CubaPLUS Magazine

Full throttle: The Carnival of Santiago de Cuba

By: Amanda Bedia Photo José Manuel Cordero
Jul 03, 2023
Full throttle: The Carnival of Santiago de Cuba

It is true as a temple that the Carnival of Santiago de Cuba is among the most grandiose popular festivities in the country, valued as a National Cultural Heritage, with the respectable consent of Unesco. Born from the traditional religious processions dedicated to Apostle Santiago, patron saint of the town, every July 25, this socio-cultural transition took a few years to crystallize, like all good creations.

carnavales-santiago-03.jpgAnd in this process, which began in the 17th century, there was the contribution of customs of Hispanic and African origin, fundamentally, and those given by Chinese and Antillean emigrants. You know, the famous ajiaco or nutritious spicy soup that is the culture and idiosyncrasy around these parts. Those fervent processions, today turned into phenomenal popular revelries, began to acquire their current characteristics in the 20th century, with parades, musical dance groups "congas" in downtown enclaves, competitions, and fun games, children carnivals from the 20th century, according to the experts.

It must be recognized that the playing of the conga of Santiago has no rival, with the dressing of the peculiar Chinese bugle, which together with the frenzy of the drums invoke rhythms contributed by ancestors from Africa, without forgetting old traditions of the metropolis. Sure, all elements are enriched by mixing and life. The most important popular festival in Santiago and for many, in Cuba, takes place every year generally between July 21 and 27, with special emphasis on the 25th, dedicated to the patron saint.

carnavales-santiago-04.jpgThe days of Santa Cristina and Santa Ana are also celebrated, on July 24 and 25, respectively. The famous Conga de los Hoyos, from the humble and homonymous neighborhood of Sandunguero, is an institution in the city, considered the most Caribbean in the nation, where the striking Fiesta del Fuego is celebrated periodically, which unites the peoples and cultures of the Caribbean and the world.

Santiago de Cuba is the cradle of important musical movements that marked the birth of the traditional minstrel songs (trova), the bolero, and the peerless son, emblematic genres. It is also the homeland of important artists such as Miguel Matamoros, Ñico Saquito, Pepe Sánchez... and so many that we could not include here. Carnivals, with a seal that jealously guards beautiful traditions, do not stop evolving either, for the better, and for that reason, they remain worthy of their fame. The best thing they have, apart from the spectacular creativity and beauty of their shows, is the deliciousness of their parties, where Enjoyment, with capital letters, has the scepter.

You don't have to ask for anything better.

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