Cuba: What's on when
Festival de la Trova Longina
Held early in January in Santa Clara - Villa Clara, the Festival de la Trova Longina commemorates one of Cuba’s most famous and best-loved trova musicians, Manuel Corona, and his song “Longina”. The festival includes performances by musicians, as well as a traditional walk to Corona’s home town, Caibarién.
Havana International Book Fair
In February, Havana’s San Carlos de la Cabana Fortress hosts a 10-day book fair, celebrating the best of Cuban and international writing. The festival, which attracts thousands of people, includes book launches, talks by authors, poetry readings and book exhibits where you can browse books of every description. It also includes concerts and a craft fair. Once the festival finishes in Havana, it moves to other cities and towns throughout Cuba.
International Cigar Festival
Held in Havana in late February, the International Cigar Festival focuses on Cuba’s most famous cigars, with a trade fair, Habanosommelier contest and tours of cigar factories and tobacco plantations. The festival also includes concerts and musical performances.
International Pepe Sanchez Trova Festival
In March, the city of Santiago hosts a celebration of Cuban trova (or troubadour) music, with performances of traditional trova, “filin” – which has evolved from both trova and bolero – and the more modern nueva trova. The festival commemorates the birth of famous trova musician, Jose (Pepe) Sanchez.
Trinidad Cross Procession
On Good Friday, a historical procession makes its way through the attractive town of Trinidad, following a route marked by crosses. The original procession is said to have been designed to foil looting pirates, with crosses throughout the town marking false routes.
May Day is celebrated across Cuba with marches, speeches by prominent leaders and a range of cultural and musical events. In Havana, upwards of a million people congregate at the Plaza de la Revolucion, with its huge statue of Cuban patriot and writer, Jose Marti.
Gibara Low-Budget Film Festival
In late April or early May, the town of Gibara hosts Cuba’s equivalent of the Sundance Film Festival, with a festival that promotes and celebrates low-budget but high quality filmmaking; in Cuba and worldwide. As well as film showings, the festival includes concerts and art exhibitions.
International Ernest Hemingway Needlefish Tournament
Ernest Hemingway himself began the annual Needlefish Tournament, which today is hosted by the Hemingway International Nautical Club and attracts anglers from around the world. Competition is fierce as fishing enthusiasts attempt to catch the biggest marlin, tuna and wahoo.
Starting in late May and running through the first three weeks of June, the Havana Biennial is one of the most significant art festivals in Latin America. It features exhibits of works from over 200 international artists, with special events held throughout the city. It’s said that during the Biennial, Havana becomes the largest gallery in the world.
Festival del Caribe
Near the start of July, Santiago de Cuba hosts a week-long celebration of Caribbean music and dance. Highlights include concerts, parades of dancers and decorated vehicles alongside stalls selling Cuban food and beer. The festival also features goat-drawn cart rides for children.
26 July/ Revolution Day
July 26th is one of Cuba’s most important and patriotic national holidays. It marks Fidel Castro’s assault on Santiago de Cuba's Moncada Barracks and is a celebration of the country’s revolutionary history. It also marks the birth of Cuban writer and patriot, Jose Marti, on July 26th 1853.
Santiago de Cuba Carnival
The biggest and best-known of all Cuba’s festivals is the Santiago de Cuba Carnival, held every year from 18th to the 27th July. The festival period incorporates the saint day of Santiago (or St. James) on July 25th, as well as Revolution Day on July 26th. As well as celebrating Cuban history and culture, the Carnival is an excellent excuse for a mid-summer party, with parades and street performances by comparsas (conga-playing bands), dancing, costumes, good food and no shortage of beer and rum. The Carnival attracts visitors from around the globe.
Carnival de la Habana
In late July and early August, Havana celebrates its own carnival, with a colourful parade and conga performances along the Malécon promenade, music, fireworks and performances by bands in old Havana. Among the colour and chaos, you may see Muñecones, which are giant satirical figures of politicians.
Matamoros Son Festival
From the 10th to the 14th of September, Cuban and international musicians converge in Santiago de Cuba for a celebration of Cuban music and dance. The festival is named after one of the country’s most famous composers, Miguel Matamoros. Concerts, lectures and workshops are held throughout the city, and the festival includes a national dance competition that focuses on the Latin American dances cha-cha-cha, son, salsa, casino, mambo and danzon.
International Havana Ballet Festival
Started in 1960 by legendary ballerina Alicia Alonso, Havana’s ballet festival attracts leading dance companies from around the world. Performances are held at the Gran Teatro de La Habana and Teatro America, as well as elsewhere in Havana, and the festival includes exhibitions, lectures and film screenings.
Havana Theatre Festival
The annual Havana Theatre Festival features theatrical and dance performances, as well as exhibitions, workshops and conferences.
New Latin American International Film Festival
Each year since 1979, Havana has hosted the immensely popular “Nuevo Cine Latino Americano”, featuring films from throughout Latin America. It’s here that many famous Latin American films made their debut.
Parrandas de Remedios
The town of Remedios, which is one of the oldest in Cuba, is known for its traditional Christmas festival, dating back to the 1800s. The festival is known for its wild street parades, fireworks, colourful floats and rumba percussion ensembles.