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La Cuba del Espiritu Cubano
Educational Program

Sierra Maestra

At breakfast we again shared the dining room with the baseball team.  The two groups had become pretty familiar with each other now.  Some of the players and members of our group had introduced themselves to each other and we were all invited to their baseball game that night by Marcos, one of the players -- as it turns out one of the stars.

Before that, geographically our destination was Guisa, 30 km away  in the foothills of the Sierra Maestra, the site of several historically important battles.  There were so many intermediate activities that it took a half day to get there.

click to enlarge Just into the foothills of the mountains there is botanical garden.  click to enlarge We were met by and toured with one of the gardens curator. The botanical garden has hundreds of species of plants and trees, dozens of kinds of fruits and Cuba's largest collection of palms.  Besides a good botany lecture, the setting provided a stimulating opportunity and great setting to discuss the environment and ecology in Cuba.

In the proverbial sense of history repeats itself, Guisa has been site of important battles in two of Cuba's liberations war.  First during the Ten Year War and then again 90 years later when Fidel's rebels attached Batista's troops here.  The later was Battista's Waterloo.  Fidel's men came from the mountains and captured arms, ammunitions and tanks in a critical early battle of the liberation war.

To be honest the people we met around Guisa were much more interesting than the battlefield monuments.

click to enlargeIn Guisa, the central square was crowded.  We drew our fair share of attention, but there were other attractions as well:  a small goat-drawn cart pulled kids around the park, and a tanker truck on a side street was selling beer for pesos (cheap).  I did a couple thousand "holas" in route.

click to enlarge The evening program was a National League baseball game, Granma versus Las Tunas.  The Martyrs of Barbados stadium was too far away to walk.  No one was interested in bicycling at night.  The logical way to get to the stadium was by horse carriage.  By the time we headed along the main road the converging of carriages from other directions formed a cavalry of carriages heading to the stadium.  At the stadium there were also huge guarded parking lots of bicycles.

I am not sure what strings were pulled but we had seats in the first row in the grandstand right behind home plate.  The very polite audience was interesting because they cheer well but they don't root for individual players.  Except for Marcos, who at least for that night had a personal rooting sections right behind home plate.

It turns out that Marcos is one of the stars on Granma and got the hit for the winning run. His exuberant rooting section went wild.

When we left our carriage awaited us.  Was this because there were no other fares in town?  Did the drive stay to watch the game?  Or, did the gringos pay better than anyone else and he didn't want to miss the fare going back?

Back at the hotel, Marcos gave his jersey to one of the  members of our group -- there was a happy fan.  We also got an explanation for why the local team was staying at the hotel.  They stay in the hotel the night before and on game days so that they can get better food and a good night sleep.  It is one of the perquisites of being a star athlete. 

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