The University of Iowa
The University of Iowa News Services Home News Releases UI in the News Subscribe to UI News Contact Us

University of Iowa News Release

Release: April 16, 2003

Iowans Continue to Travel, Exploring Cuba

Despite volatile times, local travelers are still venturing to exotic locales across the globe. As one example, a group with the University of Iowa Alumni Association's Iowa Voyagers travel program recently went to Cuba, long off-limits to American tourists.

Iowa City residents Joyce and Dick Summerwill and University of Iowa emeritus professor of physiology Edgar Folk, recently returned from trips to Cuba with opened eyes. This was the second Cuba trip Iowa Voyagers has sponsored. It was arranged through Alumni Holidays International and operated through a license from the U.S. Department of the Treasury to promote cultural exchange and person-to-person contact.

For about 40 years, the United States government had discouraged tourist trips to Cuba because of U.S. sanctions against the communist nation led by Fidel Castro.

Professor Folk and the Summerwills traveled to Cuba legally through the UI Alumni Association travel program, which worked through Alumni Holidays International and the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Americans can now travel to Cuba with medical groups or through cultural exchanges, as long as they obtain a license from the Treasury. The Iowa Voyagers' trips to Cuba were considered cultural exchanges with educational lectures.

"Cuba continues to be a great destination for our clients," said Diane Baker, director of Iowa Voyagers. "While these are challenging times to be conducting alumni travel, we still have people going to some rather unconventional places such as Cuba, Croatia, China, Tibet, and Russia.

Joyce and Dick Summerwill returned to Iowa City March 1 from their one-month cultural exchange to Cuba. The couple sought to see first-hand what was really going on in Cuba under the Castro regime.

The Summerwills, who experienced no difficulty while traveling during the ensuing war abroad, attended lectures daily given by Cubans, Americans, and other speakers. The lectures focused on the infrastructure of the Cuban government, Fidel Castro's regime, and the affects on the nation's citizens.

Returning to Iowa City around March 7 from his cultural exchange to Cuba, Folk's experiences provoked similar conclusions.

"The Cuban citizens I came into contact with were extremely welcoming and seemingly happy," said Folk. "The truth is, however, that the average Cuban is living very dangerously close to the poverty line, due in large part to the regime in charge of the country."

Folk, who also had no difficulties traveling, stayed in the Cuban capital city of Havana for one month. Apart from attending four in-depth lectures by Cuban academics, and one given by the State Department, Folk jumped at the opportunity to travel to the Cuban countryside outside Havana, once the home of Ernest Hemingway, to visit tobacco and coffee plantations.

"The entire trip was a terrific opportunity," said Folk. "There is much for Americans to learn about the situation in Cuba; it is not the terrible place we all knew growing up."

The trips were so successful that the UI Alumni Association is offering another cultural exchange trip to Cuba Nov. 14-20.

For more information about this fall's Cuba trip, call the Iowa Voyagers at (319) 335-3294, (800) IOWALUM (469-2586) or See the Iowa Voyagers web site at for more information.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACTS: Media: George McCrory, University of Iowa News Services 319-384-0012, Program: Diane Baker, Iowa Voyagers, University of Iowa Alumni Association, 1-800-IOWALUM (1-800-469-2586)or (319) 335-3294, Writer: Josh Rosenthal