Cuba is perhaps the most elusive and exciting of all Latin American countries. An interesting history combined with an intriguing mix of cultural influences make Cuba a fantastic travel destination. Beautiful beach areas like Varadero and Cayo Maria sit within easy reach of mainland Cuba and make the perfect base for all of your holiday needs. Boasting dramatic landscapes, unspoiled natural beauty and fun-loving locals that characterize so much of Latin America, Cuba is a country that everyone should visit at least once. Particularly, there are three elements of Cuban culture that stand out: their music, their history, their influences.
The music, arts, architecture, religion and cuisine found in Cuba are a dynamic mix of styles that draw heavily from African and Spanish cultures which are evident all over Latin America. Many people feel that Cuba is at the heart of what it means to be Latino and it’s undeniable that Cubans radiate those typical and revered Latino charms; they’re warm, generous and, of course, party-loving.
What makes Cuba stand out from other Latin American countries is its lack of Western influence. While being as far removed from US culture as possible, Cuba has retained all of its Latin passion and poured it into their culture. Explore a little and you’ll see local Cubanrestaurants and bars rather than chains, unmissable coffee spots and brightly painted buildings with colonial architecture which all act to make Cuba so incomparable.
Rich in history
Cuba is perhaps best known for its place in recent history as a communist country and adversary to the United States. Far removed from Western and, specifically, US influence, Cuba has flourished into a truly unique destination. A country free from McDonald’s, and boasting old style cars, visiting Cuba is like visiting a different world altogether.
Experience a place that’s stuck in time — and is all the better for it — you’ll feel very far from home as you walk the streets of Cuba, watching beaten-up American cars from before the 60s roll by and spotting billboards that sport Che Guevara’s classic image rather than photos of fashion models advertising perfume. Wi-Fi in Cuba is also charged at higher rates, so holidaying in Cuba is the closest you can get to being fully unplugged from the rest of the world.
Music as a way of life
Music is a key part of the culture in Cuba. You’ll hear it everywhere you go and you’ll soon become accustomed to Cuba’s eclectic style of music which has been instrumental in the development of jazz and salsa. The roots of most Cuban musical forms lie in the ‘Cabildos,’ a form of social club among African slaves who were brought to the island. The importance of music in Cuba is especially clear during their many festivals which music plays a vital part in such as Carnaval and the yearly Havana Jazz Festival.
Building on this, Cuba’s educational system is committed to supporting students in their musical development and once they’ve finished school, Cuban students will have had around 8 hours of music lessons a week! This means that most Cubans you come across will be able to play or hold a tune or two, so don’t invite them out for karaoke unless you want to be thoroughly embarrassed.
Go ahead and discover something entirely different in one of Cuba’s many side streets and surprise yourself when you see how alien a country with no ties to capitalism feels. Enjoy Cuba’s beauty and embrace a wholly unique culture.
Know of other Cuban culture highlights? Share them below!
Images by Rog01t and marko8904, used under Creative Commons license
Special thanks to Joanne Rivers for contributing this article!