July 31, 2013

Carnaval de Santiago de Cuba

July / Santiago de Cuba

Carnival festivities in Santiago de Cuba go back to the late 17th century with the annual procession on the feast of Santiago Apóstol, the patron saint of the town. During colonial times, slaves were granted permission by the Spanish authorities to celebrate the Epiphany with their own music and dance. By the end of the 19th century, these festivities were also held in June and July in celebration of various patron saints days. At the beginning of the 20th century, comparsas (neighbourhood dance groups) and processions of decorated floats began to parade down the streets—a tradition that is still observed. Although many Cuban towns hold their own carnival festivities, none attracts a greater crowd than the Santiago carnival: the whole city seems to move to the rhythm of conga lines, the sound of the Chinese trumpet and dozens of percussion instruments, both traditional and unconventional – bass drums, congas, pots and pans, and spoons – which lead dancing crowds down the steep roads of the city.