||Last Updated: Dec 15th, 2012 - 23:02:00
Santiago de Cuba, a UNESCO world heritage site is Cuba's 2nd largest and most exotic city. It's enigmatic appeal is wholly unique on the island. It's architecture carries a unique imprint and the people have evolved their own regional expressions of music and dance. Many different ethnic groups have settled here and the culture of the city is an eclectic mix that creates a unique Caribbean culture with African, Chinese, Indigenous, French Haitian, and Spanish influences. The mixture of these cultures is shown in the richness of the music and dance, many forms of which originated in Santiago de Cuba, such as the Conga, Rumba, and Son (which later developed into what people call salsa today). Santiago de Cuba is also where Castro launched his revolution in July 1953 with an ill-fated assault on the Moncada barracks. One can still go there today and see the bullet holes, from Castros invasion, in the barrack walls.
This city of broad boulevards and intimate plazas has its old town laid out in a grid tilting down to the harbor. History echoes down the narrow streets graced by timeworn buildings painted in sun-bleached pastels.
Every July, the famous Cuba Carnival is held in Santiago. it takes its form from the parades of secret societies of ancient Africa, transformed in Cuba into neighborhood comparas - competitive musical groups that parade through the streets in musical melees full of sinister and sensual content. revelers dress as orishas (gods) and clowns with huge papier-mache heads; others adopt period colonial costume or strip down to sequined, befeathered bikinis. the blare of Chinese cornets and the pounding of bata drums echoes through the streets as conga lines and parade floats march down Avenida Jesus Menendez and the entire city indulges in a no-holds-barred carousal. This event is a massive party, which lasts several days and includes a number of cultural events, including music, food, and parties.
The carnival of Santiago de Cuba is the largest, most famous, and most traditional carnival in all of Cuba, and is an explosion of color, contagious drum rhythms, and dance. It is also a time for Cubans to remember their history, community, and culture, and is punctuated by the Cuban national holiday on July 26th.
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