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A National Geographic expert will accompany each departure to share insights and a rare behind-the-scenes perspective. Listed below are some of the experts and the departure date(s) they will be joining.
Renowned percussionist Carol Steele has been traveling to Cuba for more than 25 years and introducing the island to fellow travelers for 15. Carol’s enthusiasm is contagious, as is her love of Cuba, its culture, its history, and its people. As a professional musician, Carol’s résumé reads like a Who’s Who of popular music. She has performed or recorded with Peter Gabriel, Steve Winwood, Joan Baez, Tears for Fears, Bette Midler, and many other well-known artists. Carol was the first American women to play with Los Muñequitos de Matanzas, one of Cuba’s iconic folkloric groups, and played and sang on tour in the United States with Lazaro Ros and Amelia Pedroso, two of Cuba’s most popular and beloved Afro-Cuban folkloric singers.
After many years of study, Carol has been initiated into the Regla de Ocha (or Santeria, as most people know it). She loves to share her knowledge about the history of this religion, of music and art as a form of prayer, and of how the faith manifests itself throughout everyday life in Cuba.
The Lowell Thomas Award 2008 ‘Travel Journalist of the Year,' photographer and writer Christopher Baker is one of the world's foremost authorities on Costa Rica and Cuba. He has authored guidebooks to Costa Rica, Cuba, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, and Panama in the National Geographic Traveler series. He is also the author of the award-winning Mi Moto Fidel: Motorcycling Through Castro's Cuba, published by National Geographic Adventure Press. His more than 20 other books include the coffee-table book Cuba Classics: A Celebration of Vintage American Automobiles. He has written for more than 200 publications, from National Geographic Traveler to Newsweek, and has been an invited speaker at National Geographic headquarters, the National Press Club, and the World Affairs Council, among other prestigious organizations. Christopher has been profiled in USA Today and featured on the National Geographic Channel, CNN, Fox News, NPR, and dozens of other radio and TV outlets. He has currently partnered with actor/director David Soul to produce a documentary about the restoration of Ernest Hemingway’s recently rediscovered 1955 Chrysler New Yorker in Cuba.
Annie Gibson is the Associate Director for Intercultural Learning at the Center for Global Education at Tulane University, where she also completed her Ph.D. in Latin American Studies. Annie's areas of research specialization include Cuban and Brazilian performance cultures, immigration, travel, and tourism studies. She has published widely, including numerous articles in academic research journals and two books: Post-Katrina Brazucas: Brazilians in New Orleans and Hispanic and Latino New Orleans: Immigration and Identity Since the 18th Century, which she co-authored. The latter won the American Association of Geographers' 2015 J.B. Jackson Book Prize for contribution of the year to the historical and ethnic geography of the United States. Annie co-produced and directed a short film entitled Tempo of Tomorrow Revisited that explores U.S. tourism to Cuba in 1958 and 2014. She teaches a diverse range of courses in Spanish and Portuguese languages, literatures, and cultures on Tulane’s campus and abroad.
John Echave is a photojournalist and a 20-year National Geographic veteran. As Senior Editor for Photography and Research Grants, he produced and edited 217 stories and 37 covers for the Society's flagship magazine. Working with various Cuban ministries, John gained unlimited access to Cuba for the Geographic beginning in 1989. This led to the publication of seven stories and a book profiling various aspects of life in the country, including its historical heritage, wildlife, pristine coral reefs, political structure, and people. John was born in Havana and emigrated to the American Midwest as a “Peter Pan” in 1961. His experience working as a journalist in today’s Cuba as well as his vivid, first-hand recollections of events leading to the triumph of the revolution in 1959 will fascinate participants in this expedition. Before joining the National Geographic staff, John was a photojournalist with US News and World Report and the Associated Press. He is currently a producer and videographer with Blue Lagoon Productions and LS Films.
Kitty Coley is a geologist, naturalist, and avid birder who serves as a consultant to National Geographic magazine. As a professional geologist, she has worked in remote rain forests and rugged landscapes around the world. Her love of nature has inspired her to explore through scuba diving, backpacking, white-water and sea kayaking, and biking. She has led expeditions to Antarctica, the Amazon, the Galapagos Islands, Iceland, Central and South America and many of North America's national parks. In recent years, Kitty turned her focus to Cuba and fell in love with the Cuban people and their culture. A gifted and enthusiastic teacher and a popular National Geographic Expert, Kitty wants to help you experience that same personal connection with this unique island nation.
Fabio Amador was for many years a Senior Program Officer for the National Geographic Society/Waitt Grants Program, which is dedicated to funding exploratory research around the world. He has traveled and worked extensively throughout Latin America and is presently collaborating with research projects in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, Peru, El Salvador, and Madagascar. He has also traveled regularly to Cuba over the past five years on educational and scientific missions for National Geographic. As a trained archaeologist, his interest in Taino Indian culture (which spanned the Greater Antilles, including Cuba) is focused on the sacred landscape and the use of caves for ritual activity. In his role at National Geographic, Fabio used imaging and visualization technologies to provide new ways of capturing data and to document the experience of conducting research and exploration. His initiative in supporting National Geographic research and exploration projects worldwide has resulted in a workshop titled The Art of Communicating Science. Fabio uses photography, cinematography, and other multimedia tools to reach large audiences through his public lectures at universities and on expeditions, presentations at international scientific and professional symposia, publications in scholarly journals and on National Geographic’s Explorers Journal and NatGeo News Watch blogs.