She is thinking back to that day, four years earlier, when her son asked if he could take up ballet, the art that propelled his parents from this Caribbean island to the United States more than two decades ago. Francisco was 13; she had started her own training at 8.
I didn't go to Caibarién on purpose. My bus pulled into Remedios where I had planned to disembark. But when I looked out the window at yet another gorgeous colonial town, it left me dead.
A survey of 423 Americans who have traveled to Cuba as part of U.S.-licensed cultural exchange programs (known as people-to-people programs) shows that visiting the island nation dramatically transforms their opinions about Cuba, its people and U.S. policy toward that country.
Coppelia -- Photo: BitBoy | Wikimedia Eating my ice cream at Coppelia, I can't help but think of the striking first scene of Oscar-nominated 1993 ...
It is virtually impossible to stay in privately owned bed and breakfasts, rent cars or use public transportation, options available to everyone else in the world.
Some people assume the strictures of the socialist regime in Cuba suppress any form of expression until only a bland diet of state-sanctioned work remains. This couldn't be further from the truth.
Among the greatest joys of visiting a new place is the opportunity to get to know the locals. And after 30-plus years of traveling the world, one constant that I've found everywhere is that despite how different we look, live, work and play, people are essentially the same everywhere.
While it may not be entirely legal for Americans to travel to Cuba, the "green crocodile with eyes of stone and water" (as Cuban poet Nicolás Guillén calls the island) could make the non-traditional customs experience a tempting one.
Regardless of the effect that an absurd amount of American visitors would have on Cuba's culture, there are factors much more important to consider when discussing the 51-year-old trade embargo.
After years of U.S. Treasury Department travel restrictions, Cuba has taken on an air of mystery. Our 45-minute charter-flight from Miami and the bus ride into Havana make us feel like astronauts of a sort, touching down for nine days in a parallel world.
The Cold Warriors in Congress, less prepared to move forward than the Cubans, are turning a blind eye to all these developments.
It was three in the morning and I was somewhere in Camaguey province. Beyond the small spotlight in which I stood, the night was black.
I was in Havana, Cuba, with no visa and no permission from the U.S. government. It was just the way I wanted it.
As a travel writer specializing in Cuba, I often get asked about the best things to see and do. Here's my ideal two-week itinerary.
Now that our program is back in full gear and I've had some time to reflect on this whole Cuba license subject, I can't help but marvel at the fact that this people-to-people program, which brings Americans and Cubans together, face-to-face, making it possible for each to learn about the other, was the brainchild of a government bureaucracy.
I will be there when they open the doors to decide which Cubans can board a plane and which will continue under the "insular imprisonment." And my suitcase will be at my side.