havana, Cuba

Bronze of John Lennon in Havana, Cuba

Fidel Castro dedicated the statue of the former Beatle December 8, 2000, 20 years after Lennon’s murder.

A security guard watches the statue of Lennon sitting on a bench.  Lennon’s distinctive glasses were previously stolen, so now the guard holds the glasses and will put them on Lennon if asked.

John Lennon's security guard is my new friend

John Lennon’s security guard is my new friend

When I, Zeb the Duck, visited this statue, there was a line of tourists waiting to have their pictures taken with Lennon.  As you can see, I waited for my turn.

WOW!  I am sitting with John Lennon

WOW! I am sitting with John Lennon

Near the monument to Lennon is a cultural center and club, appropriately named the Yellow Submarine.

Too bad we didn't have time to go inside.  Looks fun.

Too bad we didn’t have time to go inside. Looks fun.

The Yellow Submarine in Havana, Cuba

The Yellow Submarine in Havana, Cuba

I, Zeb the Duck, like the statue and I liked this park.  I think you would like this park, too.  The John Lennon Park is located near the corner of streets 17th and 6th in the Vedado area of Havana.  When you go, smile at the friendly gentleman that keeps John’s glasses.

Callejon de Hamel

Central Havana, Cuba is home to Callejon de Hamel; a short street lined with murals and unusual artwork.  The focus is on Santeria, the combining of Yoruba religion from Africa with Catholicism.

Callejon de Hamel in Havana, Cuba

Callejon de Hamel in Havana, Cuba

When the African slave was forced to accept Catholicism he blended the spirits of his religion with the saints of the catholic religion.

Visit video.nationalgeographic.com for an example of this blending.  In the search on the site type santeria.  St. Lazarus, a healer of the sick is blended with Babalu Aye, the spirit of good health.  Santeria does involve sacrifices of healthy animals to keep the spirits happy and fed.  Santeria uses natural healing using herbs and divination through rituals including animal sacrifice, offerings, and altar building; music, dance and possession trance.

We visited Callejon de Hamel and want to show you the artwork there, much of it done by Salvador Gonzales.

Callejon de Hamel

Callejon de Hamel

Callejon de Hamel

Callejon de Hamel

chapel

chapel

Zeb on a grashopper??

Zeb on a grashopper??

Callejon de Hamel

Callejon de Hamel

Mural at Callejon de Hamel

Mural at Callejon de Hamel

You can purchase items from this lady.

Santeria store at Callejon de Hamel

Santeria store at Callejon de Hamel

Mom and I used national geographic and wikipedia to verify facts.  You may appreciate the information there also.  Many times you will experience dance performances at Callejon de Hamel.   We did not, but you may.  This is a very colorful street and Cuban experience you won’t want to miss.  Go and enjoy it all.

Organic Farming in Alamar, Cuba

On the outskirts of Havana, Cuba organic farming is thriving.  Called Organoponicos we visited Vivero Alamar.   The day we visited, it was raining.  Rain and farm mean mud.  We were given plastic bags for boots,

Zeb the duck on a bag boot

Zeb the duck on a bag boot

to protect our shoes, the farm, the bus and the restaurant preparing our lunch.  Organic farming was begun as a necessity.  After the break up of the Soviet Bloc, Cuba lost all economic support and many were in danger of starvation.  With no chemicals and no machinery available, organic farms with human labor seemed to be the only choice.  Now, this farm is world famous and a leader in demonstrating organic farming.

To conserve time and space, 90% of plants start in greenhouses.

Greenhouse

Greenhouse

This farm was started by Miguel Salcines and three others in 1997.  Beginning with 8,611 square feet Vivero Alamar now encompasses 25 acres.

The farm has only 2 machines and hires 180 employees to do most of the work.

Much work is done by human labor

Much work is done by human labor

They were leaders in hiring women and the elderly.  The farm pays more than usual state salaries for 7 hours daily, 6 day per week.  Because of the higher salary employees are happy to work here.   This farm is also teaching people to eat more vegetables, even cauliflower, beets and broccoli.

Preparing sedlings

Preparing plants

Vivero Alamar began growing vegetables

Vegetable field

Vegetable field

but has now added animals, fruits, herbs and medicinal plants.  They are also growing Moringua.  This Asian plant is reported to have wonderful health benefits.  October 24, 2012 Fidel Castro praised moringua for nutritional benefits and encouraged the moringua plant in Cuba.  Visit en.cubadebate.cu to read more of Fidel Castro’s opinions.

Our group benefited from a very nice and knowledgeable guide through the farm.  We liked her a lot and she wore a Woodstock shirt.  They even sell organic tomato paste in sterilized, recycled beer bottles.

Fields are well kept

Well kept fields

Well kept raised beds

and Vivero Alamar annually plants 3 million seedlings, harvests 300 tons of vegetables annually and sells to 50,000 customers each year.  In addition to our visit, some information comes from www.farmcuba.org a fantastic website developed by 6 students in Elon University’s Interactive Media Master’s program over 3 week in January 2013.  If you are interested in this organic farm, I believe that this is a great resource.  We also liked www.elonpendulum.com

I, Zeb the duck enjoyed this visit and think all of you would also like to visit this organic farm.  It was fun and we all want to learn to eat and live healthier.

Hotel Nacional de Cuba–Military Museum

This hotel, Hotel Nacional de Cuba, is in the Vedado district of Havana.  The hotel is on the north coast of Cuba, overlooking the Malecon and the Caribbean Sea.  Havana is 90 miles south of Key West, Florida.  I, Zeb the Duck, am reminding you of these facts, to partially explain the small museum here and the historical importance.  In October 1962 the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States reached what is often considered the worst moment.

Missile crisis??
Missile crisis??

In the United States we call it the Cuban Missile Crisis and in Cuba it is referred to as the Missile Crisis.

This is part of what I saw in the lawn of my hotel.

Entrance to underground bunker
Entrance to underground bunker

The Cueva Taganana is the underground bunker on the grounds of the Hotel National de Cuba.

Cueva Taganana
Cueva Taganana

Our last morning at the hotel, the cave was open while sweeping out excess rain.  The gentleman said we could go inside.

Inside Cueva Taganana.  Map and posters
Inside Cueva Taganana. Map and posters
The Soviet position
The Soviet position
Fidel Castro's position
Fidel Castro’s position

This is serious stuff.  Even ducks know this.   This Cueva Taganana is now a museum and here is another reminder of past trouble between Cuba and the United States.

Bay of Pigs
Bay of Pigs
Near the underground bunker
Near the underground bunker

This cave has been an important symbol to Cuba since the 16th century when it served as a refuge for an Indian named Taganana.  The cave has been changed to tunnels for the defense of Havana.  In 1885 15 cannons were placed on the grounds as part of a Spanish artillery regiment.  This is a big cannon!

Wow!  This is big especially for a small duck
Wow! This is big especially for a small duck
Still tension between the United States and Cuba
Still tension between the United States and Cuba

Our hotel is near the Hotel Havana Libre.

Hotel Habana Libre, former Hilton Hotel
Hotel Habana Libre, former Hilton Hotel

This was a new Hilton hotel but in 1959 it was taken over by Fidel Castro, nine months after opening.  Fidel Castro renamed the hotel and ruled Cuba from the 24th floor for a few months.

There has been many problems between the United States and Cuba and several still exist.  Ducks don’t best involved in politics, but the people I met in Cuba were very nice to me and I was very nice to them.  The people and ducks can get along; maybe the governments will one day.

Let's all sit down and talk about peaceful relations

Let’s all sit down and talk about peaceful relations

The hotel offers tours of the hotel and grounds daily.  We were on other tours during the scheduled time, but I would recommend taking the tour of Hotel Nacional de Cuba if you have the time.  This is a fascinating place and the amount of history is astonishing.

Hotel Nacional de Cuba Havana Cuba

I, Zeb the Duck and my group of humans are staying at the historic Hotel Nacional de Cuba in Havana.

Our hotel.  The Hotel Nacional de Cuba

This hotel opened in 1930 when Cuba was a prime tourist destination from the United States.  The location and the manicured lawns of the hotel are stunning.

Many famous people have stayed here and many pictures adorn the walls in the bar and other areas of the hotel.  This jukebox is part of a tribute to Nat King Cole (according to Wikipedia).

In our hotel bar area

In our hotel bar area

Here is a statue honoring a musician,

Musician and Zeb in Hotel Nacional de Cuba

Musician and Zeb in Hotel Nacional de Cuba

and maybe me, Zeb the Duck?

Here I am with another friend, Bif.

Zeb and Bif overlooking the Caribbean Sea

Zeb and Bif overlooking the Caribbean Sea

We are in the bar area overlooking the Caribbean Sea.  One day in the bar area, mom and her friend put me on the bar with these colorful drinks. The bartender saw me, smiled and said “Ducks are welcome here.”

Ducks welcome here!

Ducks welcome here!

I feel so happy at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba.

The Hotel Nacional de Cuba has the Parisien nightclub.

This club and show are in our hotel.  Let's go!

This club and show are in our hotel. Let’s go!

One evening we saw the cabaret show.  These photos just don’t do justice to the show,

The show

The show

but view these and use your imagination.

We liked this show

We liked this show

The show was very nice and we enjoyed it completely.

The manicured lawn and location of the Hotel Nacional de Cuba make it a popular location for weddings.  This is a happy couple.

Wedding at Hotel Nacional de Cuba

Wedding at Hotel Nacional de Cuba

Here I am on a table overlooking the water.

Zeb waiting for refreshments

Zeb waiting for refreshments

As we walked around the grounds, I met this peacock.

This peacock is my new friend.

This peacock is my new friend.

He has beautiful colors and is friendly.  Next time I want to show the military museum at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba.