Thirdeyemom

The Rhythm and Twist of Cuban Rumba

Cuba’s rich culture and heritage is a melting pot of mixed ancestry and race. As the Spanish came to colonize Cuba, they brought in over a million slaves from Africa to work on the plantations starting in the 16th century until the abolition of slavery in 1886. During those years, African slaves were coerced to assimilate as much as possible into Spanish Cuban society. However, they fortunately had rather creative ways at retaining their own unique culture and identity through their religion Santeria, music, and dance. One of the benefits of the Cuban revolution was the creation of a more equal society. Although racism still exists a little bit it is much less prevalent than in other parts of the world.

Trinidad, one of the most beautiful colonial towns in all of Cuba, has a strong Afro-Cuban culture. One of the highlights of our visit to Trinidad was a live show of Afro-Cuban music and dancing at the Palenque de los Congoes Reales in the heart of Colonial Trinidad. Over tangy mojitos, we enjoyed a live performance of rumba dance to traditional Afro-Cuban music.

Afro-Cuban music in Trinidad

Afro-Cuban music is dominated by percussion. Popular percussion instruments include the conga (tumbadora), a large drum laid between the legs and beat rhythmically with the hands, the bongo (two small drums of different sizes linked together), the timbales (two snare drums with cowbells), and the claves (two short sticks). There is also the guiro a grooved gourd that is scraped with a stick, and maracas filled with seeds. (Source: Cuba Like a Local by Peter Greenberg)

Afro-Cuban music in Trinidad

Rumba was inspired by a fertility dance of African Bantu origin and its characteristic pelvic movements known as “vacunao” are common throughout the dance. Rumba was created in the poor neighborhoods of Havana and Matanzas at the end of the 19th century and is one of the most common kinds of dance found throughout Cuba along with salsa.

What I loved best was the lively beat of the various types of drums and the vibrant colors of the dancers. At the end they dragged our group onto the floor and taught us a few moves. Those pictures I had to leave out of the post due to pure embarrassment. We obviously did not have the same kind of moves as the locals.

Afro-Cuban dancing in Trinidad

Afro-Cuban dancing in Trinidad

Afro-Cuban dancing in Trinidad

The dance also reenacted scenes from different stories and myths prevalent in Afro-Cuban culture.

Afro-Cuban dancing in Trinidad

Afro-Cuban dancing in Trinidad

 Afro-Cuban dancing in TrinidadAfro-Cuban dancing in TrinidadAfro-Cuban dancing in TrinidadAfro-Cuban dancing in TrinidadThe energy of the music and the dance was sensational. It was a great way to be introduced to another dynamic part of Cuban culture and life.

Trinidad weaver

This man was weaving and selling handmade baskets. I couldn’t resist buying one for my home.

This post was inspired by the Weekly Photo Challenge: Twist. Although I tried my best to capture the dancers with their rapid twists and twirls, I discovered that photographing movement is quite difficult.

 

23 comments

  1. I’d absolutely love to go to Cuba one of these days. My husband is Jamaican so he can travel to Cuba without any restrictions and without having to be a part of a special program. It’s one of my goals to get my Jamaican citizenship in the near future and once I do, I’ll be on the first flight to Havana! I’ve always been fascinated by Cuban culture and I really love these pictures! It’s commendable that Afro-Cubans were able to hold on to some of their African customs.

    • That is wonderful! I truly hope that our government gets rid of the ridiculous embargo and also let people travel freely to Cuba. It is over 50 years old! Hope you can get there too! 🙂 I would love to visit Jamaica someday too! 🙂

  2. That’s got all our toes tapping! 🙂 Like Ad, I especially like that last shot. It looks like he’s making a little horse for a grandchild?

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