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Wednesday, 4 October 2017

What is Cuba's National Day of Culture?

by: Cuba50

October 20 was established in Cuba as the ‘'Day of Cuban Culture'', honouring October 20, 1868, when the mambí troops under the leadership of Carlos Manuel de Cespedes set free Bayamo city (in Eastern Cuba) and people sang for the first time the National Hymn, La Bayamesa. This came 10 days after the declaration of the beginning of the war for independence from Spain.

The Cuban National Hymn history can be traced to around August 13, 1867, when Bayamo's Revolutionary Committee met at the lawyer Pedro Perucho Figueredo's house, to elaborate the plans necessary to unchain the Cuban independence movement. There, Figueredo was encouraged to compose ‘'the Cuban Marsellaise''. In the early hours of the next morning, this Bayamo-born revolutionary was writing the melody that later became the National Hymn. It was called La Bayamesa remembering the place which was seen as the cradle for the national rebellion. Figueredo actually asked musician Manuel Muñoz Cedeño to compose the music for an epic song which would stand out from hymns with sacred tones. In June 1868, Figueredo managed to present this hymn but added the lyrics much later.

October 10 of 1868 witnessed the beginnings the Revolution for independence and, on October 18, 1868, the conquest of Bayamo by the Liberating Army from the Cuban Republic in Arms, started, and on October 20, Bayamo was in hands of the insurgent forces. In the middle of the rebellious troops' joy and bustle, mixed with the euphoric multitude, with Carlos Manuel de Cespedes and other patriots, Carlos Manuel took a piece of paper and a pen from his pocket, so the story goes, and while sitting on his horse, wrote the lyric, which was then sung for the first time by all present.

Cuba now celebrates the Day of Cuban Culture with several days of cultural events, conferences. workshops, concerts and exhibitions all over the country.

Since 1994, the 3 day Fiesta de la Cubania takes place everyyear in Bayamo. This year it celebrates the 45th anniversary of the birth of the music form Nueva Trova (of which Silvio Rodriguez is one of the top players). It also celebrates rumba which became 'intangible heritage' on the UNESCO register in 2016, and also intercultural ties with Latin America and the Caribbean. There will be a major theoretical conference about Cuban nationality and identity.

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