It might have been raining on and off last week in Havana but July brings back radiant sunshine to Cuba and comes packed with a calendar teeming with activities, festivals, concerts, art exhibitions and street fairs.
Kicking off the summer season with a bang, this month you can look forward the biggest celebration in eastern Cuba with Santiago’s Festival del Caribe, one of the most popular independent cinema festivals in Latin America taking place in Holding and the biggest celebration of electronic music in western Cuba taking hold of a beautiful beach in the southern coast. And that’s just the beginning, keep checking back this post throughout the month as more and more events are announced.
Gibara Film Festival (1 to 7 July)
Promoting the independent low-budget film industry, this popular celebration in an enchanting little town in Cuba’s eastern province of Holguin is now in its fourteenth edition and gathers cinema-loving people, actors and directors not just from all of Cuba but from all over world, with some of the international celebrities attending this year’s edition including Benicio del Toro.
With a large and colourful parade along the city’s main street and culminating at the centric Calixto Garcia park, the fair kicked off on 1st July and will see a packed week full of cinema screenings, workshops and an award-giving ceremony. Over 400 documentaries, animation films, fiction and “videoart” will compete in this year’s Gibara film festival, whose theme this year is Childhood and Adolescence and which will include open-air cinema screenings for the youngest audience. Founded by legendary Cuban film director, producer and screenwriter Humberto Solas, credited with having directed what is considered one of the top ten most significant films in Latin America (Lucia, 1968) . With the aim of supporting low-budget cinema in Cuba and beyond, this festival may be poor in budget but is rich in art and diversity.
Furthermore, the festival will also see numerous daily concerts, art exhibitions, dance shows and more, transforming Gibara into the Mecca of contemporary Cuban art for the first week in July.
Art in La Rampa (6 July to 2 September)
Known as the “Fair of Cuban Culture” this annual celebration takes hold of Havana’s long downtown avenue of La Rampa, which leads all the way down to the Malecon seawall. “Arte en la Rampa” is a seasonal celebration of all things Cuban, from daily afternoon and evening performances to book launches, art exhibitions both indoors and on the street as well as the sale of artisanal objects and crafts in set-up street shops. Sponsored by ARTEX, this year’s Arte en La Rampa festival will be based at Pabellon Cuba like in previous editions. Celebrating ARTEX’s 30th anniversary promoting art and Cuban artists, this year’s will also see the celebration of 25 years of Bis Music and Musicalia, with CD launches and live performances.
Electronic Music in Mayabeque Beach (13 to 15 July)
The fifth edition of “El Surazo”, an annual festival celebrating electronic music in the southern coast of eastern Cuba is one of the island’s most exciting party-style festivity this month. And it’s on the beach! Found an hour’s ride south of Havana, this festival brings a great excuse for electro-house and dance music fans seeking to experience Cuba’s electronic music scene and wishing to mingle with locals in a completely non-tourist ambience. This is as authentic and raw as it gets and you’ll love sharing your dance moves with the Cuban crowd and revelling in your love for this music genre.
Children’s Carnival in Santiago de Cuba (16 to 20 July)
Dedicated to the youngest and most spontaneous dancers in the country, Santiago de Cuba’s Carnaval Infantil celebrates 25 years this month and kicks off with a series of street parties where children take centre stage to participate in elaborate parades, don on costumes and perform musical numbers. This lively and colourful celebration dedicated to the youngest in the family is a joyous event to witness and the prelude to the bigger and more famous Santiago Carnival in the days to follow.
Rumbon Mayor in Santiago (21 to 27 July)
Also known as the adult-themed version of the famous “Carnavales de Santiago” this mega street party that goes on for days (a week) and raves on from morning ‘till night sees hundreds of santiagueros take to the streets to join the conga lines (by the way this is the birthplace of conga!) dress up in elaborate carnival costumes and down a few glasses of rum to the sounds of the drums. Santiago’s biggest annual celebration is quite something and no one should miss the chance to revel in its crazed, pumped up carnival parties. Yes, it feels like madness at times and fights do break out here and then, but for the most part it’s not only very safe to attend but also an incredibly exhilarating experience! It doesn’t get more authentically Cuban than this.
Josone Jazz in Varadero (12 to 15 July)
Over 20 Cuban musicians, singers and groups will be performing at the first ever edition of the Josone Jazz Festival in Varadero, created to delight a mixed audience of tourists and locals in this blessed part of the country, home to the largest concentration of all-inclusive beach resorts. Over the course of four days, the lush Josone Park in Varadero will play host to local and international musicians performing everything from the quintessential Latin jazz the island is famous for to rumba, son, timba and every kind of Cuban danceable music. Every day of the festival the party kicks off at 7 p.m. and bands perform until the early hours of the morning.
In addition to the great live music, there will be workshops and a cultural fair, as well as plenty of opportunity to bask in Varadero’s white sands. Jazz bands, soloists and salsa groups to look out for include Gente de Zona, Isaac Delgado, Ernan Lopez-Nussa, El Septeto Santiaguero, Los Munequitos de Matanzas and Yissy Garcia among other talented young performers.
Flamenco flair at Havana’s Gran Teatro (14 and 15 July)
Cuba’s national flamenco dance group, Ballet Espanol de Cuba, will be debuting its new show “Iluminados por la danza” (Enlightened by dance) for two days over the 14th and 15th July weekend. Directed by Eduardo Veitia, this new production pays tribute to some of the biggest names in the global cultural scene, from Frida Kahlo to Cuban painter Wifredo Lam and writer Servando Cabrera. With original music by Manuel Falla that first saw the light in the First International Festival of Spanish and Flamenco Dance, this beautiful show will open with seven choreographed pieces to the sound of seven Spanish songs while its second act, titled “Anoranza” (Nostalgia or Longing) will present the following dance numbers: The two Fridas, Diego and Frida, Dreaming dances, Solea and Tango. On Saturday the show starts at 8:30 p.m. and on Sunday at 5 p.m. Tickets can only be obtained at the Gran Teatro de La Habana’s ticket office.
Gilberto Santa Rosa in Varadero and Havana (15 to 16 July)
The famous Puerto Rican legend known as “El Caballero de la Salsa” (The Gentleman of Salsa) will be in Cuba for the first time to offer not one but two different concerts, both completely free for everyone to attend. If you like Puerto Rican-style salsa and are in Cuba then you’re in for a very special treat this month. Performing alongside other international artists whose identities haven’t yet been revealed, he will be in Varadero first to perform of the above-mentioned Josone Jazz Festival on 15th July where he will close off the event with a spectacular show before hopping to Havana the next to give a one-off concert. The location for his Havana concert has just been confirmed to be La Piragua and the time 9 p.m.
Ballet Nacional de Cuba presents “Cinderella” (19, 20, 21 and 22 July)
To celebrate its 70th anniversary, Cuba’s award-winning Ballet Nacional presents a new seasonal programme this summer with four scheduled performances of the classic “Cinderella” at its headquarters, the Gran Teatro de La Habana “Alicia Alonso”. Directed by legendary prima ballerina Alicia Alonso herself (who is 97 years old and shows no signs of slowing down), with choreography by Pedro Consuegra, music by Johann Strauss II, stage and costume designs by Armin Heinemann and inspired by Charles Perault fairy tale classic, this beloved love story will come to life at Havana’s greatest theatre. The timing for all first four performances is 8:30 p.m. while the last one on Sunday 22nd July will start at 5:00 p.m. Tickets will be on sale at the Gran Teatro’s ticket office starting 17th July, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Moncada Live at Bule-Bar 66 (21 and 28 July)
This legendary Cuban fusion music group that has managed to remain alive after more than 40 years by renewing itself every decade or so with new band members, continues its legacy of excellent, sometimes catchy, sometimes soulful 100% Cuban rhythms. As the first group in Cuba that emerged after 1959 to perform in the U.S. back in 1978, this group unites people from both sides of the pond and many Cubans, expats or not share their common love for the band. Now with its latest member onboard, Duani Ramos, the band’s new lead singer, Moncada is introducing the audience to its latest album with regular weekend performances at Bule-Bar 66, right at the heart of San Rafael’s boulevard and next door to the Gran Teatro de La Habana. A great opportunity to get in touch with the Cuban music genre known as Nueva Trova and spend some time chilling in a very Cuban ambience.
Casa de la Trova’s 50th Anniversary Bash in Santiago de Cuba (28 July)
Troubadours old and new will converge during a spectacular party to celebrate Casa de la Trova’s 50th birthday. This mega bash will start at 1 p.m. and end at 1 a.m. - that’s 12 hours of non-stop music and dancing! It’s a great time to be in Santiago de Cuba if you want to soak up the best of traditional Cuban music at one of its oldest performance venues, beyond immersing fully in the carnival. You’ll find Santiago’s Casa de la Trova right on one of the city’s busiest, most iconic streets; Calle Heredia, a place where the tradition for troubadour music and traditional sounds like “son” (an autochtonous Santiago rhythm) has been encouraged and perpetuated for over half-a-century, prior to this centric cultural centre’s creation.
Circo Nacional de Cuba starts its summer-long Cuba tour (14 July until end of August)
The prestigious Circo Nacional de Cuba (Circuba) is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, and after receiving a personal congratulations note from the island’s president, it now embarks on a full summer tour, covering every city and province in Cuba.
The national tour starts In Villa Clara, where the Circo Carpa Azul will perform on 14th and 15th July before moving on to Holguin, where it will offer daily performances from 20th to 24th July at Teatro Eddy Sunol and at the Ateneo Deportivo sports centre. The shows scheduled at Eddy Sunol theatre will start at 11 a.m. while those planned for the sports centre will kick off at 9 p.m. Tickets can be bought directly at the theatre’s ticket office and the shows offer a fabulously entertaining spectacle that kids and adults alike love.
This year’s summer production goes under the title of “El Circo Por Siempre” (The Circus Forever) and will have the participation of national and international artists. The name of the tour is “Circuba Viaja por toda Cuba” (Circuba travels to all of Cuba).
Kelvis Ochoa Live in El Sauce (28 July)
Watch one of the greatest Cuban fusion music performers and troubadours this Sunday at Havana’s El Sauce. The concert kicks of at 10 p.m. and to gain access all you have to do is pay a cover entry price of 5 CUC.
Cuba Loves Jazz concert by Roberto Fonseca (31 August)
Accomplished Cuban pianist and jazzist, Roberto Fonseca will be staging a special one-off concert at the Gran Teatro de La Habana’s “El Tablao”. Doors open at 8 p.m. and the concert starts at 9 p.m. Prepare for a melodic night with the best of Cuban jazz, in Fonseca’s words “the finest Cuban Jazz selection”, live every Tuesday this summer.