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Every year, at the end of July, Santiago, the capital of the Oriente, is transformed into a real open-air party!
After months of preparation, the legendary Carnival of Santiago de Cuba is a real explosion of music, dance and colors! So, are you ready to vibrate to the rhythm of the conga?
Small lexicon of the Carnival of Santiago de Cuba
- Comparsas: groups of singers, musicians and dancers in costume Conga : the conga is a style of music played by the comparsas during the festival
- Cornetas chinas: the cornetas chinas, or Chinese horns, are musical instruments similar to small trumpets
- Farolas: lanterns
- Muñecon: large stylized head made of paper mache
The origins of the Carnival of Santiago de Cuba
It is the oldest and most famous carnival of the Caribbean.
It has its origins in a religious tradition of the XVIIth century.
Every year in July, the inhabitants celebrated Santiago Apostolo, the patron saint of the city.
The Carnival of Santiago also marked the end of the sugar harvest.
It was an exceptional day for the slaves, who were then also allowed to parade in the streets of the city.
Since then, Santiago has welcomed a diverse and varied immigration.
Over the centuries, French, Spaniards, Haitians and Chinese have settled in the capital of the Oriente.
These heterogeneous cultures have gradually been assimilated into the local culture.
It is therefore also this cultural mix that makes the Carnival of Santiago de Cuba a unique celebration today.
With the Cuban independence at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries and then the Revolution, the Carnival of Cuba became a true celebration of the national culture.
The city celebrates
Each year, the Carnival of Santiago opens with a procession featuring an actor embodying the patron saint of the city.
Large fireworks displays also mark the beginning of the carnival.
The celebrations have a real community character.
Indeed, each district of the city is represented by one or more comparsas.
Each of these carnival groups begins to prepare its float, its costumes and its choreography months in advance! During the festivities, the city is animated at all hours of the day and night.
Alcohol flows freely and the streets are filled with an endless stream of colorful parades!
Carnival is also synonymous with street performances, popular orchestras and entertainment of all kinds.
Attend Santiago de Cuba’s Carnival
If you wish to attend the Carnival of Santiago de Cuba, a seat in the grandstand will cost you 5 CUC.
You can buy your tickets on the spot the same day.
The Carnival Museum
If your vacation in Cuba does not coincide with the dates of the Carnival of Santiago de Cuba, do not miss the Carnival Museum.
Its collections of costumes will give you a small taste of the extravagance of the festivities! And then, comparsas often perform in the inner courtyard of the museum.
It’s almost like a carnival! An artist sells reproductions of carnival posters in the museum.
At the entrance, you will also find craftsmen selling Cuban musical instruments.