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Museum of Carnival: A Showcase of Traditions

The scourge of slavery, which resulted from the colonizers' need for cheap labor force, left a deep imprint in the American continent.

In Cuba, remnants of that tragedy are present throughout the island, where there are many archeological sites, ruins of old sugarcane and coffee farms and barracks, where the slaves crowded together after working hard in the fields.

The songs, dances and cultural expressions brought to Cuba by the African slaves have survived the passage of time and have developed in every corner of the Caribbean Island.

Many of those expressions are present in famous festivities like carnivals, which are sponsored by cultural institutions with the goal of preserving that cultural tradition that is part of Cuban culture.

Several of those institutions promote that kind of festivity to keep a centuries-old tradition alive.

The Museum of Carnival, located in the city of Santiago de Cuba, the capital of the eastern province of the same name, is one of the institutions that have greatly contributed to keep that cultural expression, deeply rooted in Cuban society, alive.

Group of dancers.
Carnival charanga.
Enjoying the carnival.

The museum is dedicated to Santiago de Cuba's carnival, which is different from those held in other regions of the country, as it has a strong influence from Spanish, African and French-Haitian cultures.

Precisely, that combination of cultures has contributed to the carnival's rich dance and rhythmic diversity, the creation of costumes and other distinctive elements that make Santiago de Cuba's carnival the most spectacular in the country.

In that regard, the carnival is characterized by the congas, among which the most famous are that of Los Hoyos (Children of Cocoyé) and Paso Franco.

The museum is housed in an 18th-century building that has a Spanish-colonial corridor, which is one of few still preserved in the city.

The Museum of Carnival resulted from the need to keep that tradition alive, so its seven halls exhibit more than 250 pieces, including photos, costumes and musical instruments from different periods of that popular festivity.

According to experts, Santiago de Cuba's carnival is among the three major popular festivities in the country and is sponsored by centuries-old institutions.

That kind of celebration is strongly influenced by African and Caribbean elements such as music and dance that accompany the parades along the city's streets.

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