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My sister, her family and mine are thinking of going to Cuba for a week at Christmas. There are 10 of us ages 14, 16, 17, 21, 24, 25 and four in our mid forties. Anyone have any suggestions? Watersports are a must particularly for the younger ones. Three of us are vegetarians - is there food to eat for us? Does anyone know anything about Holguin? Thanks for the input.

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    Hey Teach...

    I can't offer you direct advice as I haven't been down
    to the Holguin area of the country, but you might try
    posting your question on

    http://www.caribline.com/islands/cu/forum.shtml

    There is an active Cuba forum where I think you might
    have a better chance of getting some advice.

    Also for general Cuba info, check out these sites.

    Directorio Turistico de Cuba
    http://www.transtur.com/eng/

    Cubalinda
    http://www.cubalinda.com/

    www.1click2cuba.com

    www.holguin.cu

    Cubaroutes for some Cuban maps
    http://www.cubaroutes.com/maps/home.aspx

    Also, you might try to specify if things such as
    nightlife, local town, shopping etc., are important or
    would a nice resort with lots on on-site activities be
    more to your liking.

    As an all around compromise with stuff that encompases
    most of what you wish, Holguin/Guardalavarca or the
    Varadero areas might suit your needs.

    As to the vegetarian diet, how strict are you? Vagan?
    or do you eat seafood etc. If pure vagan, you might
    have a bit more difficult time. But for sure there
    will always be lots of rice and beans, plantain,
    fruits, salads, and that type of stuff. Never seen any
    soy products in Cuba however.
    Of course when all else fails, you can always consume
    a liberal quantity of water, flavoured with hops and
    barley... both natural ingredients :o)

    Have fun and enjoy the Cuban experience.
    Steve
    p.s. If you want to check out some of my Cuban photography with full info, though mostly from the Havana area, go to....
    http://photopilot.tripod.com

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    Thought you all may like this; I came across it on the internet a ways back. Robert

    "Cubans love their families, the ice-cream, the beaches and the tv-movies Saturday night"


    Janesi is 29 years old Cuban. Born in San Cristobal de Pinar del Rio. Lives in Havana. Graduated Germanistik in Havana University.

    If you had to describe the Cubans to somebody who doesn?t know them, what would be the first thing you would say?

    The first would be that the Cubans are as typical as all people in other countries. In Haiti, for example, people have something typical, you can?t find people like the Haitians anywhere else.

    Considering your family ? do you think that there is something typical which it carries and which you also possess, which comes from your family?

    This refers to all Cubans. One inherits almost everything from one?s family. This love for the family, for example. This longing one feels when one is far away from one?s family, perhaps this feeling for nature, for other people. The fact that I love to dance, the fact that I love to communicate with other people.

    Is love important to the Cubans?

    Very important. The most important. Not only the love in an intimate relationship, but all kinds of love. Love for children. Love means that we will do everything possible and impossible to help somebody. I think that this is the most important thing. It is not just a matter of hugging and kissing somebody. It means that somebody is always with you, that you never feel alone.

    What do the Cubans dream of? For example, one dream of the Bulgarians is to have enough money to be able to travel around, to other countries. Do the Cubans have any such common dreams?

    Our dreams are? We live like fighters one way or another. This means that we love people, our neighbours, the family. All Cubans dream of being able to help all these people.

    What does it mean to be a fighter?

    It means that you fight for it. You know that you can?t have everything and can?t expect it to fall from heaven, therefore you fight, try to make it come true, you don?t wait for a miracle to happen.

    Are the Cubans religious?

    Yes, Cuba is a religious country. It has always been like that. We like going to church. Our religion is syncretic ? a mixture of Catholicism and African religion. We love all gods ? both the African and the Catholic gods.

    Who is the typical, Cuban God, who is regarded as the God or protector of Cuba?

    La Caridad del Cobre. This is Cuba?s goddess ? this is the blessed virgin of all Cubans.
    We worship this goddess, in African religion the virtues of this goddess are regarded as the virtues of all womankind. She is like a mirror to women, to men she is the mother.

    Can you feel any change in Cuba after Afghanistan? After the start of the war on terrorism? How did people react? Did anything change?

    Yes, definitely. It?s probably the same everywhere. As a country we have always had problems with the USA, with the blockade, we are too close to the USA. That?s a fact. But when your neighbours suffer, when they have problems, then you also suffer.

    Is this how people in Cuba reacted, the Cubans suffered? Because it was a great tragedy or due to the fact that a huge number of Cubans live in the USA?

    Every man has his own head on his shoulders and some probably longed for the way of life in the USA. Some of them probably feel happy there now, now that they have a house, car, many things. But many of them are also very sad because the most important thing for the Cubans, as I already told you, is the family. One is almost always left the way one is born. The family is the most important thing. Most people say: it would be better if we were together.

    Could you tell me a proverb, which best describes the Cuban mentality?

    Whenever we have problems or face a difficult situation, we tell ourselves that there is always hope. And we always try to take a positive attitude. I always say this and so do my friends. When lemons start falling from the sky, that?s when you?ll drink lemonade. Si del sielo tacan limones ? a limonada. People are the way they are. It doesn?t matter whether you come from Austria, Germany or America. Temperament is a unique and personal thing. Most people are what they have tried to be. A person who does not dream and who always suffers, that kind of person will finish very quickly. That?s a dead person.

    Are most Cubans the way you describe them? In Cuba one has the feeling that people have a very positive attitude to life, that they are very merry?

    Yes, that?s true. We have a proverb for that too. When the weather?s bad ? smile. ? mal tiempo ? Buena cara. This is very typical of people ? everybody has problems. Life is a challenge for everybody. Stress, the kind of stress you have in Europe, is something that we don?t have here.
    Perhaps it has something to do with nature. The climate is nice, sometimes it is hot, but it?s OK for us. When it gets too hot we go for a swim in some river and that?s it.

    What is the most difficult thing for you here? Something you would like to change if you could?

    The most difficult thing for me is... It is very personal? I would love to live with my mother, but since I don?t have many job opportunities there, I have to live in a different place. Nor have I found the job of my life.

    What have you been doing until now?

    I?ve worked as a tourist guide. For two years.

    Did you leave of your own accord?

    It was unplanned. I was in another province, where I had this job, when my mother fell ill, heart trouble. This came as such a shock to me, it was totally unexpected. That?s why I left.
    She remained in hospital for two months and a few days. Afterwards I stayed to live there, in Pinar del Rio. I managed to get some kind of work here and there. I wanted to attend a computer course. But it didn?t quite work out. I was only able to attend for two days.

    Can you work with a computer?

    Not like a professional, but yes I can.

    Would you like to work in tourism again?

    Perhaps, perhaps... I don?t know. One way or another I will have to work in tourism, I?ve been studying for five years, I can?t afford to stay at home.

    Do you like the work?

    I liked it, in the sense that I was able to meet with other cultures through the tourists. This was very interesting, afterwards I would tell my friends, my family all about it, I learned a lot this way. Another thing was also very interesting ? to take on a group of people who are stressed and to see how after 12 hours with me their faces are smiling. I love telling jokes and all kinds of stories. For example, it was very interesting to tell them of the races in Cuba, about the fact that there is no racism in Cuba, there is no confrontation. I had read somewhere that Europe has great problems with this, with racism.

    There?s no such thing here?

    No, not at all. The Cubans are one race, the Cuban race as we call it. Officially there is no such thing, but that?s what we say. There is a popular song about a family with blue eyes and blond hair and their seven children - Cubans simply adore blue eyes because they are not very common here. So this couple had seven children ? six of them blond and blue-eyed, but the seventh was dark skinned and had black hair. The husband was upset, he wondered what had happened: these six children are mine, but what about the seventh? But his wife replied: I?m sorry dear, but only the black one is yours, the others aren?t. That?s something that happens often here in Cuba. Our predecessors probably came from Africa, this simply happens a lot.

    And officially, how many and what races are there in Cuba?

    Officially 70 percent are white, 17 percent mulattos, 12 percent black and 1.5 percent Chinese. The mulattos too are divided into four sub-races, so to speak. Mulattos are people who have black and curly hair and black eyes, while their nose and facial features are like those of a white person. There are also mulattos like me who have brown hair ? these are the habas. There are also blond mulattos, but the quality of their hair is not very good. There are also mulattos whose skin is completely white, but their facial features, the shape of the lips are like those of black people.

    Are there any proverbs or jokes about the different races?

    Yes. When one meets a white person who is completely white, but has a nose like a black person, people say that this is blanco churipiento ? it means that the person was unlucky because this combination is simply ugly. This is very funny for us.

    Do you often party with friends, do you meet often?

    Oh yes, yes.

    And what do you do?

    We buy rum and play recorded music, we joke and dance a lot, really a lot, until we are completely exhausted. We play dominoes.

    Dominoes are the most popular game here.

    Yes the other is baseball. There are constantly big discussions going on about this ? because most always have a different opinion. Everybody is divided with regard to sports.

    Do people watch a lot of television?

    Yes.

    Every day?

    Yes, especially television series, soaps, especially from Brazil and Columbia. It is a kind of tradition ? the film always starts at 9.30 p.m. and everybody watches. We simply love films. We often go to the movies.

    And what do you do on weekends? Do you organise picnics, outings?

    On the whole most prefer to stay at home, but the whole family ? people drink rum, not because it?s a party, it?s just a normal weekend, during which people drink, chat, watch television. Young people often go to discos or to the beach. That?s the weekend. And everybody?s waiting for the two films, which are screened every Saturday night.

    Why are these two films on Saturday night so eagerly anticipated?

    Because most are always good. Plenty of action, lots of love. Always very good actors.

    And that?s only on Saturday?

    Only on Saturday. During the rest of the week we can also watch films, but they are not as good, only one, in the evening.

    What are the big differences between Havana and San Cristobal de Pinar del Rio? What are the big differences between the province and the capital?

    There are indeed big differences. The capital is the most important part of a country. Development, life is very different. There are many cafes, theatres, night clubs. In most provinces there is a cinema where only one film is shown. There is only one theatre where sometimes nothing is played. Every town has an ice-cream parlour though. And a church. But Havana has a Malekon (the world malekon means coastal strip), the big Jara cinema, La Rampa. In the centre there are so many theatres ? the National Theatre, the Garcia Lorca Theatre, these are the best theatres in Cuba, the central parks, the neighbourhoods such as Vedado, for example, the best ice-cream parlour. Here you have everything, just like in any other capital around the world. The best.

    What is your favourite thing in Havana?

    The beaches. As a child I loved going to the beach. The place where I was born also has beaches, but they are not as nice as those on the eastern coast of Havana. The sand, the water? There are many rivers in Pinar del Rio, but the water is always colder there. Apart from this, here you also

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    For a group, I would suggest for that area of Cuba maybe the Breezes Costa Verde, or possibly the Sol Rio de Luna and Mares. Both large hotels, lots of activities. I havn't actually seen that area of Cuba myself, but have been told it is nice.

    For the area's of Cuba I have seen in Varadero I would suggest the Tryp Penninsula, has amazing kids programs and a teen disco at night. Lots of fun stuff for adults as well (I am going back for a personal vacation this year and can't wait) or maybe the Barcelo Solymar. I did not see it but the Bahia Principe Varadero (formally the Club Med) has amazing prices.

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