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Every year our country dresses up to host various meetings where personalities from the world of arts and lovers of artistic genres come together. These are the festivals in Cuba, events that keep alive the artistic and cultural flame of the country.
Representatives of music, dance, cinema and other manifestations arrive for these meetings of enormous wealth and uniqueness. The always good reception of the Cuban public and the atmosphere of cultural dialogue that they foster make festivals in Cuba a celebration of quality and worldwide recognition.
At ICcaribbean we are going to a festival and we bring you the 12 most precious festivals in Cuba. Memorize their celebration dates and come to the Island during them. The invitation is already in your hands!
12 festivals in Cuba for a cultural dialogue
1. International Jazz Plaza Festival
For a few days after the second half of January, the most famous jazz festival in Cuba takes place in Havana. The event brings together the most renowned artists in the genre worldwide and serves as a launching pad for new talent on the Island.
The meeting point for greats of Cuban and international jazz arose from a series of meetings organized by the maestro Bobby Carcassés during 1980 in the Casa de la Cultura in the Plaza de La Habana municipality.
Since it was born, the International Jazz Plaza Festival had an enormous artistic and social impact. Gradually, participants and various institutions were added. Currently, it is organized by the Cuban Institute of Music (ICM) and the National Center for Popular Music.
Jazz is a genre that is also fed by other rhythms and cultural traditions. Hence, other Cuban genres such as salsa, rumba and son are appreciated at the festival.
If you suffer from jazz fever or are interested in the wide artistic and cultural panorama of the Island, this is a luxury event that you should not miss.
2. Alicia Alonso International Ballet Festival of Havana
And if it is about dance, one of the oldest and most prestigious festivals in Cuba is the International Ballet Festival of Havana. Since 2016, by agreement of the organizing committee, the event includes the name of the main figure of the Cuban National Ballet (BNC): Alicia Alonso.
This annual festival, held during the last days of October and the beginning of November, represents an ideal meeting place for lovers of the genre. And it is the opportunity for artistic exchange between leading figures in the world of dance, personalities, critics, specialists and businessmen.
Renowned companies from around the world come to the island and perform the shows held during the festival together with the Cuban National Ballet. Choreographic pieces by national and foreign authors are also premiered.
The main venue of the dance art festival is the Gran Teatro de La Habana Alicia Alonso. However, the festival brings with it a wave of activities such as ballet technique courses, exhibitions in galleries in the capital, conferences, book presentations, film and video cycles, among others.
“Dancing is reaching for a word that does not exist. Singing a song of a thousand generations. Feeling the meaning of a moment.”
3. Gibara International Poor Film Festival
Also known as the Huberto Solás International Poor Film Festival is held every year in the town of Gibara, Holguín. It was created in 2003 by the prestigious, and now deceased, film director Humberto Solás.
The founder chose this location for being the beautiful colonial city of Gibara (National Monument since 2004) where he filmed his classic Lucía in 1968, one of the icons of Cuban cinema.
The expression poor cinema refers to “low budget”. Hence, the films that compete are made with a budget of less than $300,000. The festival arises to make alternative cinema visible and is a way to stimulate the authors of films that are far from market budgets, but with high ethical and aesthetic rigor.
For 7 days in April, Gibara welcomes local and international personalities from the media, creating an open atmosphere for cultural exchange.
The film event is non-profit and has a strong community intention. It is a platform that integrates various artistic manifestations such as visual arts, music, theater and dance.
The Gibara Film Festival addresses a wide range of topics and provides an opportunity for new voices to be heard. At the same time, it is a way to stimulate ties between different countries that, in turn, make their cultures known.
Participants can compete in different modalities: competition for mock-up projects and unpublished scripts for feature films, short film competition, feature films and documentaries.
Attendees can also enjoy different activities that accompany the festival, such as exhibitions of new technologies, video art, forums open to the public, among others.
“This festival does not take place in a movie theater, it is lived in every street, in every square, in every house in Gibara, and the people of Gibara are the protagonists of this great carnival of the arts. They create the magic that makes it endearing. “
Jorge Perugorría, current president of the film competition
4. Changüí Festival
The changüí is the danceable musical genre that comes closest to son. This rhythm is native to the easternmost area of Cuba: Guantanamo. And it is precisely there, in the city of Baracoa, where another of the festivals in Cuba is celebrated: the Changüí Festival.
It is no coincidence that the greatest precursor of the changüí is a musician from Guantanamo: Elito Revé, who together with the famous Los Van Van orchestra, popularized the ancestral rhythm inside and outside Cuba.
The first village founded on the Island hosts this event, the only one of its kind, with a biennial frequency. During December 20 and 25, the representation of the best of changüí takes place.
The festival brings together the most prominent growers of this genre. It also attracts other Guantanamo musical-dance expressions and relevant figures of national music and culture.
During the event various activities take place such as theoretical exchanges, meeting of families cultivating rhythm, workshops to learn and play changüí, exhibitions, cycles of audiovisual materials, community changüisera clubs, among others.
The land of Guantanamo stands out not only for its beautiful landscapes and its deep history, the authenticity of its cultural diversity is undeniable. And if you want to soak up it, you must attend an event of such stature as the Changüí Festival.
5. Festival of Salsa in Cuba
Cuba is the mecca of dance music and has been characterized by a wide sound tradition. The salsa defended by the island’s orchestras is a fusion of sounds with its own “Cuban style” touch. It is a rhythm that turns out to be an irresistible invitation to dance casino, timba… to unleash the body in movements.
The Salsa Festival in Cuba is an initiative that aims to promote and internationalize Cuban music, open up the range of opportunities for artists and entertain the public. It is a project that seeks to endure the exceptional musical legacy of the Island.
This is an event whose main promoter and leader is Maykel Blanco, director of the Salsa Mayor orchestra. Every year for five days at the end of February, great exponents of the Cuban and international sound scene meet through this space.
The festival is a great draw for the public who enjoy nightly concerts and carnival shows. Some collateral activities are dance workshops of the different genres of Cuban music, visits to recording studios and conservatories, among other attractions.
If you are a lover of Cuban music you must come to this festival in Cuba. Here, if you don’t know how to dance, you will learn!
6. Varadero Josone International Festival
Varadero beach is famous for its beautiful blue waters. But Varadero also has the incredible natural park: Retiro Josone, where a great Latin music festival is held. Between palm trees, flowers, trees and a beautiful lake, the Varadero Josone Rumba, Jazz & Son International Festival takes place.
Since 2018, this festival has taken place in Cuba during 4 days of the summer month of August. The event is organized by the Musical Recordings and Editions Company (EGREM), the oldest Cuban record house. Its founder and honorary president is the famous Cuban salsa singer Isaac Delgado.
This is a project that generates an authentic musical movement that favors the exchange of experiences between Cuban and foreign musicians. Various styles and sounds of the music scene, from rumba, jazz and son to salsa, timba and urban music are the stars of this festival of sounds.
If you arrive at the appointment you will enjoy and dance with the best Cuban music and live international proposals. Your trip to the paradisiacal beach of Cuba will end with a flourish and two appendices of all Cubans: music and dance.
7. International Festival of New Latin American Cinema
Every December one of the most important festivals of Latin American cinema takes over the movie theaters of the Cuban capital. The event is organized by the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (Icaic). After its celebration, the coveted award is delivered: Coral Award.
The festival recognizes and disseminates cinematographic works that contribute to the enrichment and reaffirmation of the Latin American and Caribbean cultural identity. Most of the films that are shown address the real problems of the region. It is also nourished by the reality that happens and its presentations are proof of this.
Those attending the event can also enjoy a varied collection of magazines and books on the seventh art and other curiosities linked to this musical artistic genre. Some side activities include talks and debates.
There are many people who come here to enjoy the exceptional billboard at very affordable prices on the big screen. Without a doubt, the air that is breathed in the city during this celebration is magical, it is the ideal time to visit it.
8. International Drum Festival Festival
During the first days of March, one of the best-known music and dance festivals is celebrated in Cuba: the Guillermo Barreto in Memoriam Drum Festival International Festival. The figure to which the event pays posthumous recognition is one of the greatest percussionists of all time in America.
The Fiesta del Tambor features the main popular dance music orchestras in Cuba, several of the most outstanding dance companies in the country, foreign guests, jazz groups and folkloric groups.
The sessions and shows that take place become authentic popular festivals where dance and percussion embrace each other naturally. Such is the case of the master classes that are given and the international percussion, casino dance and rumba competitions.
The objective of this endearing party is to rescue the tradition of Cuban percussion, characterized by African sounds and maintain the legacy of the casino and the rumba as typical dances of Cuba. Dare to be part of this celebration full of Cubanness!
9. French Film Festival in Cuba
Every year the largest gala film festival held outside of France is held in Cuba and, of course, one of the most relevant French cinema in the world. It has been held annually since its inception in 1996.
The event hosts between 60,000 and 100,000 spectators in each of its editions. Among them thousands of Cubans who attend the cinemas to see first-hand the film production of the European country, cradle of the so-called seventh art.
The festival program exhibits the best titles of French filmography in recent years, documentaries and fiction shorts that attest to the solidity of French cinema in this field.
During the festival, cinemas come alive like never before. Couples, groups of friends and co-workers go out early to take a walk and see as many movies as they can.
These conferences are a unique opportunity to bring our audience closer to the aesthetic challenges and authentic cultural expressions of one of the most prestigious cinematographies in the world.
10. Havana World Music Festival (HWM)
Another of the festivals in Cuba is the Havana World Music Festival (HWM), an event that is characterized by the fusion of different trends and musical styles typical of these times. It is celebrated in the month of March and brings together bands from countries all over the world.
The event also welcomes young Cuban groups selected through the HWM Primera Base call: a contest that promotes the work of new artists based on the Island.
HWM is a great musical and cultural festival where the richness of diversity and miscegenation are exalted.
Since it began in 2014, each edition surprises the public with different styles, languages, cultures and expressions. Havana is a witness on its stage of the exchange of world music. Do you dare to be part of the show?
11. Pina Colada Festival
Surely you have heard of the tasty and refreshing Cuban cocktail piña colada. This fruit is widely cultivated in the center of Cuba where an excellent fusion music festival is held.
Under the slogan “Music and youth”, the Piña Colada Festival fills the city of Ciego de Ávila with life every April. The Avilanian land serves as a platform for the meeting of different artists and musical genres that allow the public to enjoy good music.
The biggest attraction of the festival are the great concerts in the main squares of the city. However, the proposal focuses on highlighting popular and traditional Cuban culture, which is why all expressions of art are involved.
During the festival you can find performances by dance and theater groups, literary gatherings, documentary screenings, exhibitions, craft sales and large dance parties.
Don’t think twice and get here! It is your opportunity to enjoy the musical richness of this Caribbean island.
12. The Footprint of Spain Festival
Descendants or not of Spaniards can enjoy each year -for a few days in April- the La Huella de España Festival. The event is sponsored by the National Ballet of Cuba, the Ministry of Culture of Cuba, the Embassy of Spain and the Federation of Spanish Societies of Cuba.
If we go back in time, the first presentation of this beautiful project was on February 4, 1989 at the Castillo de la Real Fuerza.
The idea was in charge of the then Consul General of Spain on the Island, Juan José Santos Aguado. The idea was born together with the recently deceased prima ballerina assoluta Alicia Alonso, at that time general director of the National Ballet of Cuba.
The days of the project show not only the strength and indisputable validity of the Iberian culture in Cuba, but also the artistic life and customs of the Spanish regions and autonomous communities.
Each edition overlaps different artistic manifestations: dance, photography, crafts, literature and language, plastic arts, lyrical singing, cinema and theater.
The communities of Galicia, Andalusia, the Canary Islands, the Balearic Islands, Catalonia and Asturias have been recognized for being regions deeply rooted in Cuban culture.
The Cuban festival La Huella de España has built a bridge between the two nations, allowing closer cultural ties and reviving traditions.
Do not lose this chance !
Although the island of Cuba is full of beautiful places to visit, the truth is that it is also the host of various events that provide an incredible attraction. It’s like reading a book and living it at the same time. Experiences like these provide an incomparable sensation and if you have the opportunity to feel them, don’t let it pass you by.
Music, dance, theater, and film festivals, among other events, are held in Cuba throughout the year. This time we brought you only 12 but the truth is that the list is much longer. This was just a little boost to spark that festive spark inside of you. Show us that we are not wrong!
If you plan to come to the island for your next and long-awaited vacation, do not miss the opportunity of these wonderful experiences that it offers.
Here we leave you the best offers to get your tickets at the best price.