An educational trip to Cuba last month for Leadership Atlanta alumni was skipped by Cuban-American graduates of the program who had originally planned to go.

Leadership Atlanta graduate Reemberto Rodriguez, head of the orientation committee for the trip, told GlobalFax in a telephone interview that this division illustrates a divergence in the way most Americans perceive Cuba and the way most Cuban-Americans see it.

About 40 graduates of the Atlanta leadership training program that often focuses on diversity issues took part in the 10-day trip to the Caribbean country while five Cuban-Americans who participated in the orientation sessions eventually chose not to go. A conflict arose, said Mr. Rodriguez, because of a lack of understanding of the harsher realities of Cuban life on the part of many non-Cubans.

“Everyone had their own reasons for not going,” he said. “I would love to go back, but I did not feel comfortable going in the context of that trip.”

The possibilty of having to stay in the state-owned Hotel Nacional de Cuba, rather than in Cuban homes, was the deciding factor for Elena Merino, an alumnus of the organization.

“I changed my mind when I figured out that the amount of money we would give to the hotel could employ some 200 Cubans for a year,” said Ms. Merino, referring to the government’s method of charging tourists normal hotel prices in U.S. dollars and paying employees a minimal amount in Cuban pesos.

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