Introduction to “Culture & The Arts in Cuba”

Like so many aspects of life in Cuba, ‘The Arts in Cuba’ are a product of mestizaje, the mixture of Spanish, criollo, African and Chinese cultural influences, which are evident in the island’s makeup, language, and the people themselves.

The articles in the ‘The Arts in Cuba’ section will explore the Cuban preoccupation with beauty in The Arts, an interest that dates to the outset of Cuban independence.

History

In 1902, at the end of the US occupation of Cuba that followed the Cuban War for Independence (known in US history books as the Spanish-American War), the island experienced its first cultural boom.  Builders laid the architectural foundations of modern-day Habana, beginning construction on the Malecón, the Presidential Palace, Paseo de Prado and Universidad Nacional.  Cuba also established itself as a cultural hotspot, creating theaters, operas, films, a circus, intellectual magazines, poetry, fine arts and music.[1]  The arts existed in the decades that followed Cuban independence, but failed to thrive in many ways due to a lack of state support beyond arts linked to the tourist industry.  Following the January 1959 victory of the Cuban Revolution, however, the government took on the expansion of national culture as a part of the revolution in the field of education.  The initial decade of the Cuban Revolution witnessed the formation of the Instituto del Arte e Industria Cinematográficos, Consejo Nacional de Cultura, Escuela Nacional del Arte, Conjunto de Danza Nacional de Cuba, Conjunto Folklórico Nacional, Ballet Nacional de Cuba, Orquestra Sinfónica Nacional, Coro Nacional, Unión Nacional de Escritores y Artistas de Cuba, la Brigada ´Hermanos Saís´(for young artists and writers), Instituto Cubano del Libro and Editorial Nacional de Cuba.  In addition, the state founded 29 new museums throughout the country by 1975.[2]

Today, the cultural focus on the arts, nature and history is evident as you walk through any neighborhood in Habana.  Cultural centers are scattered throughout the city.  On certain streets, there are theaters on every block.  Plays, concerts, art fairs, and music are a weekly presence in the capital city, as well as other areas including Cienfuegos, Santiago de Cuba and Granma.

Blog Topics

In these articles, I hope to share all of this with my readers.  I will include detailed posts on notable events, such as concerts and festivals, including pictures and stories.  I will visit and describe different museums and cultural centers and share photographs and stories about the beautiful architecture.  Finally, through a series of interviews and research, I will describe some of the notable Cuban traditions in the arts including dance, literature and film.

Author’s Objectives

Many of the events and stories shared in these articles are things that “the average tourist” will never see, due to lack of access or knowledge of the events and places.  In certain circumstances, the opposite will prove true…as there are shows and events in Cuba specifically for tourists that “the average Cuban” could never afford.  Since I am neither, I hope to explore every aspect of “The Arts in Cuba”, and how they pertain to the daily reality of life on the island.  Through my research I hope to prove that The Arts in Cuba have contributed to the unity of the people and the formation of a strong national identity in a nation long-plagued by a struggle for sovereignty.

Suggestions

To my readers:  Having read the introduction for this blog category, if you have a relevant topic or event that you would like to learn more about, please mention it in the ‘COMMENTS’ section of this page.  (Even if it is not in Habana, I am happy to travel to the other provinces for a good story!) I will do my best to research and write on all suggested topics.

Notes:

[1] López Civeira, Francisca, Oscar Loyola Vega and Arnaldo Silva León, Cuba

y su historia (la Habana, Editorial Félix Varela, 2004), 160-163.

[2] ibid, 268.

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