Who we are
Cuba and Iceland are two unique islands on opposite ends of the Gulf Stream. Our extensive knowledge and close relationships allow us to design sophisticated production and travel programs.
Project Por Amor was established in 2007 when founder Sage Lewis was developing his groundbreaking multimedia theater performance, The Closest Farthest Away. This award-winning performance was the first time a U.S. theater work had been performed in Cuba since 1958 and received unprecedented reviews. It bridged a barrier between Cuba and the United States and opened the doors to a greater mission: to reconnect Americans with Cubans through deep and meaningful cultural exchanges.
Today, Project Por Amor has brought thousands of U.S. citizens to Cuba on life-changing cultural tours that focus on connecting people through a panorama of art, theater, film, music, cuisine, and culture. As experts in Cuba and the arts, we produce film, theater, dance, art, and music exchanges for some of the world’s biggest names such as Preservation Hall Jazz Band, the Chicago Children’s Choir, Theatre Communications Group, Stripe, and many others. We also host a virtual speaker series called Por Amor Conversations, where Cuban and Icelandic experts discuss various topics that are followed by a Q&A session with the attendees.
Project Por Amor’s newest obsession is Iceland with its unparalleled landscapes, a booming music scene, and an innovative and friendly lifestyle. We offer insider life-changing cultural tours or we can execute your next project there. Iceland and Cuba may seem like they are completely different, however they share a love of the arts, innovative culture, and human connection making both islands worth experiencing. We would love to be your hosts!
We are in a unique moment to influence the course of world history together and the time is now. As leadership attitudes change, we enter a fragile new opportunity where, for the first time in all of history, Cuba and the US could have a healthy economic, social, cultural, and political partnership. The coming years of the normalization begun by Obama will be full of changes, risks, losses, new possibilities, misunderstandings, and triumphs.
Project Por Amor is doing something different from politics. It’s actually envisioning the arts and cultural exchange as the most effective way to rebuild the relationship between the US and Cuba. What we are initiating now is not about the past but about letting the people pioneer new friendships and deeper understandings for the future. It is an opportunity for artists and other professionals to be there first, take the lead, and be the force that is going to make real change happen before corporate and political entities join in. But this can only happen if we take the initiative now to engage.
Finally, there is nothing more rewarding or magical than seeing, hearing, and building friendship with a neighbor who has been forbidden to us for over 60 years. This project is about a centuries-old love between our cultures and remembering that the arts and cultural exchange has a transformational impact on the world we live in. We want to re-ignite an old tradition of collaboration that existed between Cuban and American artists dating back before 1900. Luminaries used to travel back and forth to perform in Havana, NYC, Miami, Hollywood, and New Orleans: Ernest Hemingway, Dizzy Gillespie, Chano Pozo, Duke Ellington, Walker Evans, L.M. Gottschalk, Max Roach, Nat King Cole, George Gershwin, Aaron Copland, Ernesto Lecuona, Marco Rizo, and Desi Arnaz–this is for you.
In 2017 we focused our attention on Iceland as a new destination for both travel and collaboration. This island shares many of the same qualities we like about Cuba. Both countries have more musicians per capita than anywhere else in the world. Sage is a composer, and this sparked an interest to learn more about this magical island with its rich music scene. A door was opened when René Goiffon, a patron of our Cuba trips, proposed a collaboration to curate music-oriented Iceland tours. René retired as President of a leading record label, Harmonia Mundi, where he had developed deep knowledge and contacts in the Icelandic music world. Like Cuba, Iceland has fascinating art, delicious food, and joyful people. The more we discovered about this country, the more fascinating it becomes. It is possibly the most forward-thinking, innovative, progressive, and ecological place in the world. Iceland’s beautiful and dramatic landscapes are formed by glaciers, volcanoes, hot springs, lava fields, rainbows, waterfalls, and clear Arctic light, making it an otherworldly environment. The people share a distinctive spirituality within the culture that understands there is a magical element to life. Icelanders are charming, quirky, and hospitable. The island has all the ingredients to create experiences that are life changing and we are passionate to share that with you.
Meet The Team
CEO & Founder
Sage Lewis is a composer who has been active in Havana’s music, film, and theater life for twenty years. After studying piano and percussion in Cuba as a teenager, he produced a large multi-media theater performance in 2009 between U.S. and Cuban artists called The Closest Farthest Away. It was the first U.S. theater work to be performed in Cuba since 1958. Sage was awarded the prestigious Sherwood Award by Center Theatre Group and commissioned to compose a song that was performed by American and Cuban children’s choirs united through live video projections in Havana, Miami, and Los Angeles. Since then Sage has produced numerous large-scale arts productions and cutting-edge cultural tours throughout Cuba for US artists, institutions, universities, and other groups. Sage also loves and specializes in Iceland and its music. When he’s not traveling, Sage lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two daughters and composes music for film, television, virtual reality, and brand campaigns. His scores can be heard on Netflix, HBO, Oculus, Apple Apps & Music, Amazon Prime, Spotify, and many other platforms. For more information visit sagelewismusic.com To listen to Sage’s Icelandic music playlist on Spotify click here.
A native of Cuba with deep roots in the island, Al is a producer who has presented Cuban artists in the USA and American artists in Cuba for over thirty years. He has been in the Cuba travel business for over 20 years. He co-founded Havana Light Neon + Signs, a historic preservation organization in Cuba to relight Havana’s vintage neón signs. He was General Manager of the City of L.A.’s Department of Cultural Affairs for 12 years ending in 2001. He was President of the L.A. Cultural Affairs Commission for three years. He has also served as Trustee of L.A. City Retirement Commissions and until 2014 was the President of the Sister Cities of Los Angeles Association. Al published Memoria: Cuban Art of the Twentieth Century, a definitive reference book of Cuban art of the period. He was the co-founder and producer of Presencia Cubana Festival in Echo Park, L.A. for over twenty years. He is a committed neon sign restorer having restored over a hundred historic signs in the City of Los Angeles and quite a few in Havana.
Graphic Designer & Customer Relations
Alyssa Fractor is a graphic designer with a passion for traveling, arts, and culture. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Art and Technology from the University of Oregon in 2018, with an emphasis on graphic and digital design. Alyssa started working for Project Por Amor in the summer of 2019, combining her love of travel and arts into a career that allows her to persue both interests. In addition to working for Project Por Amor, she also works on freelance design projects specializing in visual identities, poster design, and cover art. Her work can be found at alyssashaye.com. When Alyssa is not working on various design projects or traveling, she can be found corresponding with all of our travelers to ensure they are well prepared for their trips.
Iceland Travel Associate
Rene Goiffon came to the US from France in 1982 and built the critically lauded independent record company Harmonia Mundi USA. Giffon’s longtime interests in music and traveling led him to create World Village, a subsidiary label of Harmonia Mundi that releases world music albums. Both Harmonia Mundi and world village have received multiple Awards and Grammy nominations. He is married to Grammy Award-winning classical producer Robina Young. He has traveled several times to Iceland where he became familiar with most of the people and places listed in the itinerary. To listen to René’s Icelandic music playlist on Spotify click here.
Gretell Sintes Gomez
Gretell graduated from the School of Foreign Languages at the University of Havana in English and French language in 2011. Since then, and for almost 10 years, she has put her skills to practice as a tour guide with Havanatur travel agency. Her duties include organizing activities, interpreting, being up-to-date with Cuban history and culture, public relations, and meeting the expectations and needs of her travelers in all domains. Her friendly personality as well as her desire to work hard only makes her become more passionate about every experience she provides. She has led tours for US senators, singers, art and jazz lovers, universities, entrepreneurs and doctors. Gretell loves art in every form. Dance and music run in her Cuban blood. She is a fan of movies and in her free time she likes to photograph neon signs and the beauties of her Havana.
Film & Media Producer
Jorge Nhils is a veteran film producer and AD in Havana. He studied English, TV production, film producing, and audiovisual communications from Cuba’s top film schools including the International School of Film & TV in San Antonio de los Baños and the Instituto Superior de Arte. For over fifteen years Jorge has been producing films, special effects, and animation for Cuba’s ICAIC (Cuban Institute of Cinematic Arts & Industry), producing series for Cuban television RTV Comercial, documentaries for the UNEAC (National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba, and shorts for Tropix, and managed 90 PAs for Vin Diesel’s The Fast & Furious 8. Jorge has been facilitating numerous film productions for Project Por Amor since 2007 as well as projects for world class directors including Kaveh Nabatian (Canada), Abbas Kiarostami (Iran), Danny Gold (Hollywood), and Lav Díaz (Philippines).