The Caribbean that unites us – the Fiesta del Fuego sets Santiago de Cuba alight

Fiesta del Fuego, Santiago de Cuba 2022 photo credit Daniel Houddayer, Juventud Rebelde 08/07/22

The fire of the Caribbean rekindles its flames in Santiago de Cuba this July with the Fiesta del Fuego (Fire Festival); a scorching, inextinguishable fire that over the course of a week (3-9 July) turns the city into a melting pot where myths, knowledge and ancestral practices merge with metaphors of the resistance and cultures of the peoples of the region.

This is how the Fiesta del Fuego (Fire Festival) 2022 has arrived, in streets and squares, theatre and galleries, after two years forced to take place online due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

This year the institution that coordinates the festival, the Casa del Caribe in Santiago de Cuba, celebrates its 40th birthday. Abel Prieto, president of the cultural institution Casa de las Americas, paid tribute saying that through its events and work the Casa del Caribe has “built a trench of ideas in the face of cultural colonization.” Remembering the words of Joel James, the founder of the Casa del Caribe, Prieto said: “We have to erase once and for all what Rubén Martínez Villena called “the tenacious crust of colonialism.” We have to forget… the mediocre manifestations of pride for having belonged to one metropolis or another. As Nicolás Guillén said at some point, “I am the son of slaves, let the master be ashamed.” If anything can define us in the common search for ever more complete integration, it would be nothing else, in cultural terms, than the expression of the most endearing human solidarity.”

Director of the Casa del Caribe, Orlando Vergés, told the press about the “shared joy” of being face to face again in a cultural exchange amongst people from across the Caribbean, with representatives from at least 17 countries around the Caribbean taking part. Despite the economic difficulties and energy shortages, the organisers supported by national and local infrastructure committed to making the festival happen. They are also marking 40 years of the music group Septeto Turquino, 30 years of the Macubá Theatre Studio, founded by National Theatre awardwinner Fatima Patterson, and the 160th birthday of the tumba francesa music, dance and culture group La Caridad de Oriente.

This year the festival incorporates the colloquium ‘The Caribbean that unites us’, workshops on popular religiosity, a literary studies forum, dance and percussion workshop, a meeting of poets in memory of Cos Causse (celebrated black Santiagueran poet who died 2007), Rumbos Caribbean Theatre space, the archaeology workshop, the Snake Parade (El Desfile de la Serpiente) and the Burning of the Devil. National Award for Art winner (and Santiagueran) Alberto Lescay has created a special work for the Casa.

Céspedes Park in the centre of the city was the other epicentre to which the many carnival and cultural groups and figures paraded in the Parade of the Serpent: Los Ripiaos, Íreme, La Caridad, Monte Oscuro, Pilón del Cauto, Barrancas, arm in arm with friends from México and Venezuela; Mecongó, Obakosó, from Cienfuegos; Locosí, from Guantánamo; Los Hombres Carrozas, the living statues, the conga groups San Agustín, Paso Franco, and many more.

At Oriente gallery near the Casa del Caribe artists Gretel Arrate Hechavarría, with Yuri Seoane present an exhibition of large scale photography reflecting on the festival and the culture of Santiago entitled ‘Magical City’.

Magical City, exhibition by Gretel Arrate Hechavarría, with Yuri Seoane, Oriente Gallery, Santiago de Cuba July 2022. La Jiribilla

The 9th Assembly of the Peoples of the Caribbean, was also taking place in Santiago and delegates told the press they raised their voices for a diverse Caribbean, but united in its struggles, sovereign and anti-imperialist, and spoke of articulating solidarity efforts, condemned blockades and reaffirmed that for them Cuba continues to be an example.

Based on news reports by Juventud Rebelde and Granma and La Jiribilla

Watch a short local TV report about the festival including the parade of the serpent on youtube here

More about the Casa del Caribe

The Casa del Caribe is a unique institution in Cuba, founded in 1982 that integrates research projects in order to promote the indigenous values ​​of Traditional Popular Culture and Magical Religious Systems, and their ways of manifesting themselves in the country. In addition, it focuses its main attention on the study of the history and culture of the peoples that make up the Caribbean area and in particular Cuba and its links with these peoples. It produces the magazine Del Caribe and is also home to a research centre on Toussaint Louverture, Black leader of the Haitian revolution.

Location Calle 13 No 154 Esquina a 8, Reparto Vista Alegre, Santiago de Cuba.