Many holiday makers are unaware of Cuba’s rich Afro-Cuban culture but it is worth exploring since it affects the ways that Cubans dream, act, talk, relate and keep secrets.
Take rumba. It is so much more than just music and dance. It expresses the identity of the island itself by blending Congolese percussion and Andalucian flamenco to create an enduring and unique sound. Sit down with the dancers and let them explain first hand how the dance fits into their lives, the nuances that it expresses and how four hundred years of slave culture, fused with Spanish colonialism, creates a vibrant and multi-faceted sub-culture of it’s own.
The Afro-Cuban religions, including Santeria, have spread well beyond the Afro-Cuban community. Most presidents of Cuba have been initiated in Santeria, which was born on the banks of the River Niger in Nigeria, amongst the Yoruba people. African slaves brought their religion with them to Cuba but were forbidden to practise, forced by the land owners to worship Christianity instead. They ingeniously resisted by secretly fusing their African deities with images of Catholic saints. Thus 'Santeria' thrived and continues to live on today.