Mini Guide to Cuba
Old Havana: City in Movement
Organized by the respected Retazos Dance Company, the City in Movement festival is a celebration of dance. It takes place in Old Havana every April, with performances in the squares, parks, and museums in the area.
Artists show off traditional and contemporary dance choreographies, but there are also conferences, exhibitions, and workshops. Companies from more than 12 countries attend the festival as well as Cuban artists from 11 provinces who collaborate for the improvement of dance.
Carnival of Santiago de Cuba
Taking place at the end of July, the Carnival of Santiago de Cuba is the biggest and most famous in Cuba. It’s an explosion of colors, happiness, and street floats blasting body-shaking songs to the dancing crowds.
One of the main features of the carnival is the comparsas, which are street performances of musical groups and costumed dancers. Traditionally there were two categories: the rich and lavish playing orchestras called paseos, and the poor citizens playing percussions instruments called conga. Nowadays, it’s mainly the congas that fill the streets and party the day and night away.
People and Culture
Since the new Ministry of Tourism was created in 1994, the government has been investing heavily to attract visitors, with 4.5 million tourists in 2017. However, Cuba is still considered a “pure” country that hasn’t been “tarnished” by uncontrolled tourism.
Most of the population is super welcoming and will go out of their way to help travelers and make them feel at home. Visitors should try to stay in casas particulares (private houses with government licenses to operate) if they’d like to see the “real” Cuba.
Like other Caribbean countries, music plays a big part in people’s lives, and taking the time to watch and dance the rumba or salsa, might help you dig deeper into the culture.