The African Roots of Cuban Culture
Enjoy the holidays on a two week journey through Cuba!
The African Roots of Cuban Culture is one of the Center’s most exciting trips: a two week journey across the island, exploring Cuba’s African roots in its most important cities: Havana, Cienfuegos, Trinidad, Camaguey, Santiago de Cuba.
We start in Havana to include the once a year Christmas Eve World Heritage event in Remedios, Las Parrandas. By New Year’s Eve we’ll be celebrating in Santiago.
In these two weeks, you’ll see some of the best folkloric dancing on the island, hear some of the best music anywhere [so says The New York Times], meet with the writers and historians who know the most about the subject. Much of what you’ll see and hear will be unplanned, too.
Last year we spent an entire evening in a Camaguey parking lot (at the suggestion of and with the director of one of the city’s leading dance groups) watching and listening to the sounds of dozens of musicians who worked their magic on an improvised stage. There was no public advertising for the event, you had to know it was happening. The Center’s connections to Cuban cultural life make such immersion in the culture possible.
What a wonderful trip! I want to thank you for your devotion to this wonderful country,
so that we got to see it through your eyes and with the people you know so well. . . Muchas gracias.
Sally Fink, lawyer, Ann Arbor MI, February, 2016, African Roots trip.
The African Roots of Cuban Culture
Sample 15 day tour - which can be expanded or shortened.
US - Havana
Arrive mid-day, go through customs and we’ll go to lunch on the way to checking into your B&B.
- Lunch at El Aljibe
- Check into lodgings
- Visit studio of Eduardo Roca (awarded the most prestigious art prize given by the Cuban government in 2018, who has a major exhibit opening at the Museum of Fine Arts in Havana in December)
- Guided tour of two of Havana’s major plazas, Plaza Mayor and Plaza Vieja.
- Return to lodging for R&R
- Welcome dinner at San Cristobal, a restaurant steeped in Afro-Cuban traditional art and artifacts.
- Havana Compas Dance
- Print Workshop, Cathedral Square
- Lunch on your own at one of the many paladars in Cathedral Square
- Africa Museum
- Visit GMG, the new gallery in San Isidro started by well-known actor- painter Jorge Perugorria, showcasing new young artists.
- Visit photographer Roberto Salas and/or photographer/director Roberto Chile to see their photo-essays of black Cubans, their lives, ceremonies.
- Return to hotel, rest or walk around.
- Dinner at El Cocinero and a visit to the Cuban Art Factory (FAC) which showcases contemporary Cuban art, movies and design, as well as music, dance and different cultural installations.
Havana - Jaimanitas
- Guided tour of the Museum of Fine Arts (included), with special attention to Toirac’s new exhibit and the entire Cuban collection.
- Visit the “Callejón de Hamel” for a talk on Santeria, dance demonstration and a meeting with the artist, Salvador González, who created this famous alleyway of Afro-Cubania OR
- Drive to Jaimanitas on the outskirts of Havana for lunch (included) and tour of the painting studio and ceramic and sculptural installations scattered throughout the town done by artist José Fuster.
- Visit the home studio of Sandra Dooley in Santa Fe.
- Return to Havana. Perhaps a 5 pm ballet or concert performance (we’ll see what’s on: 5 pm is a popular time for Sunday performances.)
- Meet with Marta Rojas (long-time Granma journalist) or Esteban Morales (one of Cuba’s leading experts on Afro-Cuban cultural history).
- Lunch at a local paladar
- Free for special music events happening in Central Havana.
- San José Crafts Market
Havana - Remedios
- Leave for Remedios, a drive of approximately 3-4 hours, depending on roads, stops, etc.
- Arrive Remedios and check into Hotel Encanto. Lunch at the hotel or a paladar.
Remedios is the 8th oldest city in Cuba, and is famous for its Christmas festival, “Las Parrandas de Remedios.” We love making this trip to arrive in Remedios for Christmas.
Remedios - Trinidad
- Enjoy Remedios.
- Leave Remedios (unless you want to stay longer!)
- Arrive Trinidad, check in to B&B “La Calesa,” and spend some time walking through the cobblestoned streets of this historic city.
- Dinner at a local paladar.
After dinner, listen to music near the Plaza Mayor!
- Explore the historic center of Trinidad and local street fairs (Trinidad is especially known for its fine embroidery work.)
- Lunch at a local paladar.
- Visit artist studios: Yudit Vidal Faife, Jorge César Sainz and Carlos César Román, as well as the Santander and artist ceramic shops.
- Talk with local religious people about Santeria and its history in Trinidad.
- Evening free for dinner and local music!
Trinidad - Cienfuegos - Trinidad
- Depart for Cienfuegos
- Visit the Maroya Gallery in town center and meet with local artists; visit the local print workshop where CCS has an art project for those with Down syndrome and autism. Tour the city (its architecture is of Italian and French origin).
- Lunch at the Casa Verde with local artists, visit the historic palace nearby, early 20th century houses, and the sculpture garden.
- Return to Trinidad.
- Meet with local artists and musicians who belong to the organization for young artists, “Hermanos Saiz” at the “Casa de Joven Creador.”
- Dinner & music
Trinidad - Camaguey
- Arrive Camaguey, and check into the Casa Madiba (named to honor Nelson Mandela), lunch there or at a local paladar (included).
- Meet with local artists and writers at UNEAC (the Cuban Union of Artists and Writers) to discuss the influence in Camaguey of African culture and the great writers and artists who came from Camaguey, such as Nicolás Guillén, Cuba’s Poet Laureate.
- Visit the home of local artists Joel Jover and Ileana Sánchez and a local gallery or two.
- Enjoy the local festival of the streets which happens every Friday and Saturday in Camaguey! If there is a performance of the local Folkloric Dance Troupe, we'll arrange for tickets.
- Meet with director and participants in the Camaguey Folkloric Group to talk about the influence of African religions in their music and dance.
- Visit studio of artist Marta Jimenez and nearby studios and galleries.
- Lunch at a local paladar or restaurant (included)
- Visit local cultural centers and artists.
- Evening free to again enjoy Camaguey’s weekend fiesta. If there is a good concert or dance performance, we’ll get tickets! Casa Madiba often has great dinners + music on the weekends, you may want to opt for this.
Camaguey - Santiago de Cuba
- Arrive Bayamo, a historic city! We’ll have a chance to walk through the center of the town, and have lunch (included) at a local paladar and listen to some music and maybe a few dance lessons.
- Continue on to Santiago
- Arrive Santiago and check into the Hostal Heredia.
- Walk through Santiago’s historic center, meet up with the city’s preservationist/historian, Omar López, for a talk about the history of Santiago, especially its Afro-Cuban population, most of whom arrived from Haiti as slaves to their French plantation owners.
- Evening free to eat, drink, listen to music
- Tour of historic Santiago, a gorgeous city by the sea, built on hills. We can visit San Juan Hill too!
- Visit the home studio of Alberto Lescay, an important sculptor and painter (you will have already seen many of his public sculptures) who founded the Caguayo Foundation to help young artists. With luck, his daughter, Diana, will already be accompanying us. Son Alejandro is an equally fine painter.
- Visit the Casa de Caribe and meet with an expert on the history of African religions in Cuba, the Haitian influence in Santiago culture, and more.
- Visit the Carnival Museum: Santiago is home to the biggest and best July carnavales and this museum is a treasure-house of the best costumes, photographs and other memorabilia; in addition, there are folkloric dances tied to the Santeria orishas performed every afternoon.
Santiago-El Cobre-Mella or Visit the coffee plantations outside of Santiago with Omar López to see where French plantation owners came from Haiti with their slaves (lunch included).
- Drive to “El Cobre,” the sanctuary of the patron saint of Cuba (called the Virgin of Charity of Copper in Catholicism, and Osshún in Santería); while there, we can climb up to see Lescay’s sculpture of the “Cimarrón” (the Runaway Slave).
- Drive to the town of Mella, where we’ll meet with artists from several local collectives the Center helps support: Grupo Bayate, Grupo Miranda and others. We’ll have lunch (included) at the home of artists Luis “El Estudiante” Rodriguez, his wife, children and parents (his father is the artist who organized other local self-taught painters into Bayate). Mella was founded (under a different name) by Swedes from the U.S. (probably almost all from Minnesota!)
- Return to Santiago and visit various artist studios and galleries to learn more about Afro-Cuban influence on the arts.
-Farewell dinner at a great local paladar
Santiago-Holguin > airport
- Leave for Holguin to take midday plane to U.S. (or there may be a plane directly from Santiago)
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