People and Culture
The following gives an insight into the Cuban people and their culture with reference to Cuba’s population structure, language, culture, religion and official public holidays.
Cuba is not only the largest Caribbean island by land, but also by population. Despite a population of 11 million, the population density in Cuba is however relatively low, in comparison to other Caribbean islands. Nearly a quarter of the population live in the capital of Havana. In the first century after colonisation, the majority of the indigenous population were wiped out. The few survivors then began to mingle with the Spaniards and African slaves, making the island a fascinating tapestry of different nationalities and cultures.
The official language in Cuba is Spanish; but Cuban Spanish is animaginative and vibrant variation of the original. However, English is also spoken in the tourist areas of the island. Thanks to its good education system, the literacy rate in Cuba is significantly higher than in other Latin American countries. Many people come to Cuba from far and wide especially to learn Spanish.
The Constitution of Cuba guarantees religious freedom and state secularism. The majority of the Cuban population either follow Roman Catholicism or religions with African roots.
Music and dance naturally play the most important role in Cuban culture. Many of the Latin American dancing styles were born in Cuba and continue to keep Cuba alive. Some of the Caribbean rhythms and dances we know and love today originated from the rituals, music and instruments of the slaves. Son Cubano, Rumba, Mambo, Cha Cha Cha and Salsa are just a few examples of the dances and music styles found in Cuba.
Literature also plays a major role in Cuban culture, and provides a brief insight into the Cuban way of thinking. Many of Cuba’s writers are also well known in Europe. Literature is not only important for Cuba’s authors, but for the Cuban society as a home. Every week, culture enthusiasts from all walks of life meet at their local “cultural house” to perform their latest work, recite poetry and have lively and animated discussions. The most well-known author associated with Cuba, is Ernest Hemingway, who lived on the island as an American citizen for 20 years.
Cuba also offers a wide range of events, such as the Havana Ballet Festival, the Havana Biennial Art Exhibition and the Film Festival, “Festival Internacional del Nuevo Cine Latino americano” which takes place every December. It is the most important film festival in Latin America and attracts film buffs from all around the world, including in recent years the big Hollywood names.
The Cuban Carnival held in February offers the chance to relive history during the time of slavery. Every four years, once the African slave associations, or “cabildos”, had voted for their “King”, they would descend on the streets, wearing vibrant costumes, singing, drumming and dancing. Soon, groups of performers were formed and became known as the “comparsas”. Since the wildly spontaneous parades were so very different to the religious ones of the White population, they always attracted many curious spectators. To compete with the Black Cubans in the 19th century, the White Cubans began to organise their own processions which were sponsored by large companies. Since there were conflicts between the two groups, the festivities of the Black Cubans were later banned. After the revolution in 1969, the government ruled that the Carnival would be moved to July so as not to jeopardise the sugarcane harvest. After the Carnival was banned once again for a significant length of time due to financial reasons, the Carnival was reintroduced in 1996 as a means to draw more tourists. Finally, in 1999, the Carnival was moved back to its original slot in February.
* Bank Holiday
Festivals and Holidays
* 1st January
Día de la Revolución
Anniversary of Revolution
* 2nd January
Victory of Armed Forces Day
Birth of José Martí
Second half of February
Beginning of the Revolution 1895
International Women’s Day
Anniversary of the attack on the Presidential Palace
Victory at the Bay of Pigs
Culture Festival in Santiago
* 1st May
International Labour Day
* 25th-27th July
National Rebellion Day (Anniversary of attack on Moncado Barracks)
Day of the Martyrs of the Revolution
* 8th October
Death of Ernesto Che Guevara in 1967
* 10th October
Anniversary of the Beginning of the War of Independence in 1868
Day of student Martyrs
Ballet Festival in Havana
Music Festival in Varadero
Choir Festival in Santiago de Cuba
Parranda Fest in Remedios