The Carnaval Parades in Santiago de Cuba

By:
Professor C. Otis Sweezey
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The parades for Carnaval in Cuba are an art form in themselves. They are a mixture of music, dance, costumes, and social pride. Unlike the carnivals in other parts of the world that are held just before Lent, Carnaval in Santiago de Cuba is celebrated in July during the Festival of St. Iago, patron Saint of the city. It is also a national event because in July 1955, Fidel Castro was able to enter the city of Santiago de Cuba, under the cover of the Carnaval, and start the Cuban Revolution. For Cubans, July 26 is their independence day. Designs for the parades are based on patriotism and are built with inexpensive materials, unlike carnivals in New Orleans and Rio de Janeiro, which are commercial and expensive undertakings. Because of the intense heat of the sun, these parades start at ten o’clock at night and last until three in the morning, with the parades last for a full week.

My paper will discuss Cuban Carnaval as an art form. The Carnaval in Santiago de Cuba is a national festival, which is highlighted by the parades. The parades are a combination of Cuban music, dance based on diverse ethnic backgrounds (Latin, Spanish, African, and Chinese), and bright colored costumes. Each group that presents a part of the procession is unique to all the other groups. Some reenact the history of the Cuban Island, including the Spanish colonization, rise of slavery, and their independences from slavery, the Spanish, and the Batista régime. Others design their presentations to entertain children, including a favorite called “The Big Heads”. Others reflect an ethnic African heritage. The majority of my paper will cover the mixing of the different art elements: music, dance, and costumes.


Keywords: Parades, Costumes, Dance, Music, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, Castro
Stream: Festivals
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Carnaval Parades in Santiago de Cuba, The


Professor C. Otis Sweezey

Chair, Department of Theater and Dance, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
USA

I originally was from the northeastern part of the United States. I grew up on Long Island and attended undergraduate school in upstate New York. I taught for three years at Vassar College before I returned to receive an MFA in Theatre Design from Brandeis University.

My work for the last thirty plus years has been in theater education at the college level. My main area of specialization is in theater design, specifically scene design, costume design, and multi-media. I have become an expert in computer graphics and have created multi-media projections for over thirty productions.

During the summer of 2004, I attended a symposium on Costume Designs for Carnival, in Santiago de Cuba. There I visited with many of the artist who work to create the parades for the festival. I also documented the conferences activates with over eight hours of video and created a web page of the events. I returned to Cuba in the summer of 2005 and photographed the parades.

Ref: A06P0082