Nicaragua and Cuba: Arts and Social Change

Experience the arts and cultures of Nicaragua and Cuba through a comparative lens on a summer abroad program for high school students.

Delve into the creative arts in Nicaragua and Cuba and examine how people in both countries have used the arts to promote social transformations. In Nicaragua, where this immersive high school summer abroad program is based, experience daily life and culture from several different perspectives. Live with a host family in the working-class Máximo Jerez neighborhood of Managua, where supporters of the Sandinista Revolution lived during the 1980s. Witness how Nicaraguans today are using the arts for economic sustainability and to express their aspirations for the future. Participate in workshops and visit artists’ studios and communities as you learn about art, poetry, and music as mediums for social change.

Stay in a rural community in the northern mountains of Nicaragua’s central region. While there, you will experience a second homestay, with a campesino family, and witness the campo-city differences in Nicaragua. Visit a coffee cooperative and hike through the lush vegetation of this cloud-covered area. Create “socio-dramas” with members of a community organization, make jewelry with seeds, take a poetry workshop, and learn how to prepare multiple dishes incorporating exotic fruits from Nicaragua.

Your journey continues as you travel with your group to Cuba. Learn about Cuba’s significance in Latin American history and the multiple connections between Cuba and Nicaragua. Spend a comparative week in the city of Havana exploring the arts in a different social and cultural context. Visit associations of young artists and African-Cuban community-based arts centers. Participate in a community workshop transformation project (Talleres de Transformación), and dialog with Cubans about their aspirations. Learn about Ernest Hemingway’s life in Cuba at his home in Cojímar and visit other historical sites in Old Havana.

Orientation: Managua, 3 days
Homestays: Managua,* 10 days; Estelí or Matagalpa,* 7 days
Other Accommodations: Hotels

* Homestay locations can vary.

Days 1–3

Orientation in Managua

  • Learn about the history, culture, and art of Nicaragua from experts
  • Get to know other members of your group during activities
  • Start practicing your Spanish language skills
  • Visit important sites throughout the city such as historical monuments and the National Palace

During the orientation period, you and your group will stay in a centrally located hotel.

Days 4–11

Urban Homestay in Colonia Máximo Jerez, Managua

  • Become immersed in the daily lives of a Nicaraguan family and community
  • Do activities with your host family
  • Attend Spanish language classes
  • Visit PodCasts for Peace studios, Los Quinchos, and local NGOs

During this period, you will stay in the home of a family.

Days 12–15

Thematic Focus in Solentiname Artist Community

  • Visit artists’ studios and observe them at work
  • Learn about how art, poetry, and music have been used as mediums for social change in Nicaragua
  • Explore the islands of the archipelago

During this period, you and your group will stay in guest houses.

Days 16–20

Excursion to CubaPlaza in Cuba

  • Meet with Cuban youth and participate in cultural exchanges
  • Explore Havana’s Old Town and see important sites in the city, such as the Museum of the Revolution
  • Attend seminars on Cuban youth culture, the country’s national literacy campaign, Afro-Cubans’ history and current reality, and US-Cuban relations
  • Visit a community art center and the home of Ernest Hemingway
  • Spend some time on the beach

During this period, you and your group will stay in an educational institute.

Day 21

Celebration of Nicaraguan Independence Day in Managua

During this period, you and your group will stay in a centrally located hotel.

Days 22–28

Rural Homestay

  • Become immersed in the daily lives of a rural Nicaraguan family and community
  • Do activities with your host family
  • Attend poetry workshops
  • Assist your host family with field work and food preparation
  • Go on nature walks with your group

During this period, you will stay in the home of a family. Sample community: San Ramon, Matagalpa

Day 29

Program Reflection and Wrap-up in Managua

  • Reflect with your group on your experiences during the program

During the reflection period, you and your group will stay at a nearby hotel.

Day 30


Please note: This itinerary is only a sample and is subject to change. Because of factors such as group size and availability of in-country offerings such as festivals, your experience — including sites visited and the number of days spent in each location — may differ somewhat from the one presented above.

These are leader bios from summer 2014.

Andrea Kraybill

Andrea Kraybill graduated from Goshen College in 2011 with a BA in art. From 2011 to 2013 she was a full-time volunteer at a community cultural center in Managua, Nicaragua, where she taught English as a Second Language (ESL) and served as a painting facilitator for children and youth in a violence-prevention program. Before leading the Experiment’s inaugural Nicaragua and Cuba program, she returned to her hometown to teach art and ESL in the local elementary schools.

Born in Virginia, Andrea spent six years of her childhood in London, England, later moving to Elkhart, Indiana. After high school, she volunteered for eight months in a rural community in southern Argentina. During college, Andrea spent summers volunteering in the US and London, and studied for a semester in Egypt. Andrea is an artist and a salsa dancer, and flourishes in places where there's an abundant supply of tropical fruits. She is currently pursuing a graduate degree in theology and art, in the multicultural hub of Los Angeles, California.

Gerson Lanza

Gerson LanzaBorn and raised in La Ceiba, Honduras, Gerson currently teaches tap dance in New York City. He graduated in 2013 with a BA in history and Spanish from Wake Forest University, where he served as a mentor for underprivileged high school students, ultimately inspiring these students to attend competitive universities across the United States. Gerson was awarded a research grant in Brazil to study the influences Brazilian art forms have on tap dance, and he has performed off Broadway at the Thalia Spanish Theater in New York City. In sharing his passion for the craft of tap dance, Gerson founded “Setting the Groove” Tap Dance Club at Wake Forest University.

Gerson returned to The Experiment in summer 2014 after leading the 2013 Spain community service program — the same program he went on as an Experimenter in 2009. In addition to his multiple stays in Spain, he has also visited Portugal, the UK, and France. Besides his passion for dancing, mentoring, and traveling, he enjoys hiking, cooking, and sharing his sense of humor.