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Slave's Route: French Tumba in Eastern Cuba

Slavery in Cuba, a phenomenon that left a deep imprint in national society with its legacy of exploitation and violence, is present in a wide variety of cultural expressions and traditions.

Everywhere in Cuba you can find the signs of thousands of people forcibly brought to the Caribbean Island as cheap labor force to do the hardest works.

The initiative to create programs to spread the reality of slavery and its social influence was the starting point to launch a project known as the Slave's Route in Cuba.

Experts recalled that by promoting that project, Cuba put into practice a program sponsored by international organizations that also includes the Maya Route in Central America.

Part of that legacy lies in the French Tumba Society "La Caridad de Oriente", which is rooted in plantations in eastern Cuba, whose owners were of French origin.

The society maintains its musical instruments as a tradition based on African cultural elements inherited from the slaves, who reconstructed them upon arriving in Cuba, making a major musical contribution to their dances and songs.

Pompadour French Tumba Society
French Tumba. Ball Dancing
French Tumba Society

The origin of the name dates back to centuries ago, when African slaves in French coffee plantations had a kind of dance they called Tumba, which they danced to celebrate their owner's name day, as well on Saint John's and Saint Peter's days.

As time went by, the wars of independence, the abolition of slavery and customs led to the organization of the French Tumba in chapters and societies that have survived until today.

The said society's culinary history includes such dishes as ajiaco (a spicy potato dish), pasties, pork and boiled tubers, including sweet potato, yucca and yautia, all of which are accompanied with different kinds of rums that are typical from eastern Cuba.

The large repertoire of dances includes Yubá, Front or Frenté, which are expressions of African culture and are considered the antecedents of guaguancó and Cuban rumba, according to experts.

Other cultural expressions are Carabiné and Tahona, which are closely linked to carnivals, during which participants show their abilities and spontaneous intelligence.

The so-called French Tumba has become a representative element of the African slaves' culture in eastern Cuba, particularly in the regions of Baracoa, Guantánamo and Santiago de Cuba.

"La Caridad de Oriente", which has survived the passage of time, is considered a particular and unique cultural expression in eastern Cuba and is a major attraction for foreign tourists who visit the country.

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