Thursday, May 2, 2013

A call for educators: What could Old Havana look like? What programs could create a tropical "Colonial Williamsburg" in Cuba?

This post is a plea to history teachers:  What projects do you use that could be put in place in Old Havana?
Imagine:  (a) a couple dressed in 1890s garb could talk
with you about the recent explosion on the Maine ship and
(b) music coming from the doors would be ragtime

If you are familiar with Colonial Williamsburg, perhaps you can see a similar idea in Habana Vieja.

I recently walked the streets of Old Havana and was pelted by modern life:  rap music.

What could be the experience of a visitor to Old Havana?   Here's a letter that I composed to a director of a restoration project in the old part of the city:



I greatly appreciate the opportunity to visit your restoration project.  Thank you for the collection of videos about Old Havana.

Since I am a teacher of English and maths, I greatly respect the effort your institution has made to protect the UNESCO world heritage site of Old Havana.  I have studied Instructional Technology to learn how tools can affect learning and I wold be grateful to have the opportunity to share some suggestions with you.

Have a look at this video.

"News from the North!  War, sir, war has come!"

What if there were similar reenactments, creations to bring José Martí and his poetry alive?

1.  What experiences do you want visitors to have when they walk through La Habana Vieja?
2.  What activities, signs, interactive computer displays could support these experiences?
3.  What memories will visitors take home?
4.  What stories do you want the visitors to tell their friends?  What videos could the visitors carry home with them to help tell those stories?
I hope these comments are helpful.

I am interested in serving your restoration project.  I look forward to discussing any matter that might assist you in your pursuit of a successful rehabilitation of the area.

Steve McCrea

Instructor  educational consultant


Looking south from the Fort toward Old Havana  (notice the narrow harbor entrance, easy for protecting
the port)

View of The Malecón from the Fort

This area could have trades people, too 

a.  When tour groups come to Old Havana for lunch, why not ask students at the University of Havana to spend time with visitors?  It is good conversation practice for the students and the visitors will each have one-on-one time with locals.  Local people who speak German, English, Portuguese, etc. can stop for lunch with visitors and give a local person's perspective.  It could be called "One on One time with Locals"

b.  "Treasure Hunt"
Visitors could go to special buildings marked on a map where there are USB ports ready to deliver files to visitors.  When the visitor arrives, there are signs pointing to "Get your PDF here" and the visitor collects an ebook or mp3 file or a QR code.  When the visitors get back to wifi at home, they can click to learn more.

c.  "An evening with a visitor"
Visitors could sign up to volunteer to speak with classes at your university.  A gringo who is staying at Ambos Mundos Hotel could volunteer to come over to San Geronimo university to a conversation class and help some students with their language class.   the visitor could get a pin or a letter or certificate of thanks

I hope some of these ideas will help you create a wonderful zone of another era...
Other areas of Havana, such as the Fort, could have
people dressed in costumes and re-enacting life of other times
d.  TIME ZONES.  Certain blocks of Old Havana could be designated 1890s and the music pouring in the street and costumes on actors could be for that time frame.

...another zone might be 1750 with appropriate sounds and costumes.
Why not have people walking in character and
costume through these gates to greet visitors?
I found it particularly jarring when I walked on Obispo street and heard rap music coming from an apartment.   Perhaps there could be times of the day when particular music would be encouraged for the ambience of the street.

To help identify the zones with the music, there could be signs stating, "For the next two blocks, the time is 1898.   The people in costume and the music are from that period."

I hope these suggestions will entice your organization to create a historical learning zone.  Thank you.


So, history teachers:  What do you say?   Send your ideas to Myriam (a professor that I met while in Habana Vieja):  

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