Cuban émigré and Idyllwild author Eduardo Santiago intimately knows the Havana landmarks in his novel, “Midnight Rumba” (Cuban Heel Press, 2013). And now, because of the interest of two local book clubs, Idyllwild residents may have the opportunity to accompany Santiago to his Cuban homeland and visit key places where important scenes play out.
One location is the Presidential Palace, inside the office of Cuban President Fulgencio Batista. In the scene, Batista, U.S. mobster boss Meyer Lansky and Santiago’s protagonist Juan Carlos Talente begin to hear women protestors clicking heels on the cobblestone streets below, a pivotal moment that reveals how revolutions begin with incremental steps, or, in this case, the clicking of heels.
“We’ll actually get to go inside that office,” said Santiago, “as well as other key places where action in the book takes place. Many of these locations, like the Presidential Palace, are historical.
“This [the tour to Cuba] is not something I would have thought of,” he said, “but when the book clubs chose ‘Midnight Rumba’ as book of the month and mentioned they might be interested in making the trip, I started looking into it.”
If enough Idyllwild residents evince interest at a public meeting with the tour packager, the trip will happen. “The literary tour will follow in the footsteps of the novel,” said Santiago, “in the very rooms and buildings where key scenes are playing out. There will also be a Cuban guide taking us to important Havana destinations.”
Santiago said the tour would be all-inclusive, all travel on the island, food, permits, transfers and airfare. The meeting to present the tour possibilities will be from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 10, in the lobby of the Creekstone Inn.
L.A.-based travel agent Mathy Wasserman, Flying Giraffe Travel Agency, an experienced Cuban tour packager, will present information and answer questions. “Everyone is welcome, not just book club members,” said Santiago. “And there will be complimentary mojitos for those who attend.
“So much in Cuba has changed recently, with the U.S. and Cuba having embassies on each other’s soil and travel to Cuba being a lot less involved than it has been for the past 50-plus years.
“One thing I can promise if this goes forward — there will be art, music, food and dancing. Idyllwild is united by its love of food and culture and we will experience all of it in Havana.”
Change is coming quickly to U.S.-Cuba travel with the opening of diplomatic relations. U.S. visitors can now use credit cards in Cuba, bring back up to $100 in Cuban tobacco products and alcohol, and not be limited to a certain amount of per diem spending. At this point, U.S. tourists must still travel under certain approved categories such as “educational activities.” But outwardly, in appearance and culture, Cuba remains much as it was in the in the early 1960s — the classic U.S. car “taxis,” the pace of life and the friendliness of the Cuban people.
For more information, email Santiago at [email protected]