Without a doubt, the seminal highlight of this past year leading people-to-people tours of Cuba for National Geographic Expeditions was my introduction to the children of La Colmenita.

This amazing children’s musical theater group—the name means “Little Beehive”–has charmed audiences worldwide with high-octane repertoires that mix fairy tales and rock & roll with messages of love, good virtues and peace.

CU SX2A6912 Children of La Colmenita perform in Havana, Cuba, 2013 copyright Christopher P Baker

Children of La Colmenita perform in Havana, Cuba, for National Geographic Expeditions people-to-people tour group, 2013; © copyright Christopher P Baker

La Colmenita was founded as a small community theater in 1994 by TV producer Carlos Alberto Cremata, affectionately known to the kids as ‘Tim.’ His dad was the pilot of the Cubana flight 455 passenger airliner downed by a Cuban-American terrorist bomb after it took off from Barbados on October 6, 1976.

La Colmenita was spawned of catharsis as homage to his father (a lover of music and theater) to convey a message of love, humanity and forgiveness to the world. It has since grown into a cultural phenomenon worldwide, spawning more than two dozen similar “beehives” throughout Cuba and the Americas.

UNICEF has even adopted La Colmenita as an official UNICEF goodwill ambassador, working to help protect and promote the rights of, and improve the lives of, children and women worldwide.

Watching these kids rehearse and perform is sheer joy.

Their enthusiasm, their ability, and their self-assurance astounds. No surprise, then, that many of our National Geographic Expedition clients cry when we attend an “only for us” performance. And so do I–still!—in reaction, not least, to a joyful childhood innocence that bonds all humanity in kind.

The productions, such as “Cinderella by The Beatles” and “The Little Roach Called Martina,” are their own. Costumes are prepared by the kid’s parents. And any child is welcome to join, even physically and mentally impaired children.  In fact, the ensemble frequently tours the country to share a positive message with disadvantaged communities and children.

‘Tim’ hopes the loving message conveyed by the kids will kindle similar feelings in its audiences, including in the United States.

In fact, the touring company (which comprises 22 children ranging in age from six to fifteen; there’s a separate troupe for younger children) has twice graced the United States with its enthusiasm, creativity and message, most recently in 2011.

Arch anti-Castroite Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Chairperson of the House Foreign Relations Committee) inanely called the presence of these remarkable children in the USA a “threat to national security.”

Other icy Cuban Americans denounced the kid’s visit as propaganda because it included a demonstration of support for the ‘Cuban Five’ (five Cuban spies sentenced to long terms in U.S. prisons for espionage, principally aimed at identifying future terrorist attacks against Cuba by radical Cuban-Americans).

Critics of La Colmenita’s visit would do well to remember the group’s genesis: Born of a Cuban-American terrorist act whose mastermind, Luis Posada Carriles (he lives in Miami a free man), is regarded by Florida’s Cuban-American elite as a hero. (See Posada receiving the keys to the city from the Mayor of Haileah).

The 73 innocent victims aboard Cubana 455 included 24 members of the Cuban national fencing team, many of them teenagers who had just won a Caribbean fencing tournament.

Er, how is it that the Chairperson of the House Foreign Relations Committee can call for assassinating a foreign leader (it’s illegal to do so under U.S. law!)… and how can she be tolerated saying she supports “freedom fighters” responsible for killing 73 innocent victims, including children?

Tim’s critics clearly don’t get the message that love is a greater force than evil and envy.


Now that you’re ready to travel to Cuba, buy a Moon Cuba guidebook

Disclosure: I occasionally accept free or discounted travel when it coincides with my editorial goals. However, my opinion is never for sale. The opinions you see on my blog are my unbiased reflection of the good, the bad, and the ugly

Copyright © Christopher P. Baker


Christopher P Baker


Christopher P. Baker, one of the world's most multi-talented and successful travel writers and photographers has been named by National Geographic as one of the world's foremost authorities on Cuba travel and culture. Winner of the Lowell Thomas Award 2008 as 'Travel Journalist of the Year,' he has authored more than 30 books, leads tours for National Geographic Expeditions, Edelwiss Bike Travel, and Jim Cline Photo Tours, among other companies, and is a Getty Images and National Geographic contributing photographer.