New program allows students to study theater in Cuba

While Cuba has remained off-limits to United States citizens for decades, the veil will be lifted for Marquette students looking to learn about Cuban theater and culture this summer through a new study abroad program.

The program, called “Drama and Performance in Cuba Today,” will focus on learning about the culture of Cuba through the lens of theater. Undergraduate and graduate students who have completed Spanish 3001 or higher can attend the program in the summer.

According to Mindy Schroeder, a study abroad adviser in the Office of International Education, the program will focus on the work by famous Cuban playwright Virgilio Pinera. The trip will coincide with a celebration honoring the playwright. While theater is the main focus of the trip, Cuban culture as a whole will also be explored.

“The focus is to study the reality of Cuba today through the lens of theater,” Schroeder said. “They will be viewing and discussing plays. Students who are interested in other aspects of the culture, such as health care and politics, will have the opportunity to learn about that as well.”

This is a unique opportunity because of political tensions between the United States and Cuba. Since 1959, American citizens have not been able to visit Cuba because of an embargo that was put in place after the Cuban Revolution. This changed in January 2011, when the Obama administration decided that students could visit Cuba using a “General Education License,” which allows American students to enter Cuba for academic reasons.

Schroeder said that while students still have strict requirements to enter the country, Marquette is lucky to have the opportunity to allow students to study in Cuba.

“Some of the requirements include that the students must be pursuing a degree at a United States institution, and they must be earning credit for the program,” Schroeder said. “The adviser of the program, Raquel Aguilu de Murphy, is allowed to travel there as well because she is advising the academic program.”

Schroeder added that Aguilu de Murphy, an associate professor of Spanish at Marquette, has studied Cuban culture and brings an experienced perspective to the program.

“This is an exceptional opportunity to visit a country that we know so little about,” Schroeder said. “Application numbers are still low, but students have shown interest.”

Students going to Cuba will prepare for their trip at Marquette from June 27 through 29, leave Milwaukee for Miami June 30 and arrive in Cuba July 1. After 15 days, students will depart from Cuba and arrive back at Marquette July 16 or 17.

Francisca Meraz, a freshman in the College of Arts & Sciences, said that she wants to study in Cuba to experience something that so few Americans will get to see firsthand.

“Since people weren’t allowed to visit Cuba for so long, I think it would be a once in a lifetime experience,” Meraz said. “Cuba has always been very attractive to me. It’s something that people (from the U.S.) haven’t been able to see or experience in a long time.”