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  • Writer's pictureThe Rivers School

March 17: San José Market and Farewell Dinner at Hotel Nacional de Cuba

Sadly, we have arrived at our last full day in Cuba! We spent the morning at San José craft market, the biggest craft market in Havana. The first floor has a number of stalls like a typical market, with vendors selling souvenirs and other items, while the second floor boasts an art market full of original paintings for sale, often by the artists themselves, who are there to speak to visitors. 


Our farewell dinner took place at the famous Hotel Nacional, which is a formally designated national monument. Constructed in 1930 during the years of the Cuban Republic pre-revolution and still functioning as a hotel today, the building houses a lot of history and has seen many famous guests. It was the setting for many scenes in popular culture of the time, referenced in Guys and Dolls and The Godfather, among other works. During the Prohibition era, Cuba was a means of supplying alcohol covertly to the U.S. There was also a famed casino, and we saw the former casino room and the roulette table, as well as the Hall of Fame bar.


At the end of our dinner, we said a heartfelt and bittersweet farewell to our local guides, Anay and Alejandro, our drivers, Maya and Nacho, and our representative from Alandis Travel, Dalila. We have trusted them to keep us safe and show us around Cuba; they did all the behind-the-scenes work to keep our trip running smoothly through the passion they have for their work. Head of School Ryan Dahlem also gave a shout-out to the two leaders, friends, and collaborators: Philippe Crettien and Paul Lieberman, whose vision brought this trip to fruition and whose leadership made this such an unforgettable experience for our students. 


We have had a transformative time here in Cuba, and there is already talk of coming back in a few years. We can’t wait!




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