Festivals in Cuba

In contrast with other Latin American countries, there are no national religious festivals, although you will find some patron saints' days celebrated in churches (often linked to
Santería
) and Easter is an important time. Processions are usually limited to taking place within the church itself and not all round the streets of the town.
Christmas Day
was reintroduced as a public holiday in 1997 (having been banned after the Revolution) prior to a visit from the Pope and has become a regular event with Christmas trees and tinsel, but a whole generation missed out on celebrating it and there is little awareness of what it signifies. Public holidays are political and historical events and are marked by speeches, rallies and other gatherings, often in each town's Plaza de la Revolución. Carnival
takes place in the heat of July in Santiago. Havana's Carnival is moved around a lot, sometimes August, sometimes October or November; you can't rely on the date. While operating with limited budgets, these events are colourful, energetic and have a raw vibrancy. Parades are accompanied by music, drumming, dancing and competitions involving children and adults and requiring lots of stamina. There are lots of cultural and sporting festivals and events held throughout the year.

January


New Year
is celebrated around the country with great fanfare, largely because it coincides with
Liberation Day
, marking the end of the Batista dictatorship, on 1 Jan. There is lots of music and dancing, outdoor discos and general merriment, washed down with copious quantities of rum.
Cubadanza
is a twice-yearly dance festival.

Festival de la Trova 'Longina'
in Santa Clara, celebrating the life of the great trovador, Manuel Corona, with a pilgrimage to Caibarién, his birth place on 9 Jan.


February


International Jazz Plaza Festival
is held every other year at theatres and the Casa de la Cultura de Plaza. It is one of the world's major jazz festivals with the best of Cuban and international jazz. There are masterclasses and workshops available and the event is organized by Grammy winner Jesús 'Chucho' Valdés. CUC$20 entrance per concert or CUC$120 unlimited access to all the events, workshops etc, www.festival jazzplaza.icm.cu.


Havana International Book Fair
is held at La Cabaña; a commercial fair in the castle,
immensely popular with book-hungry families
, who come for a day out. Look out for new book launches. Also held in many cities around the island, www.cubaliteraria.com.


Vuelta a Cuba de Ciclismo
is a cycle through every province: agencia@cubadeportes.cu
.
Cigar Festival
, www.festivaldelhabano.com,
introduced in the last few years, is for true aficionados of
Habanos
. Held at the Palacio de las
Convenciones, you can learn about the history of cigars and there are opportunities for visits to tobacco plantations and cigar factories.


March


Bienal de la Habana
is held over a month and takes place every 2 years, gathering over 200 artists from 40 countries in the Centro de Arte Contemporáneo Wifredo Lam, Centro de Arte La Casona, Parque Morro-Cabaña, Pabellón Cuba and other venues, www.bienalhabana.cult.cu.


Festival Danzón Habana
, held at the Teatro América, Centro Hispanoamericano de Cultura y Unión Fraternal, at the end of the month and into April, musicians and dancers celebrate danzón, contact José Loyola, eventos@paradis.artex.cu.


International Electrical Acoustic Music Festival
takes place every other year in Havana, with workshops and performances:, lnme@cubarte.cult.cu.


Festival Internacional de la Trova 'Pepe Sánchez'
is held at the Casa de la Trova and the Sala de Concierto Dolores in Santiago with concerts, roving musicians, conferences and other events: cpmusica@cultstgo.cult.cu.


April


Festival Internacional de Cine Pobre de Humberto Solás
in Gibara, a film festival to showcase low-budget movies, contact Sergio Benvenuto, festivalcinepobre@icaic.cu.

A very popular event is the
Copa Cuba Ciclismo
track cycle racing competitions: agenciaco@cubadeportes.cu.


May


Romerías de Mayo
, Holguín. A cultural festival with young and old artists, musicians and intellectuals from Cuba and overseas, events take place all over the city: eventos@paradis.artex.cu.


Festival Internacional de Poesía de La Habana
at the Basílica Menor de San Francisco de Asís and other locations.

The Unión Nacional de Escritores y Artistas de Cuba (UNEAC) gathers poets from all corners for a celebration of poetry: eventos@paradis.artex.cu.


June


International Ernest Hemingway White Marlin Fishing Tournament
is one of the major events at the Marina Hemingway:  yachtclub@cnih.mh.cyt.cu.


Cuculambeana Festival
, Las Tunas. Celebration
of traditional folk music of the area: eventos@paradis.artex.cu.


July


Cuballet de Verano
is a summer dance festival: prodanza@cubarte.cult.cu.


Festival del Caribe 'Fiesta del Fuego'
is held in the 1st week of Jul in Santiago with theatre, dancing and conferences, continuing later in the month to coincide with the Moncada celebrations on 26 Jul.
Carnival
in Santiago (18-27 Jul) is a week-long musical extravaganza taking in the city's patron saint's day, 25 Jul, but it traditionally stops for a day on 26 Jul for a day of more serious political celebrations: caribe@cultstgo.cult.cu.


August


Que Siempre Brille el Sol
baseball tournament
is always a popular event: agencia@cubadeportes.cu.
Cubadanza
, the 2nd of the year, with workshops and courses.


September

International Blue Marlin Fishing Tourna- ment at Marina Hemingway. The marina fills up with mostly US fishermen eager to pit their strength against marlin and their fellow competitors, with lots of après-fishing social events: yachtclub@cnih.mh.cyt.cu.

October


Havana Contemporary Music Festival
held at UNEAC and theatres at the end of the month: promoven@uneac.co.cu.
Festival Internacional del Son 'Matamoros Son'
at Teatro Heredia, Santiago. Music and dancing to celebrate
son
and famous
soneros
.


Havana International Ballet Festival
held every other year in the 2nd half of the month at the Gran Teatro, Teatro Nacional and Teatro Mella. Run by Alicia Alonso, head of the Cuban National Ballet, bnc@cubarte.cult.cu.


Fiesta de la Cubanía
, Bayamo, with celebrations in the plazas of traditional folklore, music, dance and other cultural activities.
Fiesta de la Cultura Iberoamericana
, in Holguín, celebrating all things Spanish and Latin American at the Casa de Iberoamérica: eventos@paradis.artex.cu.


Havana Theatre Festival
, at theatres and plazas all over the city at the end of Oct and into Nov, contemporary international and
Cuban drama, workshops and seminars: eventos@paradis.artex.cu.


November


International Tournament of Wahoo Fishing
at the Marina Hemingway: yachtclub@cnih.mh.cyt.cu.


Marabana
, Havana's marathon, agencia@cubadeportes.cu, or for more information contact the Federación Cubana de Maratones, marabana@inder.cu.


Festival Internacional de Coros
held at the Sala de Concierto Dolores in Santiago: eventos@paradis.artex.cu.


December

International Festival of New Latin American Cinema
shows prize-winning films (no subtitles)
at cinemas around Havana. This is the foremost film festival in Latin America with the best of Cuban and Latin American films along with documentaries and independent cinema from Europe and the USA. See the stars as well as the films, as the festival attracts big-name actors and directors, festival@festival.icaic.cu, www.habanafilmfestival.com.


Happy End of Year Regatta
at the Marina Hemingway for 3 days with social events that always accompany the racing fraternity: yachtclub@cnih.mh.cyt.cu.


This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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