Category: Bespoke

Two things not to miss! The 38th Havana Film Festival and the Havana International Jazz Festival…
THE Havana International Jazz Festival was born in 1978 when Bobby Carcasses, and other well known Cuban Jazz musicians, presented the first Jazz concert at the Casa de la Cultura de Plaza in downtown Havana. This is the origin of the name, ‘International Jazz Festival Plaza’ because it premiered in the open-air venue. The Casa de la Cultura de Plaza hall, with its pleasant, intimate outdoor terrace is still one of the places where concerts and jam sessions take place. Based on this success, another Jazz festival was organized the following year, featuring pianist Chucho Valdes. Renowned artists such as Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, Charlie Haden, Roy Hargrove, Jack De Johnette, and Danilo Perez became part of the Havana scene on a regular basis.

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We can still get you to Cuba. Here’s why.
As a result of the recent tightening of U.S./Cuba travel policy by President Donald Trump, a lot of confusion has surfaced as to whether or not Americans can still travel to Cuba.
            Over the summer, Donald Trump prohibited solo people-to-people travel to Cuba, which is essentially trips that are self-planned; a category introduced by former president, Barack Obama, in 2016. President Trump’s changes to travel restrictions remain overall very minimal, with people-to-people trips sponsored by a qualified organization, such as the ones we provide, along with assistance to the Cuban people, and humanitarian visits still being permissible. This means that Americans can still travel to Cuba,

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Ever heard of La Fábrica de Arte Cubano?
The newest and currently very popular cultural destination in Havana is La Fábrica de Arte Cubano (FAC). Founded by the Afro-Cuban musician X-Alfonso, the FAC is the perfect place for foreign tourists to get a taste of the Cuban art scene, as it includes live music, art expositions, fashion shows, and more. The cooking-oil factory turned cosmopolitan center houses a young and edgy side of Cuba. The FAC helps to facilitate the expression of art in the controlled society that is Cuba. Its classification as a “community project” allows the factory to reside on government property while also maintaining a degree of independence in the form of artistic expression. This level of independent functioning has not been free of criticism though. Since its opening in 2014, the media has expressed concern for it appearing as too much of a capitalistic machine, and for often pushing political boundaries through art.

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A Car Culture
When Fidel Castro came to power in 1959, the importation of foreign cars and parts for the majority of Cubans became almost impossible. So, for the last 58 years, Cubans have kept their vintage cars running by pulling parts from old Chryslers, Fords, Chevrolets and more, along with customizing their own. This situational necessity has created a mechanic culture, and a country known for inventive repairs. This approach to auto repair created a small industry in Cuba, that has embraced capitalism, and as a result, taken a small part of the country’s economy. 

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Looking for the perfect place to stay while in Cuba?
Bespoke is incredibly excited to announce the launch of our newest company offering, Hostal Blu! Hostal Blu is a post modern home (turned boutique hotel) in Miramar, a lovely residential neighborhood just a short drive from Old Havana. The house has 2 master suites, 2 junior suites, and 1 standard room- each equipped with a private bathroom, USB outlets, a flat screen TV, and a mini-fridge. Additionally, it offers an open garden and generous living spaces. The house boasts 24 hour security along with 3 housekeepers. Centrally located, it’s a three minute drive to the tunnel that leads to Vedado, famous Cuban restaurants (such as El Cocinero, Rio Mar, and Paladar Vistamar), and thecontemporary cultural center, Fábrica de Arte Cubano. We are also extending the possibility of renting one, multiple, or all of the 5 bedrooms. Additionally, for an extra charge, laundry, dry-cleaning, and food services are available (complimentary breakfast is already offered).

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Cuba Online: The Wi-Fi Spots

It has been widely known for some time that Cuba has bad internet. Most people traveling to Cuba expect very little in terms of access, but according to Cuba’s First Vice President, Miguel Díaz-Canel, the government is working on making the internet more available, accessible, and affordable for its citizens, while also hoping to bring broadband internet to half of Cuban households by 2020. But currently, there are 3 ways in which one can connect to the internet in Cuba: (1.) Via an ETECSA Hotspot (2.) Via a hotel’s private internet connection (3.) Via a hotel’s ETECSA hotspot with an ETECSA Card. For anyone who may be slightly confused by what ETECSA is, it’s a state-owned telecom company that provides internet thorough government-approved hotspots around the island. You can find ETECSA cards at their offices across the country, which cost $2 per hour (bring your passport with you to purchase). You can also 

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A culture of piracy
After more than half a century of trade embargoes, it may surprise some that many Cubans have been watching the same television programs as all of us. Terabytes of data flow into the country every day with the help of internet feeds and other forms of smuggling. Despite the trade embargoes and regulations meant to keep Cuba out of United States pop culture, Cubans have been accessing content for relatively nothing. The Cuban government not only allows the normalization of piracy, but participates in it as well, with Cuban state television often shows American media in the form of movies and television programs without actually paying any royalties. The Cuban government controls the airways in the country, and in an effort to ensure the viewing by its
citizens of its political programming, has also grown accustomed to broadcasting American media content such as Seinfeld, Friends, and even The Bachelor. The Cuban government also sells tickets
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“Travel to Cuba: What you need to know now”

The Department of the Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) released on June 16th, 2017, a list of frequently asked questions regarding President Trump’s recent Cuba announcement. The following is part one in a series in which we discuss these questions and the impact on your travel experience.

The OFAC will implement President Trump’s policy changes (summarized in our first blog post) by amending their Cuban Assets Control Regulations. President Trump’s policy change will not take effect until the U.S. government has issued the new regulations.

The type of travel that will be impacted 

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Why Cuba?

If you’ve heard stories from friends, family or others that have traveled to Cuba during this embargo period, you’ve probably heard the phrase, “Only in Cuba…”

            This simple phrase encompasses not only the very real infrastructural difficulties one may face, but also the cultural beauty presented. The island is the largest and least commercialized in the Caribbean, with a history of particularly intense political isolation. Cuban culture and society seem preserved in a way that reveals a rich and original collective persona. It’s not just the presence of antique cars and aging colonial architecture that makes Cuba unique, it’s the spirit of a country whose technology and infrastructure haven’t advanced with the rest of the world. The Cuba of today is one that restriction-free American travel systems will most likely influence, but not completely change.

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