11+ Things to Do in Cuba: Unusual Sites Guide

Whispered secrets of Havana's art await; hidden studios reveal vibrant expressions. But there's one gallery that holds a startling mystery...
Date Published
March 8, 2024

Table of Contents

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Thinking of sipping on a mojito under the sultry Havana sun, as the vibrant rumba rhythms invite you into an alley bursting with kaleidoscopic murals? Or maybe, you're itching to sling a hammock on a white sandy beach that whispers tales of buccaneers and buried treasures. Welcome to Cuba, an island sprinkled with revolutionary history, intoxicating melodies, and flavors that salsa on your tongue. Cuba isn't just a place; it's a pulsating experience that begins the moment you step onto its time-warped streets.

You, my fellow intrepid wanderer, are about to embark on an odyssey peppered with encounters you'll brag about for years. From the clandestine art studios of Havana where the scent of turpentine muses in concert with political commentary, to the cobble-stoned echoes of Trinidad, where each stone tells a story of conquest and colonial charm, you're in for a soul-stirring ride. But are you ready to dance with Cuba's secrets? Buckle up, because we're diving deep into the heart of Cuban art galleries, shimmying through Vedado's electric nightlife, and indulging in a paladar's home-cooked marvels all before we've even whispered 'revoluciĂłn'.

Prepare to fill your itinerary with activities and local gems that transform tourists into storytellers. This isn't just a vacation; it's an invitation to immerse yourself in experiences that weave into the fabric of unforgettable tales.

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Uncover Havana's Hidden Art Studios

Picture this: you're wandering down the vibrant streets of Havana, past colonial buildings with paint peeling like sunburnt skin, and there it is—a hidden art studio tucked away like a gem waiting to be discovered. Here's where the magic of Cuban art galleries comes to life!

Duck inside, and you're wrapped in a kaleidoscope of color. It's an intimate space, usually run by the artists themselves, and each visit is as unique as the canvases lining the walls. You should plan for about three to five visits—trust me, there's no such thing as too much art here.

What makes these studios a must-visit? They are not just places to see art; they are portals into the hearts and minds of the creators. The narratives woven into each piece reflect Cuba's rich history, culture, and soul. And the best part? You might just walk away with a piece of it. Whether you're a casual admirer or a serious collector, these studios cater to all.

Don't rush through these art havens. Soak in the atmosphere, chat with the artists if they're around, and really look at the art—it's a dialogue without words. It'll speak to you, tell you tales you hadn't heard before. Locals and tourists alike find this to be a sanctuary of creativity.

Are you traveling solo, with family, or a group of friends? Doesn't matter! Art is universal, and these studios are the perfect spot for anyone with a penchant for the beautiful and the unique. While not the adrenaline-pumped activity of other tourist spots, it's the tranquility here that wins the day.

Nearby, you'll find cozy cafés bustling with the day's gossip, perfect for discussing your artistic finds. Spend an hour or an afternoon, each visit can be as long and as rich as you like.

So why wait? Step into the heart of Havana's art scene and remember, each piece carries a story—maybe even part of yours.

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Dance the Night Away in Vedado's Underground Clubs

Got rhythm in your feet and a desire for the unexpected? You're in luck! In Vedado, the heartbeat of Havana's nightlife pulses through its vibrant underground clubs. These aren't your average music venues; they're bubbling cauldrons of cultural fusion where salsa meets jazz, and electronic vibes flirt with Afro-Cuban beats.

Feel like a local as you slip into one of these dimly lit havens, each one telling its own story with every rhythmic move and rooftop shout. It's where you'll rub elbows—not literally, please—with artists, musicians, and dancers, sharing the universal language of dance. And yes, time becomes a lost concept as you whirl and twirl until the first light peeks over the horizon.

For a night full of life, here's what you do: Dress comfy (it's a dance marathon, not a sprint), learn a basic step or two (don't worry, the rhythm will get you), and surrender to the beats. Every club has its charm, its crowd – it's a mixed bag for sure. Singles, couples, music-lovers, even if your two left feet have a reputation, this place will make you feel like a pro—or at least like no one's watching!

What's nearby? The iconic MalecĂłn boardwalk is within stumbling distance (not that we're suggesting any stumbling), so as the evening mellows, a sea-scented stroll as you chat about your favorite track of the night is a must-do.

Plan to spend a couple of hours—or, let's be real, till you're danced out. It's where memories are made, stories are born, and you'll leave thinking, "Did Havana just steal my heart with music?" The answer: a resounding "Absolutely!"

So give in to the call of the conga drums and visit Havana's underground clubs. It's a slice of Havana nightlife you won't want to miss. No need for reservations, but do check out some cool spots before getting your groove on!

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Savor Authentic Cuban Flavors in a Paladar

Imagine strolling down a bustling Havana street, your senses alight with vibrant colors and sounds. You're practically dancing the cha-cha as you find your way to a paladar, a family-run restaurant making waves in Cuban cuisine tasting. You breeze through the door, and bam, you're hit with the delicious scent of ropa vieja simmering away. Drooling yet?

A paladar is where the magic happens—a cozy spot that whips up authentic dishes like your abuela's house, only better (don't tell her I said that). Locals, foodies, couples on romantic dates, and even solo adventurers looking to taste the soul of Cuba flock to these culinary hideouts. Paladars are the heartbeats of local communities, dishing out heaping portions of comfort, flavor, and culture.

You might ask, "How long should I camp out here?" Spend a couple of hours or an entire evening—there's no rush, amigo. A paladar experience is more than just eating; it's a culinary journey. Taste a tender masas de puerco, savor a mojito with just-crushed mint, or let a tangy ceviche tango with your taste buds. You're not just filling your stomach; you're feeding your soul with every bite.

And who's it for? Paladars welcome everyone. They're fantastic for families looking for a taste of authenticity, ideal for couples desiring an intimate meal, and perfect for you, the explorer craving a dash of Cuban zest. Whether you're in the mood for an adrenaline shot of Havana nightlife or a peaceful dinner under the stars, a paladar will match your vibe.

When you walk into a paladar, you step into someone’s home; their story. You're not a customer; you're family. So pull up a chair, raise your glass, and toast to the rhythms, the people, and the flavors that only a true Cuban experience can offer. Salud!

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Embark on a Revolutionary Trail in Santiago de Cuba

Imagine walking the very paths that once echoed with the footsteps of revolutionaries—welcome to Santiago de Cuba, a city that's more like a grand open-air museum celebrating Cuba's fiery history. Here in this cradle of the revolution, the air you breathe is thick with the spirit of freedom and the call for independence.

Now hold on to your hats, history buffs and culture enthusiasts, because Santiago de Cuba has some historical sites that are not just landmarks—they're icons. Monuments, barracks, and grand squares, they all form the revolutionary trail that ignites a spark in the heart of patriots and inspires awe in visitors from around the world.

The first stop? None other than the historic Moncada Barracks, a place that speaks volumes without saying a word. Sure, no one's firing any shots now, but the pockmarked walls from the 1953 attacks tell a vivid tale of valor. You almost hear the gunfire amidst the hush of respect that envelops the place. Soak it in, because these walls witnessed the early days of a movement that would shape Cuba forever.

Moving on, if you're looking for something that encapsulates the soul of this city, Parque Céspedes will charm your socks off. It's where urban pulse meets historical reverence. Feel the weight of history as you admire the Cathedral and the City Hall, where Fidel Castro announced the revolution's victory. And voilà! You're not just learning history—you're living it.

Lastly, round out your revolutionary reverie with a visit to Santa Ifigenia Cemetery, where you can pay respects to the eternal flame burning at José Martí's tomb. Brush up against the marbled history and let the legends of past heroes give you goosebumps.

Santiago de Cuba doesn't just take you on a stroll through history; it pulls you into an embrace with the past that's as warm as the Caribbean sun. Whether you're a solo adventurer, a family of curios, or a group hunting for stories of heroics, this city welcomes you with revolutionary pride. So come, walk this trail, and let the tales of daring and determination be the ones to light up your Instagram feed. But remember, this isn't a quick photo op spot—give yourself a good half-day to absorb it all. Who knows? You might just feel the revolutionary fervor stir something deep within.

Now, are you ready to step into the shoes of those who walked before us? Because Santiago de Cuba is not just another stop—it's where history breathes and strides alongside you.

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Stroll Through Trinidad's Timeless Colonial Alleys

Picture this: You're stepping onto cobblestone streets, where pastel-hued houses with wrought-iron details breathe stories of the colonial era. Welcome to Trinidad, a UNESCO World Heritage site where time seems to have paused in the 1850s.

Why is Trinidad’s colonial heart a must-visit? It's a living museum, echoing with the rhythm of hooves and the chatter of locals, offering a genuine peek into a bygone era. Wander through this maze of colonial splendor, and you’ll find no shortage of extraordinary spots to explore!

In Trinidad, you’ll discover:

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  • Cavalcade of colors: Each building a canvas splashed with vibrant hues.
  • Time-honored architecture: Palaces and churches standing tall, telling tales without words.

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Here’s the lowdown on why you can't skip this colonial gem: It's not just a feast for your eyes, it's a place where you can mingle with the friendliest folks you'll ever meet. Yes, they’ll make you feel like you've always belonged here.

Plan to spend at least half a day soaking in the ambiance. You'll want to capture every detail with your camera, trust me. And the crowd? It’s like a top-shelf cocktail blend—history buffs, culture vultures, and wanderlust-filled souls, so whether you're flying solo or with your squad, you’re in for a treat.

So go on, swing by a nearby cafe, grab a cafecito, and fuel up because every corner of Trinidad’s colonial alleys has a secret waiting for you. And hey, if you fall for the local charm and decide that a few hours just won't cut it, you wouldn't be the first. This place has a way of holding you in its warm, nostalgic embrace long after the sun dips below the horizon.

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Discover Cuba's Botanical Diversity at Soroa Orchid Garden

Picture this: you're meandering through a kaleidoscope of vibrant orchids, each one more breathtaking than the last. This isn't just a fantasy; it's a day at Soroa Orchid Botanical Garden. Amid the rolling hills of the Cuban countryside, this garden is a living rainbow with over 20,000 plants waiting for you to explore.

The air is perfumed with the sweet scent of blooms, and you’re in awe of the endless variety. There are orchids in every hue, shape, and size imaginable! And, it’s not just orchids; the garden is buzzing with life, from the trilling of birds to the whisper of the trees. Nature's symphony is truly at its finest here.

Dedicate half a day to really soak in Soroa's beauty; it's worth every second. This spot, my friend, is perfect for anyone and everyone, whether you’re a solo eco-tourist, a couple seeking a romantic backdrop, or a family on the hunt for an educational adventure. It's an immersive experience that will have nature lovers swooning and photography enthusiasts clicking away non-stop.

And guess what? The garden's not just for the daylight hours. It’s a sanctuary where the local flora and fauna thrive, and you can witness birds that you won't find anywhere else, making it a genuine treasure trove for wildlife enthusiasts.

So, whether you're lured by the promise of peace and quiet, a dash of natural science, or just the opportunity to see some of the most stunning flowers on the planet, Soroa Orchid Garden delivers. It's a unique slice of botanical bliss that shows off Cuba's greener side, and it's begging you to come and get lost in its enchantments.

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Dive into Serenity at Playa ParaĂ­so

Imagine dipping your toes into warm, turquoise waters as soft white sands cushion your feet. That's Playa Paraíso – a slice of Caribbean heaven that will make your heart sing louder than a mariachi band.

Varadero beach is famous, sure, but Playa ParaĂ­so? That's your secret escape from reality. Here's the scoop: this beach isn't just pretty, it's ranked as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. We're talking Instagram gold, people!

It's perfect for families wanting to build the most epic sandcastles, for couples looking for that romantic hand-in-hand walk along the seashore, and even for the solo flyers who just need to hear the waves' whispers.

Why Playa Paraíso, you ask? Because where else can you swim in clear-as-glass waters while pelicans dive-bomb for their dinner in a display that outshines any nature documentary? You can spend the whole day here – no, you should spend the whole day here. Morning swims, afternoon siestas under the palms, and maybe, just maybe, a game of beach volleyball if the mood strikes.

Close by, you've got all the Varadero beach activities you could dream of. Diving, snorkeling, and catamaran rides all start just a stone's throw away from your beach blanket. So, what type of crowd is this beach good for? Everyone who appreciates a good sun-soaked day with a side of tropical bliss.

And hey, don't forget to pack your snorkel gear. The underwater scenery here is like stepping into a living aquarium, only better. Schools of colorful fish dart in and out of coral reefs, so close you could almost join their dance.

In Playa Paraíso, time slows down, worries fade, and all that matters is the here and now. So, slap on that sunscreen, dive into serenity, and let Playa Paraíso remind you what life’s all about – savoring every splash of joy.

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Join an Artisanal Fishing Experience in Gibara

Imagine yourself balancing on a rustic fishing boat, the warm sea breeze tossing your hair, and the sun kissing your cheeks. That's Gibara for you, a picturesque fishing village where life is as salty as the water and as fresh as the catch of the day. Here's why you should absolutely, without a shadow of a doubt, join an artisanal fishing experience in this hidden gem:

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  • Gibara is authentic: This isn't your run-of-the-mill fishing experience. It's where tradition lives and breathes in the hauls of local fishermen who've mastered the sea for generations.
  • Perfect for all: Whether you're a solo traveler craving adventure or a family looking for bonding time, Gibara’s fishing trips are versatile. Heck, you could even find romance on the high seas!
  • Get hooked on the view: Not only do you catch fish, but you also catch panoramic vistas of Cuba’s coastline that are nothing short of breathtaking.
  • Time is on your side: You won’t need to rush; half a day is usually plenty to get the full experience and still have time to explore or relax onshore.

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It's not just about getting a fish on your line; it's about the stories you'll hear from the locals, the techniques you'll learn, and the laughs you'll share. You can plan your once-in-a-lifetime fishing adventure with just a few clicks.

But wait, there's more! After your adventure, stroll through the village, chat with the amicable locals, and if you've been lucky with the catch, maybe even enjoy a seaside feast prepared with your own catch. Gibara isn’t just a fishing adventure; it’s a plunge into the heart of Cuban culture.

Feeling the call of the sea yet? If the answer is an excited nod, then reeling in your itinerary should definitely include Gibara, the fishing village where the real Cuba hooks you line and sinker. 🎣

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Explore the Mystical Caves of Viñales

Imagine yourself in the heart of Pinar del Río province, where the aroma of tobacco fills the air, and the lush, green scenery of Viñales Valley unfolds around you. But here's the kicker: beneath this breathtaking landscape lies a network of mysterious caves just waiting for your sense of adventure to awaken.

The Viñales Valley is not just about the above-ground adventures. No, sir! It’s what's below that will really rev your engines. The caves are a whole different world of stalactites and stalagmites painted with history—a hidden wonderland far from the Cuban sun.

Now, I see that glimmer in your eye. You're wondering, is it just for the brave and the bold? Good news: families, singles, even your adventurous granny can join in. Whether you're a solo explorer chasing adrenaline or looking for a unique tale to tell, these caves are your go-to.

Here's the vibe: cool, damp, and utterly exhilarating. You'll need at least half a day to do this right, dig into the belly of the earth, and still have time to marvel at the million-year-old rock formations. Trust me, you'll want to savor every moment without rushing.

Nearby? You're surrounded by the raw beauty of the valley. There's so much more to soak up once you emerge from the depths of the earth.

So, ready to embark on this subterranean escapade? Grab those comfy shoes and a flashlight. Because when you explore the mystical caves of Viñales, you're not just walking through tunnels; you're stepping into the pages of a fascinating geological story, rich with the whispers of the past.

And remember, once you're back under that Caribbean sun, you've got the bragging rights to say you've seen the heart of Cuba from the inside out!

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Relish the Tranquility of Las Terrazas Eco-community

Imagine a melody where Mother Nature hums through rustling leaves and gurgling streams. That's Las Terrazas eco-community for you, a green utopia nestled in the Sierra del Rosario mountains. You stroll along, feeling the embrace of lush foliage, as this self-sufficient haven seduces your senses with its serene beauty.

Las Terrazas isn't just a spot on the map; it's a living, breathing commitment to sustainability. This eco-village was built in the '60s, with a visionary reforestation project that brought the hillsides back to life. Here, you'll be walking trails where every step tells a story of conservation. Whether you're a solo explorer or bringing the fam along, this eco-friendly paradise caters to all.

But wait, there's more! Earth-friendly isn't just a buzzword here; it's a way of life. Dive into their refreshing natural pools or zip-line through treetops, feel your heartbeat sync with the untamed rhythms of the Cuban countryside. Let your taste buds go wild with organic coffee straight from the surrounding plantations, because, let's face it, caffeine never tasted so guilt-free.

Art lover? You're in luck! Las Terrazas is also home to a community of artists and craftspeople, and their studios are open doors to creativity. Say hello, and who knows, that unique piece of art could travel back home with you.

Plan to spend at least a half-day here; trust me, once you're wrapped in this eco-blanket, you won't want to leave. And if your muscles start singing the blues, a massage at the local spa will have you back to trailblazing in no time.

So who's ready for a breath of fresh air? Las Terrazas is not just a visit; it's an experience, a memory, and a smile on the face of our planet. And you, my friend, are invited.

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Unravel the Africana Roots with Santeria Ceremonies

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Imagine stepping into an intoxicating world of rhythmical drum beats and chants that reverberate with every heartbeat. This is the essence of Santeria, the spiritual practice deeply woven into Cuba's cultural tapestry. With Santeria ceremonies, you're not just observing - you're immersing yourself in the pulse of the island's Africana roots.

As you witness the vibrant attires and feel the spiritual energy, you'll understand why Santeria is not just a religion but a way of life for many locals. It's a mesmerizing mix of West African Yoruba beliefs and Roman Catholic traditions, surviving centuries to still thrive in Cuba today. And here's the kicker - you don't have to be a believer to be welcomed into this community with open arms.

Check out the Santeria ceremonies taking place in backyards or tucked-away temples, where Santeros (priests) connect with Orishas (spirits) to seek guidance and healing. The ceremonies can range from small, intimate gatherings to larger, more elaborate celebrations, depending on the occasion.

And who says you can't be a part of the magic? You don't need to speak Yoruba or be a history buff to feel the connection. The ceremonies are communal, inviting, and sure to leave a mark on your soul. Whether you're a solo voyager digging deep into culture or a family looking to educate the kiddos on world religions, this experience is a must-do.

Spend a couple of hours or a full evening - time will fly as you dive into this enriching, utterly unique experience. Just a fair warning though: the energy is contagious; you might find yourself moving to the rhythm before you even know it. Santeria ceremonies are not just an event; they're a celebration of life itself. So why just read about history when you can live and breathe it, right here amidst the heartbeat of Cuba?

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Sample Homegrown Delights on a Cuban Coffee Farm

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Imagine the rich aroma of freshly ground coffee wafted through the air, enveloping you in a cloud of invigorating scent. That's exactly what you'll experience when you set foot on a Cuban coffee farm. These farms are not your average tourist stops; they're a deep dive into the local culture and the heart of Cuba's coffee production. Feel the sun on your face and the soil beneath your feet as you learn about the time-honored tradition of coffee-making.

On Cuban coffee farm tours, you become part of the journey from bean to cup. You'll witness firsthand the meticulous process, and let me tell you, it's pure art. Farmers expertly pick the ripest, reddest cherries, and with passion that's been passed down for generations, they transform them into the robust coffee that Cuba is famous for. And yes, tasting is part of the experience. Prepare your taste buds to be blown away by the intense, yet smooth flavors of a true Cuban brew.

What makes these tours incredible isn't just the coffee—it's the stories. As you sample the homegrown delights, farmers share tales of resilience and passion that make every sip feel like you're drinking in part of Cuba's soul. It's a taste of rustic authenticity you won't find anywhere else.

Perfect for couples seeking a serene getaway or solo explorers eager to immerse themselves in local traditions, a visit to a Cuban coffee farm can take a few hours of pure bliss. It's less about sipping coffee and more about connecting with Cuba's earthy roots.

And don't think it's just for coffee aficionados. There's something truly captivating about watching the sun dapple through the leaves as you explore the lush plantations. Whether you're a die-hard coffee lover or just someone longing to see a different side of Cuba, mark a coffee farm tour high on your list. There's a whole lot of Cuba packed into every bean, and it's just waiting for you to discover it.

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FAQ

Q: What are the top things Cuba is known for?

A: Cuba's famous for its cigars, vintage cars, stunning beaches, salsa music, historical Havana, rum, and the revolution history.

Q: Is there much to do in Cuba?

A: Oh, you bet! From exploring old Havana, hitting the beach, to dancing salsa, there's plenty to keep you busy.

Q: What is Cuba good for?

A: Cuba is fantastic for cultural experiences, relaxing beaches, outdoor adventures, and savoring unique cuisine.

Q: Things to do in Cuba Havana?

A: Stroll through Old Havana, check out the MalecĂłn, visit museums, and sip on authentic Cuban coffee.

Q: What to do in Cuba for a week?

A: Mix it up with city tours, beach time, a visit to tobacco farms, and maybe a mountain hike.

Q: Adventurous things to do in Cuba?

A: Go snorkeling, zip-lining in Viñales, or dive into a cenote in the Zapata Peninsula.

Q: Things to do in Cuba with family?

A: Enjoy the beaches, take a classic car tour, learn salsa, and visit the Havana zoo.

Q: Active things to do in Cuba?

A: Hiking in Topes de Collantes, biking in the countryside, or diving in Varadero.

Q: Is Cuba safe?

A: Absolutely! It's known as one of the safest Caribbean islands for travelers, just use common sense though.

Q: Is 7 days enough for Cuba?

A: Yep, 7 days is good to hit the highlights, but there's more if you've got the time!

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Final Words

You've been whisked through Havana's secret art spots and shook your hips in Vedado's electric clubs. You've treated your taste buds to mouthwatering Paladar-dishes and retraced the steps of revolutionaries in Santiago de Cuba. You've wandered through Trinidad's alleys, explored Soroa's lush orchids, and let the serene waves of Playa ParaĂ­so wash over you.

You've fished with Gibara's artisans, braved the enigmatic Viñales caves, embraced serenity at Las Terrazas, delved into Santeria's spiritual depths, and savored the robust zest of homegrown coffee. There's an undeniable magic in each experience, a mosaic of memories just waiting to be created.

So, go ahead. Plan your journey, pack your bags, and get ready for the vibrant adventures that await in Cuba. There are endless things to do in Cuba—each moment just as enriching as the last. Dive into the culture, the history, and the nature of this beautiful island and return home with stories you'll cherish forever.

Meet the Author
Aria Ohlsson
Aria Ohlsson, the Instagram storyteller extraordinaire, takes you on adventures through her enchanting narratives. An avid hiker, she scales peaks and weaves tales of mountaintop triumphs. When she's not conquering trails, you'll find her immersed in classic novels, finding inspiration for her next tale.
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