History and Customs
The customs of the Cuban people stem from African and Spanish roots, with remnants of American, Asian, and European traditions mixed in. A long history of Spanish colonialism and a dependency on African slaves, set the stage for this complex mixture of different, often contradicting factors, that make up modern Cuban culture.
Music, Dance, and Art
Support for the Arts
Part of the ideal of the Cuban revolution of 1959 was that each citizen’s abilities should be nurtured, even if those talents are not economically productive. To that end, the state supports promising artists and art schools, and can be credited with founding the Cuban Film Institute, the National Cultural Council, Ministry of Culture in 1976 which directs a program of education through the National School for the Arts in music, visual arts, ballet, dramatic arts, and modern dance, with a possibility to go on to university level.
Known for its cultural diversity, the island pulsates with some of the best music in the world – an exhilarating fusion of Spanish and African sounds, modern and traditional influences. Today, famous Cuban artists travel the globe representing this small but creatively fierce island.
Dancing comes as naturally as breathing to most Cubans. It is part of daily life and is also supported by the state. The National Center of Schools of Art has two ballet schools and a modern dance school. The Cuban National Ballet School, located in Havana, the largest ballet school in the world, with approximately 3,000 students.
In the past, art was ideologically constrained by government censors. But over time, restrictions on freedom of speech and expression have loosened in society and Cuban art reflects these changes. Since the international art world has taken great interest in Cuban artistic production, it has become a potential source of external revenue from tourists and art dealers and the government has become more permissive toward free expression and even protest art due to the recognition Cuban artists are receiving in the U.S. and Europe.
Havana hosts the internationally renowned New Latin American Film Festival every year. Cubans love going to the cinema; it is a favored and inexpensive form of recreation, with entry being only around 15¢.
Writers enjoy the privileged position of visionary thinkers, partly a result of the fact that the hero of Cuban nationalism was a poet, José Martí. In the early years of the Revolution, there was considerable censorship, but the state relaxed censorship in 1987 and now allows critical ideas to be debated openly as long as debate is kept peaceful.
It’s safe and legal to travel to Cuba. Find out more about Our Cuba Tours.