John Jay Athletics Spreads Good Will in Cuba Visit

John Jay Athletics Spreads Good Will in Cuba Visit

John Jay Athletics Spreads Good Will in Cuba Visit

Two members of the John Jay community were part of a 10-day goodwill tour of Cuba during the recent spring break, sponsored by the City University of New York Athletic Conference (CUNYAC).

Carmelo Cintron Jr., a member of the men’s volleyball team, and Catherine Alves, the Senior Associate Athletic Director for Finance and Administration, were John Jay’s representatives in a group that included one student-athlete each from 16 CUNY institutions, along with 10 administrators. It was the seventh CUNYAC goodwill tour, and the first one to Cuba.

“It was a phenomenal experience that I will always remember,” Cintron said of the trip that ran from April 22 through May 1. “I never thought I'd visit a country that was so secluded. It was amazing to see first-hand what Cuba is all about, rather than being told what it's like. I met a ton of great people and it will be a trip I will always cherish.”

With the easing of political tensions and economic restrictions between the United States and Cuba, the travel party enjoyed visits to a number of Cuban towns and cities, as well as opportunities to interact with the populace for community. At a hospital in the old city of Trinidad, the visiting student athletes and staff gave sporting equipment, stickers and other treats to the children. Sports clinics were also held, providing another opportunity for cross-cultural bonding.

“The CUNY Goodwill Tour was a once in a lifetime experience,” said Alves. “It was a pleasure to see our best and brightest student-athletes experience such an incredible culture shock, as well as grapple with the complex political and economic topics that arose in discussion throughout our trip.”

For Cintron, one of the highlights was the group’s meeting with Cuban baseball legend Omar Linares. “He spoke to the group and gave great advice on how to be a better person and athlete,” said Cintron. “We also got to ask him questions about his career and about living in Cuba.”

The trip also included a visit to the tobacco-growing region of Pinar del Rio, home to what some regard as the world’s best cigars, as well as a hilly, seven-kilometer hike with an optional dip in a waterfall-fed pool as a bonus.

Although the visit to Cuba was initially a culture shock to the visiting student-athletes, they reported having bonded warmly with the locals, and Cintron said it was the human interaction that he will remember the most. “They wanted to be around us and we loved being with them,” he said of the Cuban population. “They were so friendly and I am going to dearly miss them.”