Marazul has been around since 1979, that’s almost 40 years! In that time, we’ve pioneered American travel to Cuba, and we’ve been at the forefront of the easing of restrictions. We’ve spanned  seven presidential administrations, have succeeded through low and high times, while maintaining expert service and excellent programming. Our history runs parallel to the fight for the right to travel to Cuba. Get to know us a bit better and scroll through some of our company’s & travel history highlights!

History

History as rich as Cuba itself
1977

President Jimmy Carter lifts the restrictions on travel (by putting all tourist travel under a General License). Young Cuban Americans in the Brigada Antonio Maceo travel to Cuba as an act of friendship and reconciliation.

1978

600 young people from the US attend the World Youth Festival in Havana
Meeting in Havana, representatives of Cubans living abroad in the United States, Spain, Puerto Rico, and Mexico establish a Dialogue with the Cuban Government. Cuban American leaders establish the Committee of 75 to help push forward the dialogue.

This same year, Francisco Aruca and other Cuban Americans take part in a dialogue with the Cuban government. Upon returning to the United States, the idea for Marazul was born!

1979

Marazul was founded by Francisco Aruca with three purposes:

  1.  Help Cuban Americans reunite with their Cuban Families
  2. Bring as many groups and people as possible from the US to Cuba to see Cuba firsthand, and to experience it personally.
  3. End the restrictions on travel to Cuba, leading to an end in the blockade

First-time regular charter service is established between Miami and Havana.

1979

In response to the founding of Marazul Tours, the Cuban government founded the land operator Havanatur to provide the arrangements for Cuba Americans travelers, returning to Cuba for the first time since the revolution.

1980

During this time, Marazul was the only travel agency sending groups and individuals to Cuba!

1982

President Ronald Reagan re-imposes the travel restrictions. (Marazul continued to send group legally to Cuba, while always maintaining compliance with US and Cuba law.)

1985

Marazul is subpoenaed by the US Treasury Department for the names of all Marazul Tours clients who had traveled to Cuba. Marazul refused and with the crucial assistance of the Center for Constitutional Rights, the National Lawyers Guild, and the National Conference of Black Lawyers fought back and won in court.

1986

Marazul is bombed for the first. It would happen again in 1989 & 1996. May other Cuban travel agencies would experience that same fate as well.

1990s

Due to the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba faced an unprecedented economic crisis, referred to as the “special period.” In order to grow the economy and continue their commitment to social programs, Cuba invested heavily in the tourist industry. New hotels such as the Melia’s & Parque Central were built. Under the leadership of City Historian Eusebio Leal, a massive restoration of Old Havana was undertaken, Cuba also opened the Latin American Medical School, providing free medical education to people across the world.

1996

The Cuban Friendship Institute’s travel agency; Amistur, opens its doors! Marazul is their 1st US partner.

1997

The World Festival of Youth and Students is an international event, organized by the World Federation of Democratic Youth (WFDY), a United Nations-recognized international youth non-governmental organization, jointly with the International Union of Students since 1947. In 1997 Marazul Tours worked with the prep committees for the 14th iteration of the festival which was taking place in Cuba, assisting those interested in traveling legally under a license.  The licenses were unjustifiably denied, but 900 unlicensed young people defied the restriction and attended the festival. It was the largest single travel challenge in US history. None of the 900 students were fined.

1998

Pope John Paul II visits Cuba and calls for an end to the restrictions and US economic blockade.

2000

President Clinton modifies restrictions allowing increased travel – but only under licenses.

1982 - 2003

Hundreds of universities, colleges and high schools, professional and cultural organizations, religious institutions and groups, and thousands upon thousands of individuals flood the Treasury Department with applications for travel – many enlisting the aid of their congressional representatives. Over 750 universities and colleges receive licenses.

2003

OFAC under the direction of President George W. Bush, eliminated the People to People travel category, the 2nd largest category after family visits. Marazul applied for specific licenses for all remaining categories of legal traveled and continued sending groups to Cuba.

2008

Barack Obama is elected 44th President of the United States of America

2009

President Obama’s OFAC decides to issue a General License for Cuban American travel once every 12 months to visit ‘close’ relatives. This is the first action to broaden travel to Cuba in 10 years.

2009

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus led by Congresswomen Barbara Lee visit Cuba and meet with President Raul Castro and former President Fidel Castro. Call for an end to the embargo and the travel ban and respect for Cuba’s sovereignty. Marazul Tours coordinated the travel of the Congressional Black Caucus.

2009

Prior to meeting with Latin American heads of state – excluding Cuba – President Obama announces ‘new beginning’ of US-Cuba relations and orders opening of unrestricted travel by Cuban Americans to visit their close relatives. Revised restrictions are finally issued in September.

2014

President Obama & President Castro announce establishment of diplomatic relations between the US & Cuba.

2015

On July 20, 2015, the US Interest Section in Cuba resumed its role as the US embassy after the announcement of the resumption of diplomatic relations by both nations. US Sec. of State John Kerry was present at the ceremony.

2016

President Obama, accompanied by his family, becomes the first sitting US President since Calvin Coolidge in 1928 to visit Cuba. This was seen as a momentous occasion and he was greeted as a superstar.

2017

President Trump announces return on regime change policy towards Cuba. Announces the elimination of the individual category of travel, as well as announcing that the OFAC regulations would be updated later in the year.

Team

Our professional, multi-national,_bi-lingual staff
invites you to travel with us

Bob Guild

Vice President

As a student and community activist in the 1960’s and 70’s, Bob Guild has been active in efforts to normalize relations between Cuba and the U.S. for more than 45 years. Bob organized the first legal tour to Cuba in 1978 when President Carter ended travel restrictions and he has continued to send as many U.S. visitors as legally possible after President Reagan re-imposed the restrictions in 1982. Over this time he has also lobbied and testified in Congress, spoken around the country, and co-chaired the National network on Cuba – all in an effort to help end all travel restrictions and the economic blockade of Cuba. When not obsessing on Cuba, Bob travels with his wife on trekking adventures in the Himalayas, the Andes, and Alaska and more relaxed times in India and Italy and as much time as possible with his grandchildren.

 

Mayra Alonso

Program Director

Mayra was born and raised in New York to a Cuban family, with very strong ties to the island. She began traveling to Cuba as a young child with other children of Cuban parents, nourishing a love of her culture, which began at home. Mayra began traveling to Cuba alone in her teens, before beginning to work at Marazul, following in the footsteps of her parents, who themselves were active members in the solidarity movements. Having started at Marazul by filing travel brochures, to becoming their receptionist, she then later began working with the Cuban American community. She is currently one of the Directors of the North American Cuba Program department, not only assisting those with their travels arrangements to Cuba, but also with programs that involve Cuban academics, artists and athletes coming to the US. Mayra is the very proud mother of 2 beautiful little girls, who have carried on the tradition of traveling back to Cuba and maintaining close ties with their families.

Kendra Guild

Program Director

Kendra Guild was born into Cuba Travel. Both her mother and father were involved in Cuba travel and the pursuit of the normalization of relations between the two countries since before the time she was born.  She has filled just about every position at Marazul since her start over 15 years ago, when she first personally fell in love with Cuba as a sixteen year old taking part in the World Youth Festival in Havana. However, her life has taken her in other directions as well. After graduating from Wesleyan University, where she received her bachelor’s degree in English and African American Studies, she spent various years living in Guatemala, Italy, and Panama, teaching English and learning Spanish and some Italian. After having twins in 2011, she again returned to Marazul and during her time as Program Director, has helped to send tens of thousands of people on specialized programs to Cuba to see firsthand a country that so profoundly impacted her life so many years ago.

Jorge Martinez Jr.

Marketing Director/Account Manager

Jorge Martinez began at Marazul in 2011 as an operations specialist. Through Marazul, he was able to continue his passion for travel, while at the same time helping many groups and individuals experience Cuba and its culture first-hand. Jorge graduated from William Paterson University in 2015 with a degree in Public Relations and a minor in Political Science. Since 2015, he’s worked as an account manager specializing in custom programming to Cuba while at the same time working as the Marketing Director for Marazul. Through Marazul, he has traveled to Cuba multiple times, instilling in him a love and passion for the culture and the people of Cuba. Jorge enjoys; traveling, music, hiking and spending time with his wife and his two young children Logan and Lily and his pet Labrador, Thor.

Victoria Lebron

Account Manager

Victoria is currently an Account Manager, sending people on numerous programs of various topics, to Cuba. Having recently traveled on Marazul’s first People to People program, she was able to get a firsthand experience of the country, deepening her passion for the culture and its people. Victoria was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, before moving to attend New Jersey City University, where she graduated with a BS in Business Finance. Victoria enjoys spending time with her young son, and reading.

Angela Garcia

Travel Consultant

Angela Garcia started working for Marazul in 1998. Having over 30 years of experience in working for the travel industry, she came across the opportunity to organize programs to Cuba. Cuba was always a neighbor to the Dominican Republic, where she was born and raised, but Angela never knew much about the process it took to travel in and out of the island.  With very few agencies making these arrangements, she faced challenges in sending Americans on fulfilling programs to experience Cuba and its culture. What began as a difficult challenge for her, however, ended up being one of the most important jobs and best of all, she fell in love with it. Angela mainly arranges visits for various events and conferences, as well as specialized programs for religious groups. Aside from traveling herself, Angela also enjoys going to the movies and dancing.

Angela Ruiz

Individual Travel and Air Arrangements Specialist

Angela was born in Cuba, but raised in the US. Arriving as a baby, she grew up in a small Cuban community in Union City, NJ. She began her work at Marazul as a receptionist in 1997, before moving on to the Accounting and then settling into her current position in the North American department. Angela primarily works with individual travelers and passengers who have originated in Havana and have been invited to the US. Often traveling back to Cuba with her family throughout the years, she has maintained the same traditions both at home and in the office. She shares her passion for her culture with her 10 year old son, and brings the uniqueness to the office, with her one of a kind Cuban cafecito.

Luisa Sanchez

ASQ: ARC Specialist Qualifier

Luisa Sanchez has been with Marazul since February 1997 and is a certified ASQ: ARC Specialist Qualifier. She has over 18 years of experience in the travel industry, and shares a passion for travel around the world.  At Marazul, she organizes groups to Cuba, and specializes in flights and leisure packages, including cruises. Luisa enjoys reading and traveling, having travelled most of the Caribbean and South America.

Kirlian Calvet

Accountant

Kirlian Calvet was born and raised in Cuba, graduating from the Universidad de Pinar del Rio in 1998. Her experience comes from her firsthand knowledge of the country, as well as from 12+ years spent working in Cuban tourism. To be closer to her family in the United States, she moved to New Jersey, and started her new role at Marazul in 2012. She currently works as a Marazul bookkeeper in the Accounting department. Her interests include exploring foreign countries and learning about their culture. Although she has left Cuba, she continually visits every year with her daughter.

Shayra Ortiz

Head of Marazul Operations

Shayra Ortiz started at Marazul 4 years ago, but has been part of the Marazul family since she was a young girl. She has worked primarily in the Individual Travel department before recently moving on to become the Head of Marazul Operations. This fall, she will be continuing her education towards her Bachelor’s of Science in nursing degree. Shayra enjoys spending time with her three kids, and traveling to the Caribbean, where most of her family resides.

Flor Martinez

Accounting Supervisor

Flor Martinez embodies the Marazul family. During her 17 years with Marazul, she has fulfilled many roles, from receptionist to travel consultant to her current position for the last ten years as Supervisor of Accounting. At one point, all three of her sons were also part of the Marazul family as well as her beloved Pekingese, Chewy, a common presence at the office in New Jersey. Besides her dedication to keeping the books for Marazul under the various complications and conditions of Cuba Travel, she also travels yearly to Ecuador, where she was born, and deeply enjoys her immediate and extended family in both countries, including her two grandchildren.

Loreto DeRubeis

Account Manager

Loreto was born in Rome, Italy, but came to the United States at an early age. His experience in the travel industry spans over forty years having worked in various positions including hotels, airlines and tour operations. He has traveled extensively to many destinations in Europe, the Middle East, Central and South America. Recently, he was involved with developing travel programs to Cuba and has had the pleasure of visiting the island several times in the past year. This has ignited a passion for this fascinating island its people and culture that he would like to share with other travelers. He is a prolific reader and enjoys sports specifically cycling, racquetball and hiking.

Noel Morono

Travel Consultant Expert for Cuban & Cuban-American Travel

Noel Morono was born and raised in Cuba, graduating from the University of Pinar del Rio in 2000. He worked in the Electrical Enterprise of Pinar del Rio; he spent 7 years working in the Accounting Department. To be closer to his family in the United States, He moved to New Jersey, and started his role at Marazul in 2011. He currently works as a Marazul Travel Consultant in the Cuban American Department. His interests include exploring foreign countries and learning about their culture. Although he has left Cuba, He continually visits his family there.

Joel Andujar

Senior Operations Specialist

Though his chief ambition is to one day take over the world, Joel busies himself in the meantime working in Marazul’s Operations. A 2016 addition to the Marazul team, Joel has shown a great interest in Cuba and its Culture. Having had the pleasure of visiting the island of Cuba twice, he recently traveled there by cruise. He is currently on the road to completing his Bachelors in International Business. On his spare time he enjoys adventure sports ,hiking, cycling, soccer, and basketball. He loves Art & Fashion.  A passion for adventure and travel, he plans to explore the world!  “We’re all connected by a love for travel!”

Giselle Ortega

Account Manager

Giselle was born in Cuba and recently came to the United States. She has been involved in the Cuban tourism industry and has extensive experience and knowledge of her native country. While working in the Havanatur Celimar office in Havana, she was directly involved in creating and operating the various Marazul programs. Each of these programs represents her most  vibrant memories that she wishes for everyone to experience on their travels to the island. Working in Marazul gives her the opportunity to assist more people from the US to appreciate Cuba and for both countries to exchange and learn from each other. As a 100% Cuban, she loves dancing and music.