The art and culture of Cuba

Street art in Havana, photo by subtleflame on Flickr

For a long time, Cuba has been a controversial country, with revolutions and embargoes dotting its history, but with roots that went much deeper, into Spanish colonial history, slave trade and an industry based on sugar production and force labor. And yet out of these miserable experiences a culture unlike any other emerged, and today Cuba is one of the most fascinating cultures in the Caribbean, and perhaps the world. The official language of Cuba is Spanish, but like other Caribbean countries, much of its culture consist of elements brought in by slaves from African countries, as well as a foundation of indigenous traditions and beliefs. When you visit this country, experiencing the art and culture of Cuba is just as important as seeing its attractions, enjoying its natural beauty, or doing all sorts of exciting activities, so here’s a taster of what is expecting you.

Cuban Music

photo by dido on Flickr

Just like anything else in Cuba, the music is a pick and mix of European and Afro-Caribbean styles. For the past two centuries, Cuban music has gained a huge popularity over the globe, and became an inspiration for musicians worldwide. There are several styles of traditional Cuban pop music, from zarzuela (a form of light operetta) to bufo (a type of satirical, comical music with well known characters), guaracha (an uptempo music style), trova (guitar music), cancion, peasant songs, zapateo, and many, many others. Cuban jazz has been overlooked for a long time, but it has a history as long as in the US, and there are many venues where you can listen to live Cuban jazz. But perhaps the most well known of Cuban music genres is rumba, which is of entirely African origin. Salsa is equally famous, and its rhythms can be heard all over Cuba.

Cuban art

Cuban art is very diverse and reflects the historical and cultural heritage of the country. There are many Cuban painters and photographers that rose to international fame. Amelia Pelaez, known for her murals, and painter Wilfredo Lam are quite famous, as well as photographer Alberto Korda, who took photos of various events of the Cuban Revolution, as a series of well known pictures of revolutionary leader Che Guevara. One of the best ways to get up to date on Cuban art is to attend the Havana Biennal, which promotes ‘third world’ contemporary art.

Festivals, fairs and exhibitions

Havana, photo by Tony Hisgett

Cuban festivals are one of the purest and most enjoyable expression of Cuban culture, so it is worth checking if there’s something going on when you travel to Cuba. Music festivals are quite widespread, both in the larger cities and in smaller towns, so you can get to know contemporary Cuban music in its finest form. The art and culture of Cuba are virtually everywhere you go in the country, just keep an eye out for any events that sound interesting!

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