While the Rice University baseball team won’t be completing its five-game baseball tour out of respect to the people of Cuba as they mourn former President Fidel Castro, the Owls are maintaining their educational and cultural mission for the visit.
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Led by Rice Professor Luis Duno-Gottberg, the team visited numerous Havana historical sites today in what was mostly a walking tour. The Owls were supposed to have a game today, so we have to tip our cap to Havana Tours and our guide, Andres, for quickly putting together today’s events.
Today’s tour included visits to:
The Museum of the Revolution.
Granma — a site dedicated to military equipment that defended their nation.
Havana Central Park.
The Capitol Building — which is a duplication of the U.S. national capitol building.
Plaza de Armes.
Plaza de la Catedral.
And lastly, the group visited Revolution Square. The team got to witness the government preparing the large public space for two days of events. Tomorrow (Nov. 28) Castro’s ashes will be lying in state in the square. The public will fill the site to pass by their former leader and sign a book as a visitor. It is also acting as a pledge to reaffirm a citizen’s commitment to the state and its values.
On Tuesday (Nov. 29) there will be a large public ceremony at 7 p.m. The government was setting up audio equipment and other items needed for the expected thousands who will attend.
When we were there today, workers were folding up a huge banner of Castro that will hang on the National Library building.
If you walked through Havana today, you would have noticed that there was no music playing, the mood was more reserved and certain government facilities were closed, including the Museum of Fine Arts, which we had planned to visit. Also, restaurants and bars aren’t allowed to serve alcohol during the mourning period. Matter of fact, Floridita, which is pictured here with coach Wayne Graham and Ernest Hemingway having a daiquiri, shut down right after the Rice nonstudents visited the famed Hemingway hangout.
During the tour, four from our Rice traveling party were interviewed for ABC World News Tonight. Anchor David Muir used a sound bite from the Owls and also showed a picture from our game at Artemisa. You can watch the story, which led the Sunday news program, here.
Duno-Gottberg was also interviewed outside of Floridita by New York’s WNBC-TV about the historical significance of Castro’s death. You can watch that story here.
Rice and Havana Tours are working up tomorrow’s schedule yet tonight, but we know we will be going on a tour and having lunch at the world famous Hotel Nacional. We will also be visiting St. Francis of Assisi Square, along with a market.
We haven’t mentioned television access yet, but our hotel offers news, entertainment and sports channels from Cuba, Russia, China, Mexico and the U.S. At our hotel we have access to CNN, ESPN, Discovery Channel and Disney. Since Castro’s death, all of the Cuban state channels have turned to broadcasting nonstop tributes and documentaries to their former leader.
Fun fact of the day: In 2000, Fidel Castro erected a statue of John Lennon in John Lennon Park in Havana. Castro admired Lennon and believed he was a true music revolutionary.