Cuban Culture

Cuban Culture

In the unprecedented culture of Cuba, aesthetics find a new definition through myriad colors, social life is as dynamic as a beehive, and tradition is being reformed every day. Drawing from the warmer parts of Europe, Africa, and the Americas, Cuban culture is a heart-stopping experience right from the start. The revolution acted as a turning point for this deep-rooted tradition and made it all the more invaluable.

Spontaneous celebrations are essential to the fabric of daily life. Even the most trivial occasions may turn into a 10-minute party in the middle of the street with live music and dance. Other than naturally occurring and everlasting joy, there are a few things that are no less than a symbol in Cuban culture. Cigars are more than the country’s number-one product—the ritual of consuming one is a group activity and the best form of cultural engagement you can experience. Baseball and dance are other important elements, and you will be surprised to learn cultural facts about them.

Cuban people defy the stereotypes attached to their identity with the versatility and rawness of their culture. Post-revolution Cuba is one that is most strongly identified with resilience aside from dynamism and joy. The shortages that the country experiences frequently strengthened the concept of settling for less and finding happiness in smaller things. This is the main force driving the state of mind endemic to Cuban culture.

Eating & Drinking

“Traditional cooking techniques from Spain, characterful flavors hidden in exotic spices from the Caribbean, and dynamic touches from Africa: Cuban cuisine is an amalgam of old and new.”

It is not easy to separate native Cuban cuisine from the incredibly diverse and innovative state it is in today. Yet, the essence of this rich culinary tradition lies in the ethnic and historical heterogeneity of the country. Its roots go back to colonial times when the Spanish brought their food tradition to this exotic Caribbean island and let it spring to life with local products. The Taino culture embodied by the indigenous people of Cuba has undergone a great deal of transformation during this era, and local recipes became much more complex. The second and perhaps the most influential wave was from Africa during slavery. Traditional African culinary techniques constitute a significant factor in the soulful nature of Cuban food today.

The cheer and joy associated with Cuban culture radiate strongly from the food and drinks. Perhaps one of the most iconic elements of Cuba’s food scene is the Cuban sandwich, quintessentially integral to Cuban culture. It originated as a quick bite in the cigar worker community between Cuba and Florida and soon made it to the top of Cuba’s street food game. A typical Cuban sandwich consists of sliced pork, ham, cheese, and yellow mustard, with the slightly buttered soft bread being the signature ingredient.

The Cuban sandwich is a common eat that you will gladly consume for a meal. But, Cuba has much more to offer in terms of plentiful dishes. A traditional Cuban dinner consists of rice, black beans, and tasty fried plantains, three main products of local agriculture. Ropa vieja is also a famous and more fulfilling alternative. It reflects the generous nature of Cuban culture like no other, consisting of at least a dozen ingredients including beef, onion, pepper, tomatoes, many other veggies, and most importantly, some aromatic local wine.

Unique Crafts & Shopping

Cuba’s shopping scene highlights the best of local handicrafts making use of the country’s fruitful land and common products. In the hip cities like Havana and Bayamo, Cuban rum, perfume, art, and music are the best items to buy. As you travel to the rural regions, more authentic products like cigars and wood items take over the scene. Finding an antique store may prove to be one of the most rewarding things in Cuba since some of the country’s epic revolutionary past unfold in these places. Old coins, flags, and plaques are a dime a dozen, making meaningful presents for your loved ones.

When in Havana, the best and arguably the most authentic thing to buy is some locally produced music. Cuban music is world-famous for its chirpy tunes and lively vibe, and local artists play an important role in preserving this unique culture. Wait until you visit Viñales to buy some iconic Cuban cigars right at the factory workshops. Wood handicraft items are also popular to buy in this region. Varadero is known as the artist’s hub, famous for local paintings depicting quintessential Cuban countryside and daily culture. Some items that make great gifts from Cuba are Havana Club Rum, revolution souvenirs featuring the nation’s symbol Che Guevara, and handmade jewelry. A pack of coffee is also always a good choice.

  • Takeaway: You can safely start bargaining at 60% of the original price when shopping in Cuba. Local vendors are cheerful and often approach haggling as a joyful local activity. Even if you don’t persuade them, bargaining will surely be a thrilling activity to experience Cuban culture at its rawest.

Religion & Etiquette

Roman Catholicism is the dominant religion in Cuba, with almost 60% of the population identifying as Catholic Christians. This reflects a historical heritage rather than the current religious profile of the country, yet its influence on Cuban culture is undeniable. Cuba is officially an atheist state, and more than 40% of Cubans state that they are not religious. A significant 10% of the population are followers of Syncretic religions, which is the unique side of Cuba’s religious profile. Originating from the country’s African heritage, syncretic religions such as Santeria and Palo are precious gems, defining the customs and traditions in Cuba.

Cuban culture is one of the most cheerful and laid-back cultures you will experience in a lifetime. This means that there is not much room for serious etiquette that will affect your travels. Still, there are a few rules you may wish to follow in order to blend in. You will come across countless spectacles even as you walk down the road since Cuban culture finds life and soul in the most mundane ways. Taking a picture of these is irresistible, but always ask for permission first. Dress casually and not in an overly revealing way. Surprisingly, Cubans are not too tight or nervous when it comes to discussing the country’s politics. Avoiding edgy commentary is recommended.

When it comes to punctuality, Cubans are relatively sensitive and careful compared to similar cultures known for laid-back vibes. Adhereing to schedules is important for Cuban people, but you are also expected to be tolerant when other people are being late.

Festivals & Events

“There is no country in the world that handles special events as enthusiastically as Cuba, with a wealth of music, dance, performances, and boundless culture.”

From hectic carnivals to ambient arts and music festivals, the events in Cuba come in many shapes and sizes to satisfy every taste. A cacophony of colors native to the soulful Cuban culture radiates through local costumes and decorations. The best of jazz and Afro-Cuban music meets the appreciation of countless viewers from all around the country and the world. The traditional Cuban music and dance form Danzón is a common element in most cultural occasions in Cuba. In the countless special events you will come across, pockets of Cuban culture and down-to-earth joy will unfold before you.

Cuba’s arts, music, and dance festivals are very high on the list of the world’s cultural spectacles. Almost every month in the event calendar of Cuba is occupied with more than one jolly occasion that will get you in that breezy vibe of the Caribbean almost immediately. Havana Jazz Festival is one of them, drawing special guests from all around the world every January. Get to know Cuba’s own genre of jazz and party it out with the moody ambiance from dusk to dawn. Havana Biennial Festival is a true gem for those who are artistically inclined, where the streets of Havana become a stage for countless exhibitions.

January 1 marks the victorious end of the Cuban Revolution, celebrated with extravagant feasts and parties all across the country every year. Another one of the main holidays in Cuba is the first of May, Worker’s Day. This is particularly important for Cuban culture, as socialism is one of the cornerstones of the nation’s identity. During the celebrations, you will witness a more serious and heartfelt side of Cuban culture.

Cuban culture

Cuba Food Guide

Check out our Cuba Food Guide for the tasty local dishes and drinks you must try.

Cuban culture

Cuba Travel Advice

Everything you need to know about traveling to Cuba is in our Cuba Travel Advice guide.

Cuban culture

Solo Travels

Are you traveling alone? Check out our Solo Travels page for detail.

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