First Trip to Cuba through Orange Lenses

Alumna Andrea Loughry describes her trip

Once a forbidden fruit to American travelers, Cuba poured out its sweet beauty and its tart past for the first time to me and 26 other Tennessee Travelers.

It was eight unforgettable days made possible with a special license issued by the U.S. Department of the Treasury to the UT Alumni Association. And to think we were just 90 miles away from Miami.

“If a country and its culture, people and accommodations are the same as your country, you might as well stay at home,” our local guide says on the first day of our trip.

Armed with an open mind, from the lively capital city of Havana to Cuba’s colonial South in picturesque Cienfuegos and Trinidad, I saw the rich heritage of a place often misunderstood and misinterpreted through the lenses of local artists, college professors, dancers, cigar rollers, doctors and social service providers.

With Cuba’s government providing its citizens with jobs, housing, food, medical care, an education and even cable TV with four movies every weekend, it still came as a surprise to hear one of our drivers say he had no desire to move to the U.S. because “life is too hard there.”

“Cuba challenges us to think differently,” says our faculty host, Michael Handelsman, distinguished professor in the humanities and professor of modern foreign languages and literatures at UT Knoxville.

“I’d like to think that our brief visit to Cuba has the potential to mark the beginning of an ongoing process of unlearning the many skewed characterizations and portraits of Cuba and of the U.S.”

Learn more about upcoming Tennessee Travelers trips at

Photo Gallery

All photos courtesy of Frankie Wade.

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Andrea Loughry (Martin ’66, Knoxville ’69) is a former vice chair of the UT Board of Trustees and immediate past chair of the UT Foundation.