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news item

Sunday, 7 January 2018

2017 Cultural highlights in Cuba despite the blockade and the Hurricane Irma

by: Juventud Rebelde

2017 was an intense year for Cuban culture,with important events in the most diverse corners of the Island, wide programming in institutions and public squares, as well as traditional events, festivals, and celebrations.

El Punto Cubano listed as Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO

In December, Cuban Point (El Punto Cubano' musical form) entered the Representative List of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, of Unesco.

The Route of Rumba ('La Ruta de la Rumba') event in the summer was dedicated by the Timbalaye project to Fidel Castro, cultural resistance and defense of identity.

Numerous groups and figures of world renown visited Cuba this year and gave our people their art in solidarity: the Minnesota and Stanford Symphony Orchestras; Italians Michelangelo Pistoletto, artist, pianist and composer Stefano Bollani and actor Franco Nero, among others.

International Jazz Day staged in Havana with artists from all over the world

International Jazz Day, celebrated in Havana on April 30 at the initiative of Unesco, demonstrated the power of art to unite peoples and open cracks in the blockade. Young and well established national jazz musicians appeared together on one stage from all over the world and in particular from the United States.

The International Book Fair in February continued to be a massive event in Havana and in other parts of the country. Meanwhile, the University Book and Reading Festival and the Mountain Book Festivals were also significant moments for the promotion of reading. There were many types of tributes to our late Commander in Chief Fidel Castro through numerous talks, premieres of documentaries and the publication of 24 new titles about his legacy. Canada was the guest country of honor and was dedicated to former Minister for Culture, Dr. Armando Hart Dávalos. Although Hart passed away in November, an important part of his work was already published during the year.

As each year, cultural institutions announced the National Awards for a life's work to outstanding artists in the different artforms: the poet, teacher, critic and researcher Luis Álvarez received the National Award for Literature; dancer and choreographer Manolo Micler, for dance; the actress and theatre director Fátima Patterson, for theatre; the painter, sculptor and engraver Eduardo Roca Salazar, Choco, for Visual Arts; the director of photography Raúl Rodríguez, for Cinema; the architect Iran Millán, director of the Office of Cienfuegos for Curator of Cultural Heritage.

The eminent professor, researcher and critic Adelaida de Juan was distinguished with the National Prize for Artistic Teaching, while the University of the Arts awarded the title of Doctor Honoris Causa to the researcher, essayist and translator Desiderio Navarro, for the exceptional work 'Criteri'a, and the nueva trova singer Silvio Rodríguez, a figure who has managed to articulate in his work artistic excellence and a deep social responsibility, expressed in both his tours of the barrios (neighbourhoods) in Cuba and in his concert in Central Park, New York in September.

For its part, the 90,000 plus members of the National Union of Culture celebrated its 40th anniversary, and the First National Conference was convened for 2018.

Cuban music maintained its decisive presence, recognized in the José Martí Memorial during the award ceremony when the Distinction for National Culture was awarded to more than 60 creators, for the contributions made to our sound heritage and to musical diffusion.

Several festivals left an enriching mark: among them, the 2nd. Danzon International Encounter Miguel Faílde in memoriam, in Matanzas; the 13th International Symposium and Festival of Hip Hop 2017, in Havana; the Changüí Festival of Guantánamo; the International Choir Festival of Santiago de Cuba, now with the name of its unforgettable founder the late Electo Silva; the Days of Jazz in Matanzas; and the Benny Moré Festival in Santa Isabel de Las Lajas and Cienfuegos, among many others. At the 20th edition of Jojazz, (Young Jazz festival) more than 35 new jazz musicians were presented, direct from our art schools. Memorable were the jazz performances of Chucho Valdés and Gonzalito Rubalcaba, together with the López-Nussa family and Alejandro Falcón, at the Gran Teatro.

New facilities for culture were launched, under the auspices of Artex and the Egrem, with a program of rigor and quality: The Cultural Center Plaza 31 and 2, in the neighborhood of La Timba, Plaza de la Revolution, Havana; La Fábrica de Trova, directed by the outstanding trova musician Pepe Ordás, at the Guayabera Cultural Complex, in Alamar; and the Bule-Bar 66 centre, with the presence of the Moncada group. Other cultural centres of equal quality of services, sound equipment and high-tech lights opened their doors in several provinces.

And neither the rain, and even less the low temperatures of Sunday, December 10, could prevent tens of thousands of followers from the orchestras Revé and Los Van Van met in the capital Ciudad Deportiva to enjoy an unprecedented show, the great concert Two legends: From Revé to Van Van and that will tour the whole country. In 2017 the following artists and bands toured most of the provinces Luna Manzanares, Tony Ávila, Haila, Waldo Mendoza, Barbarito Diez Orchestra, Moncada, Buena Fe with Casabe and Paulito FG with Sonando in Cuba.

At the same time, Raúl Torres, Eduardo Sosa, Luna Manzanares and Annie Garcés, under the title Riding with Fidel, made a journey of emotional and artistic impact through the center of the country and Santiago. Around the first anniversary of the death of the Commander in Chief, numerous artits participated throughout the Island in presentations of remembrance and commitment. This tribute had its climax in the extraordinary evening held on December 3 at the Heredia theatre in Santiago de Cuba.

Visual Arts

Tens of thousands of people attended art exhibitions, especially the retrospecitves by former National Award winners. In the summer, more than 14 500 visitors enjoyed the exhbititions at the National Museum of Fine Arts. Among the most visited were the exhibitions by Raúl Martínez, Alegreto Cantábile; Cuba in ball; The Great Spiral of the May Salon; Icons of fashion and Way to go, with the works of the collection of the National Council of Visual Arts (CNAP), in the Alejo Carpentier Room of the Gran Teatro de La Habana Alicia Alonso, a space that also hosted From the idea to the form, collective exhibition of sculpture in tribute to the 32nd anniversary of the Monumental Development Council (Codema) and 105 of Rita Longa.

As a result of the 2016 Provincial Salons, the Visual Arts Development Centre and the Cultural Assets Fund inaugurated the 7th Contemporary Art Salon and the Post-it event (for young emerging artists), which were distinguished by the rigor of the selection and the general quality of the work. The Art Fair in La Rampa continued being one of the great cheerleaders of the summer, in the Cuba Pavilion. Villa Clara reached the 10th edition of Exuberarte Fashion, and Holguín the Iberoarte Crafts Fair 2017, while the Fair grew in quality and popularity with the public. International Crafts (Fiart) and the Caguayo Foundation organized several exhibitions in Santiago de Cuba and Granma.

Dance provided unforgettable moments like the premiere of the Contemporary Dance of Cuba's show by Carmina Burana in the Gran Teatro Alicia Alonso, the same stage where the Ballet Nacional de Cuba gave us a vigorous Carmen. For the 50th anniversary of the Ballet of Camagüey a day was developed with the intervention of other valuable dance companies. Its director for the last 20 years, Regina Balaguer, received the Alejo Carpentier Medal granted by the Council of State. At the same time, the companies Acosta Danza and the Ballet Español de Cuba showed their strength to the Cuban public connoisseur, and the 23rd International Meeting of Academies for teaching ballet set new historical records of participants.


The 17th International Theatre Festival was inaugurated with more than 30 shows of various Cuban companies in the country, and the presence of theatre companies from a dozen pther nations. In the summer months, Havana hosted the 16th edition of the International Circuba Festival. For the first time in more than a decade, the tour of the National Circus reached the whole island. At the same time, artists of the Havana Company kept performing in the most demanding tours of Rome, London, Budapest, in the audience hall of the Vatican before Pope Francis and concluded December by shows to the Cuban public at the National Theatre.

A special effort was made to repair and put into operation theatres such as the Milanés de Pinar del Río, the Avellaneda de Camagüey, the Principal and the Iriondo of Ciego de Ávila and the Camilo Cienfuegos, of Villa Clara. Cinemas were transformed into multiple-use institutions, such as El Cristo, El Cobre and Altamira, densely populated communities of the province of Santiago de Cuba. The Virgilio Piñera Room was inaugurated in Pinar del Río and La Toronjita in the Isla de la Juventud.

Hurricane Irma

Because of the effects of Hurricane Irma, 334 cultural institutions suffered damages of varying degrees. So far 288 have been restored or they are soon to be completed.We are still working on the remaining forty six. The first priority was for the schools of art in the affected provinces, and it was made possible for the schools to reopen within a week of the passing of Irma. Thanks to the prevention work developed by the workers of the institutions that look after the assets and documents of heritage value, no losses were reported in this sensitive area. The artists, promoters, instructors, mobilized in artistic brigades . Even in the recovery phase, young creators from 12 countries traveled to Cuba to participate in Casa Tomada, an event that was sustained thanks to the efforts of the Casa de las Américas collective. In turn, Cuban musicians and those of five other nations acted for the victims as part of the 4th. Latin American Festival of Rock Patria Grande.

Community arts festivals

The 37th International Caribbean Festival (Festival del Caribe) in Santiago de Cuba in June, organised by the Casa Del Caribe, and the Fiesta of Cubanía in Granma in October, had big audiences. In the same way the Cucalambeana festival of Las Tunas and the 22nd Theatre Crusade in Sancti Spíritus were successful. In all these cases, experiences of how to bring art and culture to the community were once again tested. That same intention encouraged the students of the ISA in a crowded Festival of the Arts, which took place in many public places and theaters of the capital.


The 15th Santiago Álvarez In Memoriam International Festival of documentaries in Santiago de Cuba, and the International Film Festival of Gibara, demonstrated the validity of the legacy of the founders of ICAIC (Cuba's National Film Institute) in the new generations of filmmakers.

In turn, the 39th International Festival of New Latin American Cinema in Havana was revalidated as one of the most important film events in Latin America, with more than 400 films scheduled for avid audiences that continue to demand more screenings. The Animation Studios of ICAIC premiered The Two Princes, which managed to deliver a story and style accessible to children but also introducing adolescents to the work and thought of Jose Marti.

La Colmena TV is a participation contest that manages to reward human values ​​and integrity in children under the maxim "Better than having talent is having a good heart". With the direction of the founder of the children's theater company La Colmenita, Carlos Alberto "Tin" Cremata, the program was conceived for the entire Cuban family.

Youth and community

Community projects continued to support the formation of children and young people. The quality of many of them makes them models in their areas, such as El Yeti, Muraleando, La Camorra and El Patio de Pelegrín. In the same way, the initiatives of the José Martí Cultural Society in ommunities stand out. The National Children's Art Contest 'From where the palm grows', organised by the Jiguaní town council, and conceived to honor Jose Marti through the artistic expressions of children and adolescents, had more than one and a half million entries from all over the country.

An example of how to dynamite watertight and get closer to universities was the tour of singer-songwriter Raúl Paz and historian Ernesto Limia. With the support of the FEU, this unique project reached the cloisters and students of all the provinces of the country to debate the history and the complex international scene. Let's win it to thoughtThe Cuban Institute of Cultural Research Juan Marinello organized several meetings related to thought and the reflection on the current context and the role of the intellectuals. Among them, the workshop for the centennial of the October Revolution and the tribute La rebeldía is the adulthood of Culture, with the survival of Fernando Martínez Heredia, held at the headquarters of the institution as a reminder of this man essential in the Cuban revolutionary thinking. Casa de las Américas began the year with the first of the island's cultural events, the 58th edition of the Casa Awards, and the presentation of more than four hundred works, as well as a program of lectures, readings and dialogues by Guest writers from a dozen countries. The prestige of this institutional work was recognized by the Unesco-UNAM Award Jaime Torres Bodet, in Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts, in its second edition. The House hosted the event for the 50th anniversary of the Latin American Conference of Social Sciences (Clacso) and the tribute that that institution rendered to Commander Ernesto Che Guevara. The Pablo de la Torriente Brau Center welcomed 2017 with its fundamental lines of work in around trova, digital art and testimonial literature. The tribute to Vicente Feliú on his 70th birthday was important.

The Onelio Jorge Cardoso Center reached its twentieth anniversary amid the recognition of the new batches of writers, with more than a thousand graduates, under the guidance and inspiration of the narrator and teacher Eduardo Heras León, National Literature Prize. In memory of the Congress from Valencia -an antifascist meeting that brought intellectuals from Latin America and Europe to the defense of the Spanish Republic in 1937-, the Nicolás Guillén Foundation organized an international event in Havana. For its part, the Alejo Carpentier Foundation, chaired by the Doctor Graziella Pogolotti, and the University of Valencia, convened a group of relevant intellectuals to promote a re-reading, from the contemporary perspective, of the multiple traces that that Congress traced in the history of the 20th century. They received messages of congratulations from the President in 2017 of the Councils of State and Ministers Raul Castro Ruz the poet Carilda Oliver Labra in her 95th birthday and the collectives of art education, on the occasion of the 55th anniversary of the founding of the National School of Art, the Cuban Book Institute and the Center for Marti Studies on their 50th and 40th anniversaries respectively. Standard in a tight boxThe Hermanos Saíz Association carried out a program of cultural days, exchanges and dissemination of young art; as well as conferred scholarships and awards to its creators, and convened the third congress of the organization, which will be held in October 2018. The May Romerías reached the 24th edition in Holguin, with more than 400 young people from 25 countries. The usual appointments of the AHS favored the approach to the young Cuban creation, as the Day of the Political Song in Guantánamo, the Festival and National Workshop of the Radio Antonio Antonio Lloga In Memoriam in Santiago de Cuba, the Longina and A tempo con Caturla in Santa Clara. In August, a representation of the associates from all over the country came to the Pico Turquino to pay homage to Fidel and 60 years after the assassination of the brothers Luis and Sergio Saíz. The Master of Youth award was presented at the José Memorial Martí to the journalist Marta Rojas; the director, arranger and composer Joaquín Betancourt; the plastic artist Flora Fong; the actress and teacher Corina Mestre, and the musicalist, scriptwriter and speaker Iván Pérez Ramírez. The Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (Uneac) developed a broad day of discussions with its membership, and held two National Councils, one on the functioning of the organization, and the second to address the teaching of history, the relationship between culture, education and society and the promotion of artistic and literary creation. The work of the permanent commissions has also been very useful, which has helped to systematize the debate on topics that are essential for culture and the nation. The extensive annual program of activities had as actors the best of the Cuban artistic avant-garde, and encompassed to the offices of the Uneac in all the provinces. Outstanding events such as El Caracol, and festivals such as Boleros de Oro, Danzón Habana and Contemporary Music; and events such as the celebration of the 55th anniversary of the magazine La Gaceta de Cuba. In 2017 the important contribution to the cultural life of specialized magazines from all the provinces was maintained. The contribution of Casa de las Américas, Catauro, Cauce , SIC, La Siempreviva, Temas, Revolución y Cultura, Amnios, Cuba en Ballet, Clave, Signs, Caribbean Magazine and La Jiribilla, among others. Escudo y espada Organizations of creators and cultural institutions worked to strengthen relations of cooperation with other countries. Film shows, high level shows, academic exchanges, art exhibitions, weeks of culture, signing of bilateral agreements, among other actions, have helped to promote in our people a truly universal vision of artistic creation and reach an international projection most effective of our culture. The Cuban chapter of the network of intellectuals, artists and social movements In Defense of Humanity, in coordination with other nuclei of this resistance movement, has followed the construction of the anti-imperialist, anti-colonial and anti-imperialist ideas front. anti-capitalist that Fidel and Chávez encouraged since its inception. It is a fact that during 2017 the number of cultural exchanges with the United States decreased, as a result of the measures of the new US administration, which implies a new setback in bilateral relations. According to the calculations of the institutions of culture, the effects of the economic, financial and commercial blockade of the United States of North America in this area amounted to 35,314,000 dollars in the year. On that, 2017 came to an end with the news that the Festival Artes de Cuba will be held in May 2018 at the Kennedy Center, in Washington, to confirm that the eto diversity and sovereignty is the only way towards coexistence and mutual understanding. In short, it has been the Cuban public - the spectator, the reader, the movie buff, the music lover, the dancer - who became the true protagonist of culture. They also proved the last concerts and popular festivals in the neighborhoods and squares, genuine expression of a socialist cultural policy. Cuban culture continues to stand, with the immense challenge of being at the epicenter of all battles, which shield and sword, in front to blockages and hurricanes.

Link to original report in Spanish

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