This blog's title means "Cuban-hearted woman" (very loosely translated!). I settled on this name because it had a nice ring to my unschooled ear and, more importantly, because I think the Cuban people seem to have so much
heart, and they're in my heart for that reason. In general, the people I've met in Cuba are quite consistently open-hearted and big-hearted in the way they relate to each other or to visitors in their beautiful land. A piece of my heart now resides in Cuba, with the warm, wonderful friends I've made there. This blog is not intended to be a guide to Cuba, just a forum for my eclectic bits of writing – poetry, opinion pieces and information gleaned from my personal experience and reading.

Monday, October 4, 2010

I'm going to Cuba with a posse of 42 women!

In just over a week, I'm off to Cuba once again. This trip will be a bit different from my others; I'm heading up a group of 42 amigas. I think we will create a stir, to say the least, in modest little Club Amigo Marea del Portillo.

We will be occupying the majority of the cabana units so, if we were to vote on it democratically, we could take over the place! Or, we could start a peaceful social revolution based on smiling. I'll be doing a great deal of that, and I have a feeling the entirety of this group will too. They seem like quite an amiable lot.

I call the gaggle the "All-Girl Posse," and it all got started quite organically. After my trip this past spring, I was raving about Marea del Portillo - the scenic beauty, the relaxed atmosphere, the wonderful people - and I was already picking the dates for my next trip. People seemed receptive to my yapping, and to viewing the online slide shows I'd created, so I kept talking...and thinking.

Last October, I'd traveled there with three gal-pals and met a set of sisters (as in actual siblings, not like the "sisterhood" of the traveling swimsuit), whom we enjoyed hanging out with. It can be quite a hoot to hang with fellow females (yes, I know that sounds a bit oxymoronic but I'm sticking with the phrase because I like the aliteration). On my first trip to Marea with a different gal-pal, we'd met a whole contingent of women from Novar, near Huntsville, and the joke became that I had to go to Cuba to meet my neighbors. They were dubbed the Novarians.

Well, some of those same Novarians were kean as beans to go back. We started scheming, and I decided to put the word out that I was organizing a women-only trip to Cuba - who wants to join me? I thought, if I'm lucky, I'll get a dozen or so and that will be fine. It would be a minor economic boost in a community that needs it and we'd have a lot of fun.

There are now 43 of us going. Word of mouth advertising rocks, eh?!

As the numbers grew from 10 to 20 to 30-something, I began having men offer to wear dresses and join us. I had to use the N-word...the one I often struggle with...NO. It came easily this time. However, one guy was particularly persistent. Beyond feminine attire, he offered to lead writing workshops. Hmmm. The idea of writing in Cuba had been coming up in other ways too. It was worth some serious thought.

Once the ranks of the All-Girl Posse swelled to 40-ish, I felt confident in saying it would become an annual event. The concept seemed to have legs. And so it shall be: the posse will ride each October.

Since I'm attached to the idea of having relatively cheap holidays, I've been traveling to Cuba in the shoulder seasons - fall and spring. With the women's trip occupying the fall slot, that left the spring open for writers of all ilks and chromosomes. So, my writerly pal Martin Avery and I are tentatively planning a "Write in Cuba" retreat in April 2011. The exact dates have yet to be confirmed but will probably be around Easter.

As I envision it, this spring fling trip will have a different theme each year. Writing will be the first but, looking ahead, art may well be the theme for 2012, possibly followed up by yoga or photography. I should point out that, with Martin as our fearless leader, workshops will not be purely about writing; they will likely have a Zen edge, there may be a dollop of Reiki-like massage or walking meditation, and there will definitely be more than a dash of laughter. Also, this trip will not be purely for writers. Spouses or other preferred traveling companions need not dress up as writers to sign on; there will be no requisite for participating in the workshops that will be offered during the week. It will just be a creative blast, and bunches of fun for all.

Well, there you have it. I've come out of the closet as tour leader. It's in my blood. But, there is another hook for me and, possibly, for you as a potential traveler. I am planning to set myself up as the booking agent, working directly with Sunwing rather than going through a travel agency. The main reason for this is so that I can direct a small percentage of the fee into the fund I am building to help the people of the communities near the resort, Marea del Portillo and Pilon, who are struggling to survive. I certainly don't begrudge a travel agency it's cut but, by doing the booking myself, I will be able to assist more people in Cuba, as well as keeping the cost low.

For those of you who have noticed the brightly colored "Donate" button in the right-hand column, that's what it's about - adding to the account I've created to fund projects that will help Cuban people in need. (For more information about this, please read my earlier post: "Want to help me help...?") The PayPal button is intended for direct donations and, in the future, for trip bookings.

I'll certainly keep you posted, via postings, as things progress with planning. Meanwhile, if you're interested in joining me on a themed spring trip or becoming part of an All-Girl Posse in the fall, please leave a comment at the end of this post or send me an e-mail.

Thanks for reading! Now wish me happy birthday.

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