Day 6 in Cuba

I have kept in touch with a Cuban lawyer I had met 14 months ago and have been working with her for the last 4 months to arrange for our class to visit a Cuban courtroom. This did not come to fruition before our trip. Today we were able to visit a court room to meet with municipal and provincial judges who specialize in Civil Code and Family Law. We were not able to observe a court in session though we were told that court proceedings are open to the public. If court proceedings are open to the public, it must be very few. Last year the academic group I was with could not even get to see a courtroom. One of our presenters left quickly after our meeting because he had to travel to another municipal court to preside over a case.

These people helped explain the Cuban system and told about some of their specific cases. Students asked tough questions which the 3 judges openly answered. We were again impressed with how willing people have been to answer any question we ask.

Lunch was at another lovely state restaurant called Torre. We certainly ate well in Cuba! Also, beverages were served a most meetings.

We had two afternoon events. The first was with a woman from the National Federation of Cuban Women. This is one of the Ministries in the Cuban governmental structure. Equal rights for women is part of the 1976 Constitution, which puts them ahead of the US! She listed impressive participation of women in many areas, but it can’t help but be noted that the Politburo and the higher levels of government are still primarily a man’s domain.

One of the textbooks for this class is Habana Real by Yoani Sanchez, a writer who has won numerous international awards for her work. She has suffered much persecution from the Cuban government and has been unable to travel to receive these awards. Two of our Spanish speaking students, Emily and Thomas, made contact with Yoani from the US and were given her phone number to arrange a time to meet in Cuba. She invited the whole class to her house. This is another time where our tour guide told us we would be on our own, and he did not want to know what we were up to.

We were dropped at an official spot, the Ministry of Agriculture, and found our way to her apartment from there. After an uncertain elevator ride, we arrived and were warmly welcomed by Yoani and her husband and later their son. They spoke extensively about their work helping Cubans use technology to be able to communicate freely and their own work encouraging peaceful change in Cuba. They are both hopeful and optimistic for the future. With the recent changes in travel, she expects to receive a visa in the next few weeks that will enable her to travel to Europe and other countries where she has received awards. Much of this will be paid by the sponsoring organizations and institutes.

It was dark when we departed. We walked a short distance toward a busier area to get cabs. We sent groups with the first cabs, while 11 of us piled into every empty space in a jeep-type vehicle that already had 2 people in it. When one passenger got out, Danny was solo in the front seat with the driver, 4 were in the middle, while 6 of us were crammed in the back section. Lots of laughter in that cab, and we were charged only 5 CUCs!

This is a municipal courtroom where we had a discussion with Civil and Family judges at the municipal and provincial level.

This is a municipal courtroom where we had a discussion with Civil and Family judges at the municipal and provincial level.

The view of the Havana harbor from our restaurant. The large hotel is the 5 star Hotel Nacional, where we had lunch another day.

The view of the Havana harbor from our restaurant. The large hotel is the 5 star Hotel Nacional, where we had lunch another day.

Group picture at the National Federation of Women

Group picture at the National Federation of Women

Thomas and Emily with Yoani Sanchez on the balcony of her apartment.

Thomas and Emily with Yoani Sanchez on the balcony of her apartment.

The whole class met with Yaoni (next to Bill), her husband and son in their living room for a couple of hours.

The whole class met with Yaoni (next to Bill), her husband and son in their living room for a couple of hours.