The Carnival of Santiago de Cuba, also known as the Rumbón Mayor, is one of the biggest celebrations of carnival on the island of Cuba. The hustle and bustle and celebration of carnival mixes with the exotic city of Santiago de Cuba to bring out all the cultural aspects that the island has to offer. During 7 days of parranda, the congas and the comparsas take to the streets of the city to brighten up the night for the thousands of Cubans and all visitors from different parts of the country and the world.
The great syncretism of cultures makes the Carnival party in Santiago de Cuba an experience like no other. The Conga and the Rumba can be heard in all the streets, brightening up the Santiago nights that are packed to see the comparsas that with their rhythms and colors transform the streets into a great festive stage. Those who are lucky enough to attend the event, will have an incredible view on the sides of the street to witness the most magical nights of the city.
During carnivals, every corner of the city is permeated with the smell of pork, beer and rum, the island’s signature drink. While some people chat with their neighbors and friends, others watch with perplexity the parades that move to exorbitant rhythms and full of the characteristic flavor of the Cuban people.
We invite you to come to the city of Santiago de Cuba so that you can see with your own eyes the great explosion of fluency, music, colors and flavors that only the island of Cuba has to offer.
Carnival in Santiago de Cuba is not held like the rest of the carnivals, but takes place during the month of July. The carnival coincides with the national holiday celebrated on the island on July 26.
The Carnival of Santiago de Cuba will take place approximately from July 21 to 27.
Carnival is a celebration that has proliferated particularly in the European continent and was brought to various Latin American and Caribbean regions by the colonizers hundreds of years ago. In the case of the Isle of Cuba, the carnival was brought by the Spaniards and has deeply permeated the identity of the Cuban. However, due to the syncretism of cultures on the island, the carnival has acquired unique characteristics that reflect the personality, the charisma and the Cuban traditions.
Carnivals are traditionally celebrated before Christian Lent; that is, a celebration that takes place between the month of February and the month of March. However, the carnivals in Santiago de Cuba are not celebrated on the traditional date, but during the summer. Despite having all the carnival elements characteristic of the festivities, the carnival in the city of Santiago de Cuba is nothing more than a mixture of the elements of the carnival with the ancient festival of “Los Mamarrachos”.
Although the festivities of Los Mamarrachos were mainly to commemorate the dates of the various saints of the month of July as the Día de San Juan; Día de San Pedro; the Día de Santa Cristina; Santiago Apostle’s Day and Saint Anne’s Day, nowadays the festivities have lost a little of the religious significance and have been devoted almost exclusively to parranda, the fiesta, the music, the drinking and the dances held every year in the city.
The exact date when the festivities began to form part of Cuban traditions, is unknown, as there are only records from 1757 in which “Los Mamarrachos” itself is mentioned. However, the popular festivals as such have been registered in the year 1679, which possibly has a much older trajectory.
Los Mamarrachos were celebrated after the sugar cane harvest, which took place between January and May, allowing slaves and creoles to participate in the festivities after their working days. The parties were used as an exhaust valve so that the workers could let go of their frustrations and get away from the daily routine of working in the sugar cane fields.
The first celebrations were somewhat brief and had some concentrations of people who carried out parades and sales of food and drinks. In addition, there was the participation ofmusical orchestras and hogueras andtours through the temples. By the 19th century, the important division of the comparsas took place, elements that are still maintained. During this period, two types of comparsas emerged: Paseos and las Congas.
Today, the Santiago de Cuba Carnival is one of the most anticipated celebrations of the year, comprising several nights of festivities where the spirit of the Cuban bochinchero stands out, the traditional music, the dances, the carrozas and the delicious Caribbean food of the Isle of Cuba.
Carnivals are held in the city of Santiago de Cuba, the second largest city located in the southeast of theisland of Cuba.
Santiago de Cuba has a total area of 1,032 square kilometers where more than 430,000 people live.
The month of July is highly celebrated and celebrated in thecity of Santiago de Cuba, since several festivals and festivals are held from beginning to end. Although not directly part of the carnivals, the Fiesta del Fuego is one of the events that ignites the festive flame of the month of July. The rest of the month is celebrated with effervescence waiting for the most magical nights of the year.
Carnival in Santiago de Cuba is a marvelous occasion where hundreds of colors mingle with the distinctive rhythms of the conga. Thousands of people gather every year to celebrate together one of the most awaited and popular events on the island. During the Santiago nights in July, a magical explosion of colors, dances and sounds takes place in which everyone wants to take part.
Although the carnivals of Santiago de Cuba are experienced both in the streets with the groupings and in family gatherings and with friends, within the celebrations there are elements that stand out with singularity, making the celebrations unique in their style.
The comparsas are a large group of artists who are in charge of bringing the party to the streets and entertaining all the spectators who come to celebrate the carnival. The comparsas are generally composed of singers, music and dancers. Ain addition, all accompanied by large colorful and thematic floats that usually have more dancers on them.The Carnival of Santiago de Cuba has two themes of comparsas: Paseos and Congas.
The paseos are a type of comparsa light marching that is generally accompanied by musical orchestra accompaniment. In addition, it features well-applied, defined and synchronized dance choreographies.
It is the most popular aspect of the carnivals, since it involves the bulk of the working class and has a large number of dancers who perform choreographies to slightly freer rhythms. However, it retains the distinctive and unique dance style of the genre. In addition, the dancers feature popular and traditional costumes.
Santiago de Cuba Carnival has a large number of activities that run simultaneously as food and drink fairs and some games that are performed in certain parts of the city. Of course, the street partying on the part of the citizens never goes off during the 7 days of carnivals.
If you wish to attend the Santiago de Cuba carnivals, we recommend you to plan your trip in advance, make an itinerary of activities and book the lodging of your choice in advance. Also, be sure to pack comfortable clothes so you can fully enjoy your carnivals.
During your stay, be sure not to bring up political issues, as these can cause some confusion and conflict, especially to the locals.
Due to physical activity, alcohol consumption and the heat, your body can become dehydrated at alarming rates, so we recommend that you stay hydrated and apply sunscreen frequently.
If you want to see the carnivals in the most comfortable way possible, we recommend you purchase the seats that are arranged on the sides of the street. Also, be sure to arrive early so you won’t miss a single second of the festivities.
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The Rumbón Mayor is the main star of the carnivals; however, before the official party, some activities and events take place. These include some ceremonies and competitions in the in the vicinity of the Cuban city.
The aquatic carnival of Santiago de Cuba is a kind of inauguration or warm-up for the Rumbón Mayor. The celebration is held in the company of small, medium and large boats. Dozens of boats are decked out on the city’s malecón to perform various artistic presentations, including dancing and music. Each of the floats is played by a panel of jurors who will give their verdict to win a generous prize.
The Children’s Carnival of Santiago de Cuba has been held for a couple of decades only; however, one of the purposes of the event is to integrate the youngest of the city in the annual carnival festivities. In addition, it seeks the preservation of the identity features of society, as well as the preservation of culture.
These children who today participate in the Rumbón infantil will be the ones who will organize and actively participate in the carnivals of Santiago.
The Rumbón Mayor is nothing more than the official party of the carnivals in which the dozens of comparsas participate performing a beautiful show of dance and music. The carrozas and the choreographies take to the streets for a couple of hours a day to perform a great show. For 7 nights, the city is part of a huge stage where the music will be heard in every corner of the city and the dance steps of the comparsas will hypnotize all the public in the stands.
These 7 nights, the comparsas are in constant competition, since, at the end of the day, the panel of judges will decide who are the winners in each category.
Carnival never has a rest in thecity of Santiago de Cuba, since the preparations to carry out the festivities begin a year before. During this year the floats are prepared and the dance steps are polished for the big day.
The carnival parades take place every night at approximately 9:00 p.m. The event is a great event full of magic, color and music. The floats and the comparsas take to the streets to show what they are made of and demonstrate it through the various cultural demonstrations..
Each comparsa performs a large group of people, which usually have some typical costume and are made up of both men and women. They all perform an incredible choreography to entertain the masses that attend every night to enjoy the best show in town. The floats that accompany the parade feature incredible decorations which, in turn, are filled with dancers who brighten up the route. The musicians are also on the streets, and with their drums and trumpets they set the rhythm for the public and the troupes to perform their dance routines.
The various groups with themed costumes that move from one side to the other with fake swords, dragons and whistles are also present in the parades, the missing component to close with a flourish one of the most special and popular festivities of the island of Cuba..
The parades take place on Jesus Menendez Avenue, right by the sea. The route occupies several kilometers where all the comparsas sing, dance and have a great time.
Fortunately, Santiago de Cuba’s carnivals are celebrated as much with dance and music as with food. In the different points of the city you can find various food spots where you can find a large number of dishes. These dishes range from sweet to savory, as well as alcoholic beverages and soft drinks. Walking through the kiosks and stores you can find popcorn, cotton candy and mincemeat.
One of the classics of Cuba that you can find everywhere during carnival is the Mojito. This is one of the world-famous cocktails that the island has every right to brag about. Traditionally, the mojito is made with white rum, sugar, lime juice, carbonated water and mint or yerba buena. Centuries ago, the mojito was made with aguardiente and today it has a great number of variations.
Another of the dishes that you can find in the various kiosks and stores in the city during carnivals in the city are the brochetas. Despite not being a traditional food or typical of the island of Cuba, it has begun to gain ground within the festivals and carnivals. You can find them of all kinds; meat, chicken or even shrimp. In addition, you can find them with pineapple pieces to accompany the pieces of meat.
In addition, the city of Santiago de Cuba offers you some alternatives to eat out during the celebration of carnivals. Some of the most famous places are: St. Pauli, Restaurante Aurora, El Palenquito, Restaurante Aurora and Thoms Yadira Restaurant.
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If you decide to extend your visit to the Santiago de Cuba Carnival, you can attend both the Aquatic Carnival and the Children’s Carnival, these are two of the events that function as the opening of the carnivals..
Once you are in the official carnivals or Rumbón Mayor, we recommend purchasing a seat so you can see the whole show in a comfortable place and be able to see everything that happens in the street. During the event you will be able to see dozens of decorated floats where dancers are located to liven up the party. Right on the street you will see dozens of comparsas performing their pieces of music and choreographies to perfection. The whole event is accompanied by the musicians who also roam the streets, whose distinctive sounds are the tambor and the trompeta.
In addition, as you walk the streets,you will find several food stalls and kiosks selling both traditional food, and cotton candy, popcorn, kabobs, alcoholic drinks and refreshments.
Santiago de Cuba has some tourist attractions that you can visit during your stay during the carnivals.
It is a fortress that has been listed as a World Heritage Site by Unesco. The fortress was built in 1638 and has been rebuilt several times due to damage caused by earthquakes in 1758 and 1766.
It is a great natural attraction consisting of a large rock of great proportions. The rock weighs about 70,000 tons and has a height of 25 meters and 30 meters wide. The rock is of volcanic origin, like the rest of the geological formations of Sierra Maestra. It is currently one of the most popular tourist attractions on the island.
It is a house museum of ancient appearance. It has furniture from different periods. In addition, it has different pieces of art both replicas and originals. Admission is free, but tips are encouraged in the museum to continue with the preservation of the spaces and works.
Santiago de Cuba is a relatively safe city, but like any tourist city, it always has some minor crimes. We recommend you to stay alert to avoid becoming a victim of pickpockets or frauds. Keep your belongings in a safe place and do not let yourself be carried away by the charms of strangers who offer you extraordinary services or incredible offers. Do not hesitate to contact the authorities if you identify any suspicious activity. Also, we recommend the following products to keep your items safe:
During the carnival festivities in Santiago de Cuba, the city has a pleasant climate, but hot at times, with temperatures ranging between 20 and 29 degrees Celsius. We recommend you to stay hydrated and apply sunscreen whenever your skin needs it. If possible, it is a good idea to bring an umbrella to protect you from the sun.
The nearest airport to thecity of Santiago de Cuba is the Santiago de Cuba International Airport 6 kilometers from the city center. The airport receives mainly flights fromLatin America and the Caribbean, but also some flights from Italy and France. Once you are here, you can make use of the various means of transportation to the city center.
If you are already on the island, you can take a train from Havana to Santiago de Cuba. The journey takes about 12 hours, but is a bit more affordable than travel between airports.
From the airport you can take a bus directly to the city center. The trip takes about 25 minutes and costs 2 US dollars.
If you are already in Cuban territory, you can take a Viazul bus from Havana to Santiago.
From the airport you can take a car along the Carretera del Morro. The drive is about 7 minutes.
If you take a cab, the taxi fare will be approximately about US$10.
3 stars hotel, 1.4 km from Santiago de Cuba city center. The rooms are air-conditioned and have private bathrooms. Facilities include swimming pool, bar, parking and free Wi-Fi.
4 star hotel 800 meters from Santiago de Cuba city center. The rooms have TV and private bathroom. The hotel has a bar and free wifi.
4 star hotel 850 meters from Santiago de Cuba city center. The rooms have a desk, TV and refrigerator. The hotel has a bar and room service.
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