Culture of Cuba
A rich mix of Taino, Spanish, African, French, and English influences, Cuba’s soulful culture is all its own. This small country has contributed mightily to Latin-Caribbean literature, art, music, and dance. Poet, writer, and national hero José Marti helped usher in the Modernismo literary movement; works by painter Wifredo Lam hang in MoMA and Paris’s Centre Pompidou, and the National Ballet of Cuba, based in Havana, is world renowned. Look for art everywhere, from hundreds of museums and galleries to roadside murals.
Home to a number of distinguished cultural institutions (as well as the world’s first lithographic workshop), Santiago de Cuba gave birth to just about every form of Cuban music, including the genre made famous by the Buena Vista Social Club. The legendary group still performs regularly at Café Taberna in Havana. Other Afro-Caribbean musical styles permeate the island air as well, including salsa, rhumba, jazz, and merengue.
A worthwhile stop: The Korimacao Cultural Project, a multi-faceted arts academy in Playa Larga, that offers young people from across the country a chance to develop and hone their skills in music, dance, theater, and the literary arts.
Cuisine of Cuba
After the 1959 Revolution, Cuba suffered frequent food shortages due to the embargo, and many of the island’s top chefs and restaurant owners fled. Cuban cuisine, therefore, is rather basic, although some innovative dishes are being served at the many paladars, or privately run restaurants popping up around the island, usually in people’s homes.
Fried plantain and black beans and rice (known as moros y cristianos or “Moors and Christians”) are served at nearly every meal. Grilled chicken or pork, ajiaco (a traditional stew) and empanadas de carne (meat-filled pies) are typical dishes. For dessert, grab some helado (ice cream), flan (often served with caramel sauce), or a churro from a street-side vendor. Be sure to try chorote, a traditional drink made from cocoa.