A trip to the beach is a must in Cuba. It’s a powerful magnet and when the sun shines high in the sky, there’s the sea, within everyone’s reach, open and democratic, as Cuban poet Nicolás Guillén described it.
Although the idea that “It’s always summer in Cuba” may amaze some from outside of the island, for its inhabitants, the summer moths really consist of July and August.
That is when the season officially starts, which according to another bard, this time Ecuadoran Jorge Enrique Adoum “puts its clam color over all things…”
But the summer vacation isn’t for taking it easy, and every year, as well as enjoying its fantastic beaches, we Cubans ask ourselves several questions, above all: What to do and where to go?
The truth is that beyond sun and sea, cultural institutions offer various options and jam-packed programs of events and activities which could go some way to answering these questions.
Vacationers can choose from a broad and varied array of recreational offers, designed to cover the widest spectrum of entertainment.
As such, the 2017 summer season kicked off with the premiere of Dido and Aeneas by English composer Henry Purcell; one of the most famous operas from the Baroque period which debuted in London in 1689. The three act opera is a short production lasting approximately one hour, and recounts the love affair between the legendary Queen of Cartago, Dido, and Aeneas Prince of Troy.
Many know it for one of the most beautiful and celebrated moments of the opera, Dido’s dying lament, “When I am laid in earth.”
This July, the Alicia Alonso Grand Theater of Havana, saw Cuban and U.S. artists star in the premier of Dido and Aeneas, a coproduction between the Teatro Lírico Nacional, Florida State University and National Ballet of Cuba; with musical and choir direction by French maestra Nathalie Marin and Cuba’s Corina Campos, respectively.
Continuing along the path of music, noteworthy is the resumption of the National Symphony Orchestra’s regular Sunday presentations in the National Theater’s Covarrubias Hall.
The first concert of the season was directed by Nathalie Marin herself, with an interesting program featuring Cuban pianist Harold Lopez Nussa performing “Concerto in sol for piano and orchestra” by Ravel; the overture to the third act of Lohengrin by Richard Wagner; and Felix Mendellsohn’s “Dream of a summer night.”
Popular dance music opened the summer with quality it deserves: a spectacular concert in Havana’s Salón Rosado de la Tropical by the great sonera Haila Maria Mompié, who also launched her seventh studio album, Haila, Mujer de Acero.
The CD, which takes its title from a song composed specially for Haila by singer-songwriter Isaac Delgado, features 10 tracks, including “Santiago, mi Santiago,” “De donde vengo,” “El susto” and the conga “Para que llorar,” chosen as this year’s carnival anthem.
Alongside her countless fans, Haila, one of the best female voices on the island, is also celebrating 25 years in the industry this year.
As our readers are aware, Cubans are film fanatics, with a summer program which attests to this. The Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Arts and Industry (ICAIC) is presenting over 30 film festivals dedicated to different themes, genres, nationalities and styles.
Two of these focus on Cuban film: Daysi, Eslinda, Mirtha, Beatriz, Isabel. Divas del cine cubano and Amores imposibles (difíciles) a lo cubano, while others such as Michael, de apellido Moore, un tipo imperfecto; Seducción e infortunio: Marilyn Monroe, or Almodóvar: secretos e intrigas, approach universal productions.
At total of 175 films will be screened during the Summer Festival, in addition to those being presented by Cinemateca with another five attractive cycles, such as that featuring all the Cohen brothers’ movies; Bette Davis vs. Joan Crawford en el ring, and the Seventh Argentine Film Festival, opening with Kóblic, a film starring award winning actor Ricardo Darín.
Special options have also been designed for children, with Cuban television broadcasting a new series of cartoons in the form of ten 2D animation episodes, each lasting 50-seconds and created by ICAIC’s Animation Studios.
Entitled Cuba, la primera vez, by author Omar Felipe Mauri, the series features interesting historical facts about the island, for example the first known written record of the word Cuba; the first sale of ice; the founding of Baracoa; the first attack by mambises in the War of Independence; and the first baseball game ever played on the island.
ICAIC’s Animation Studios are also offering Tutu, a Spanish coproduction series featuring 52 episodes. According to its synopsis Tutu is “a fun and above all curious adventurer. A small kangaroo…with his friends Rafa a roller-skating giraffe; Nina, a fun and lively flea; and Linda, a sheep constantly glued to her tablet.”
Walks and Wanderings (Rutas y Andares) returns over the months of June and July for its 17th edition as the Havana City Historian’s Office invites Cuban families and visitors to rediscover the secrets of the oldest part of the city.
Katia Cárdenas, director of Cultural Management at the Havana City Historian’s Office, spoke about this year’s program, highlighting three walks dedicated to museums, which include visits to the Ciudad, Napoleónico, Obrapía, Naipes and Cerámica museums, as well as the Casa de la Orfebrería, Convento de San Francisco, and Arca Puppet Theater-Museum.
Meanwhile, a special route has been created in honor of the 80th anniversary of Picasso’s masterpiece Guernica, which will see participants visit the Cuba-Europe Interpretation of Relations Museum in the former Palacio del Segundo Cabo, where they will learn about “the socio-historical context of the piece, the work itself and its author.”
She also mentioned other important walks like that of the “La impronta africana en la cultura cubana,” (Africa’s legacy on Cuban culture) during which participants will visit house-temples in the municipality of Regla as they also wander around colonial courtyards and shrines in Chinatown.
The 21st century arrives to Old Havana, declared a World Heritage Site, with novel offers for young people and adolescents, such as the Contigo Somos + walk, linked to the “A + espacios adolescents” project which uses information and communication technologies in the form of cell phone apps, to discover a young José Martí as they wander around Havana’s streets.
It goes without saying that this activity requires an Andorid cell phone, with which participants can download the app from a Wi-Fi hotspot at the Cultural Management Office, while those without such a device are provided with phones at certain points during the tour.
Under the maxim “¡El buen humor tira pal‘monte!” the capital’s Karl Marx, Raquel Revuelta, and Mella Theaters, as well as the Adolfo Llauradó Hall and Bertolt Brecht Cultural Center will be hosting activities for the National Comedy Festival Aquelarre 2017, dedicated to the Costumbrismo movement (a literary or pictorial interpretation of local everyday life, mannerisms, and customs) with tributes to writer Onelio Jorge Cardoso, poet Jesús Orta Ruiz (Indio Naborí) and folk singer Chanito Isidrón.
Luis Enrique (Kike) Quiñones, director of the Comedy Promotion Center, responsible for organizing the event, explained that a varied program has been designed featuring book launches, audiovisual showcases, theoretic events, and numerous shows, among which he highlighted Súper Banda Clown, by Teatro Tuyo; Amores Ridículos, Grupo 40 Megas and Carlos Gonzalvo’s, Retrato de Familia.
There’s no comedy without clowns, who arrive with the circus. Artists from 16 countries are currently participating in the sixth edition of Circuba 2017, in Havana’s Trompoloco Big Top and the National Theater’s Avellaneda Hall.
Some of the most important numbers, according to Quiñones, include a balancing act by the Kuznetsovs Troupe from Belarus; a performance by Peruvian duo Vitalys; and the Vietnam State Circus Academy with their areal bamboo artists, equilibrists, and contortionists.
Noteworthy among Cuban acts are the renowned duo Sixto and Lucía, with their quick costume changes, as well as various juggling and balancing numbers by Compañía Havana.
Another essential space this summer is the eighth edition of the Cuban Cultural Fair “Art on La Rampa.”
The event, organized by the Cuban Cultural Goods Fund (FCBC) and Hermanos Saíz Association (AHS), is taking place in the capital’s Pabellón Cuba through September 3.
Alongside commercial offers, which include crafts, clothing and jewelry on sale at 68 stands this July, as well as another 68 completely different sellers in August, a broad artistic program is being presented, with album and book launches, panel discussions, and concerts.
The summer vacation season opened in Havana with La Noche de los Libros (The night of books) which took place all the way along 23rd Street to the Malecón, with tents in Quijote Park and Coppelia ice cream parlor.
Summer has begun in Cuba, and as we have seen, is offering much more than just sun and beach activities - with a season of fun and culture in store.