Carnivals and troupes in Cuba

Carnivals and troupes in Cuba


By Nina Pereira

Very varied are the customs that have been forged in Cuba in the heat of carnivals, those celebrations that mark times in the world and that in this Caribbean island have been distinguished by their animation and a certain healthy rivalry between participants.

As sometimes happens with older people, it happened in Havana at the beginning of the 19th century. Dancers par excellence, Cubans in various regions of the country, have given a leading role to the troupes, which show off rhythm, music, colorful costumes, original accessories and ingenious choreographies, ensembles, several of which even exist in our days.

One of them is that of El Alacrán (Scorpion), in the Havana neighborhood of Cerro, a popular, populous and very musical area, which in the 1912 festivities met its rival, the troupe of El Gavilán, (The Hawk) born in the central intersection of Belascoaín and San Lázaro, in Central Havana, and the brawl broke out.

Due to these differences, it was established that the troupes could only parade in their neighborhoods, but in the aforementioned year, Mayor Fernando Freyre de Andrade authorized free movement through the city.

The chroniclers say the clash between The Scorpion and The Hawk ended with three dead, several wounded and —all a spiritual tragedy— the capture of the scorpion banner by the hawks was buried it to mark their superiority.

The claim was a matter of honor to be recovered and did not wait. Those from The Scorpion found and unearthed its symbol, with also a regrettable balance of injuries. The impact of these events led to the banning of carnival parades for more than twenty years, and they were only reinstated in 1938.