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Inspired by a Canadian amateur astronomer who visited the place, I’ve been in recent contact by email with some potential amateur telescope makers in Cuba. 
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I proposed bringing the optics for some completed 4″ to 8″ Newtonian telescopes in my luggage (ie parabolized & aluminized mirrors, diagonals, and eyepieces) and then giving them ideas and assistance on making the rest of the scopes. I have a number of already-completed primaries and diagonals at our DC telescope making workshop, but would have to scrounge around for eyepieces. 
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(If mechanics in Cuba can keep 1958-model cars running for over 50 years, I bet that they can probably improvise other stuff a la John Dobson, if they have any raw materials at all, which I am not sure about). I am also not sure whether I should bring focusers and spiders, or whether they should make them there themselves…
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I understand from the Cubans that there are almost no telescopes in the entire country except for one no-longer-operational telescope at the University of Havana’s observatory, and certainly no Dobsonians. They sound quite interested in the idea, and also were suggesting that I might stay long enough to demonstrate how to grind and polish and figure a mirror.  If I follow up on that idea, it would probably require me bringing in abrasives and pitch in addition to the finished mirrors, which might cause further luggage problems. Explaining finished mirrors carefully wrapped up is one thing, but containers of, say, 15-micron WAO microgrit? They might cut open the bag and test to see if it’s really cocaine…. thus contaminating it…
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Both the Canadian and the Cubans said that bringing in materials officially labeled as ‘gifts’ would entail lots of red tape and delays.
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For me, the payback would be the chance to practice my crappy Spanish in an exotic place that I’ve never visited, and to observe from Tropical skies that suffer relatively low light pollution, as well as doing some good in a country that seems to have a low violent crime rate…. I was planning on flying to Mexico or the Bahamas and then getting a flight to Havana, which seems cheaper than an official direct flight. I suspect that since this would be a scientific exchange, I might even be able to get both governments to sign off and issue an official visa or whatever.
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Any thoughts? Anybody ever been there?
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