Cuban punto being performed in a traditional celebration. Photo: Granma

A poetic and musical expression rooted in national identity, Cuban punto was recently included on the elite list of expressions which form part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
The announcement was made on December 6, in Jeju, South Korea, where the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) committee met to review submissions by member states, before selecting the most significant and appropriate practices and expressions of national cultural traditions to add to the list which recognizes and safeguards such manifestations.

On assessing Cuba’s submission the jury were not only presented with an authentic and deep-rooted cultural expression, with diverse and enriching variants from the country’s rural areas, which later spread to urban centers, but also evidence of the Cuban state’s efforts to promote it within society, as part of its democratic cultural policy.

Punto refers to a melody accompanied by the voice of a person who either sings learned or improvised stanzas of ten octameter verse lines called décima, with a rhyming scheme. It was recognized by UNESCO as an essential part of the island’s intangible cultural heritage, which is open to all, encourages dialogue and expresses the emotions, knowledge and values of the communities which practice it.

With Spanish roots, emerging from the mix of songs and melodies brought to the island by Spanish immigrants, above all those from the Canary Islands and Andalucia, punto was consolidated as a genre during the 18th century, according to the noted musicologist Teté Linares, and continued to grow and expand, until it become an important element of the cultural life of campesinos, with its melodies and themes ranging from the epic to comedy.

Also included on the list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, are Al-Qatt Al-Asiri, female traditional interior wall decoration in Asir, Saudi Arabia; the Kochari, traditional group dance (Armenia); Dolma making (Azerbaijan); traditional art of Shital Pati weaving of Sylhet (Bangladesh); ritual journeys in La Paz during Alasita (La Paz, Bolivia), Konjic woodcarving (Bosnia and Herzegovina); Cultural practices associated to the 1st of March (Bulgaria, Moldova, Macedonia and Romania); Zaouli, popular music and dance of the Guro communities in Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast); and Llano work songs (Colombia, Venezuela).