THAT THING SHAKING THE GROUND … IS SANTIAGO’S CARNIVAL!
“That thing that rises, that is coming. That thing shaking the ground, is Santiago's Carnival.” Perhaps there is no better way to say it, Composer Enrique Bonne, Premio Nacional de Musica, knows what he is saying. For three decades now, he has been in charge of the parades and dancing groups of the main popular festivity in Santiago de Cuba, declared as Nation's Cultural Heritage.
The city's historian, Doctor Olga Portuondo Zuñiga, has written that the contemporaneous carnival of Santiago de Cuba is the result of secular and religious festivities that “interweaved and grouped themselves on specific dates, just the way they do today”.
Santiago's Carnival prides itself on having groups that, for more than 100 years now, have been loyal, such as cabildos Carabalí Izuama and Carabali Olugo, as well as Tumba Francesa La Caridad de Oriente, the latter declared Masterpiece of the Oral and Immaterial Heritage of Humanity.
During carnival times, on July 26, 1953, a group of men headed by Fidel Castro assaulted the second military fortress by then: the Moncada Garrison. Rebelliousness, culture and popular encouragement have marked for ever the features of this western Cuban city.
We could choose many faces to define the carnival: that of a capero´s, the float-men, or the boys and girls of La Placita avenue. The corneta china (Chinese horn) should not be missing in the carnival with its unmistakable sound. They say that it sounded for the first time in 1915, in El Tivoli, a neighborhood of French background. Ever since, there is no Santiago's Carnival without the corneta china.
The memories of the carnival are rich in happenings, recreations, characters, and rivalries that, with their own mark, persist up to the present day. We are referring to the river of people going up the Trocha and down Martí streets, the resounding drums, the muñecones, the floats, the rag cloth horses, the masks, the roast pork, the boiled corncob, the dance, the people dancing down the street…
Every July, the city shrugs off the stress and the heat with a pitch of cold beer, swings its ancient waist, loses its inhibitions, reinvents itself. Have you not felt this yet?! What are you waiting for?!