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Magic School Trips: ART 466 in Havana

President Barack Obama announced the restoration of diplomatic relations with Cuba last December, but if you’d like to visit Cuba before the embargo potentially ends, then take ART 466: Havana: Architecture, Literature and the Arts. Led by professor of art and archeology Esther Roseli da Costa Azevedo Meyer and professor emeritus in the english and comparative literature departments Michael Wood, you’d get to travel to Havana during spring break.


“The course is meant to allow us to think of Havana as a kind of real place and an imaginary place at the same time,” Wood said, elaborating on the interplay of Havana’s architecture with its cultural associations.

Wood will give lectures and insights on Havana from literature and movies. According to Wood, one of the movies will be “The Last Supper,” a Cuban historical film by Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, a pioneer of the New Latin American Cinema movement. The syllabus also details the reading of “Three Trapped Tigers” by Guillermo Cabrera Infante, a supporter of the Communist Revolution.

Da Costa Meyer will lead the students to look more closely at the colonial buildings of Old Havana, architecture from the Revolution, as well as Vedado, a Havana neighborhood built in the early 20th century.

“Much of Havana is in ruins, but ruins can always be restored: The city has thus preserved what other Latin American and Caribbean cities have destroyed,” da Costa Azevedo Meyer said.

CDs might be added to the syllabus, according to Wood.

“Neither of us has any professional connections to music,” Wood said, “but I was thinking that both the music itself and the forms of music and the lyrics of the songs will be an interesting way into things that people imagined.”


A typical day on the trip will consist of visiting museums, self-guided exploration, examining buildings and discussing books and movies, as well as meeting people. For example, Leonardo Padura, an author of Cuban detective fiction, will meet and discuss his work with the students, Wood explained. Harvard professor Julio César Pérez, a participant in the city’s Master Plan, will talk to the students, along with other architects from all over the world, according to da Costa Meyer.

“The whole world is watching Havana to see how they preserve this extraordinary metropolis,” she said.

The trip will consist of 15 juniors and seniors from various majors. The applications submission period closed on Dec. 1, so it is not certain who exactly will be on the trip.

From literature to movies to architecture and maybe even music, the class will enrich students’ understanding of Cuba comprehensively.

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When asked what he is most looking forward to, Wood answered, “Just walking around and getting a feeling of the city in general.”


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