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Cuba Tourism Spotlight: Culture and Music

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Educational and People-to-People travel to Cuba means you can legally visit Cuba to learn about many aspects of daily life, arts and culture. ATI’s Cuban educational tours offer full itineraries that meet Cuba’s travel restrictions and provide a stimulating learning experience about this fascinating country. Our cultural tours to Cuba provide many opportunities for legal travel, and our travel packages provide an unforgettable trip with a high-quality educational purpose.

The Music of Cuba

For being such a small, isolated island country, Cuba has greatly influenced Latin music. As with the musical traditions of North America, Cuba’s musical influences began with the rhythms of Africa due to the many slaves who worked the sugar and tobacco plantations. African rhythm combined with the cultural influences of Spanish folk music – especially guitar music – and created unique, stylized sounds. As a broad category, this music is referred to as Afro-Cuban, and it includes the rumba, jazz, salsa, son Cubano, mambo, cha-cha-cha and the conga. Current music includes Cuban hip-hop, which is enjoyed by the country’s young people.

Cuban Music’s Worldwide Influence

Cuban musical genres are known for their colorful, driving rhythms and captivating melodies; they have gained worldwide popularity as dance music for the ballroom and for the dance club. Cuban music has also contributed to the development of jazz, the tango and the flamenco in other countries. Music may be one of the most important exports that Cuba has contributed to the world; the influence of Cuban music across many countries, cultures and artistic pursuits is undeniable.

Musical Instruments of Cuba

Many unique musical instruments have been a part of Cuba’s musical culture, and the Museo de Musica is a music museum that houses traditional Cuban instruments going back to the 19th century. The tres is a small guitar-like instrument with six strings, and it is played as a percussive rhythm instrument rather than for chordal strumming. Timbales are a type of drum with a metal casing and a high-pitched snare-drum sound. The bongo drums also find their origin in Cuba, with an earthy sound made from animal hide stretched over a deep barrel-like wooden drum. Bongo drums can be played with the hands or with drumsticks, and they are typically handcrafted in pairs with one drum pitched lower than the other.

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Culture and Literature in Cuba

The culture of Cuba has been shaped by political events, its history of slavery and its geographical location. Art, architecture, music and literature have had a deep impact and their influence has been felt all over the world. A famous American author, Ernest Hemingway, lived in Cuba for many years and wrote several of his classic novels and short stories during his time in Cuba. One of his most famous novels, “The Old Man and the Sea,” is set in the oceans of Cuba and the seaside village of Cojimar. The success of the book contributed greatly to Hemingway becoming an international celebrity. His former country home, Finca Vigía, is now a museum and is located a few miles outside of Havana.

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Cuban Cuisine

Political embargoes over the years have meant the Cuban people have often relied on the crops they can grow successfully in their own soils. Traditional Cuban cuisine has Spanish, Caribbean and African influences, with the most common and popular foods being beans, rice and meat in sauces. Onion, garlic, eggs, tomatoes, raisins and olives and capers are all common ingredients in Cuban food. Various types of tubers are popular in Cuban cuisine, with cassava, malanga and potato served boiled or fried. Plantains, bananas and other tropical fruits are common dietary choices, along with citrus fruits for flavorings and desserts. Cuban food is flavorful and complex, with a variety of sweet, acidic and salty flavors.

Cuban Language

Because Cuba is a former colony of Spain, Spanish is the primary language. Cuban Spanish has developed its own dialects and unique words that have been borrowed from French and African languages. The Cuban vocabulary has developed over time with a variety of historic influences. Many Afro-Cubans speak Haitian Creole, which is also a recognized language in Cuba. The Haitian Creole language came to Cuba with French settlers and their slaves during the Haitian Revolution, and it is currently the primary language for approximately four percent of Cuba’s residents.

Legal Travel to Cuba

Legal travel to Cuba must meet specific parameters as designated by the government, and ATI’s educational People-to-People and custom tours in Cuba qualify for legal travel purposes. The process of meeting Cuba’s travel restrictions is simplified when booking a tour for Cuban educational travel with one of ATI’s high-quality tour packages. Direct flights to Havana from Miami make traveling convenient and easy for cultural tours to Cuba.