Often hailed as the key to the enchanting Gulf of Mexico, this captivating island, the largest in the Caribbean Sea, is nestled within easy reach of Central America and the Caribbean. Cuba unfolds as an alluring destination, inviting you to discover its rich tapestry of culture, pristine landscapes, and warm hospitality. Immerse yourself in the allure of this extraordinary travel gem’s vibrant spirit
By H.E. Mr. Alejandro Simancas Marin, Ambassador of Cuba to India
Travelling to Cuba can be geographically long, since Cuba and India are almost at the antipodes of the globe. However, I can assure you that it is worth it and all the effort, as visiting Cuba is a unique experience.
Cuba stands as a global icon of natural splendour, with its beaches casting a spell of unparalleled beauty—where crystalline waters weave a tapestry of intense blues, embracing powdery white sands. The island enjoys an unyielding climate that bestows an everlasting summer, inviting exploration at any time of the year. Cuba’s shores boast not just beauty but sheer perfection, with gems like Varadero, Cayo Santa Maria, and Cayo Largo offering a glimpse into paradise. Yet, beyond these coastal jewels, Cuba’s heart reveals itself in nature’s embrace—an interior paradise inviting discerning adventurers to indulge in hiking, cycling, horseback riding, caving, diving, and wildlife observation. Engage in photographic safaris and trekking through untouched landscapes, where vibrant colours and captivating aromas create an immersive experience, transcending the ordinary into the extraordinary.
NATURAL TREASURES: PARKS AND RESERVES
Commencing our exploration, Cuba proudly hosts 14 national parks, 25 ecological reserves, and 6 biosphere reserves, spanning diverse landscapes from dense jungles to pristine mangroves, vast forests adorned with endless pine trees, and nearly untouched beaches. This rich natural tapestry is complemented by a significant cultural heritage, offering a genuine insight into the essence of Cuba. It’s essential to always bear in mind that Cuba epitomises a symphony of light, aromas, and vibrant hues taken to the highest degree. In the undulating valleys and towering mountains, you’ll encounter a profound green merging seamlessly with the azure sky, accompanied by the majestic rhythm of royal palms, our cherished national tree.
CUBAN NATIONAL CULTURE DAY: A HISTORIC CELEBRATION
The Cuban National Culture Day was officially proclaimed on October 20, 1868, marking a historic moment when the Cuban people, upon their liberation by the mambi liberation army in the city of Bayamo, joyfully sang our National Anthem, known as the Bayamesa. This pivotal event marked the commencement of the Cuban War of Independence.
AJIACO: BLENDING CULTURES AND HERITAGE
Cuba boasts a cultural and historical tradition that runs deep, rooted in strength and resilience. Delving into Cuban culture requires an understanding of what we term the criollo ajiaco. Ajiaco, often described as a melting pot or stew, possesses the unique quality of blending diverse ingredients to create a harmonious and flavourful whole. This distinctive characteristic encapsulates the essence of Cuban culture and identity—the art of skilful mixing and blending.
The ajiaco begins with the Taino, Siboney and Caribe indigenous culture, and goes through the mixture of Spanish and African cultures. Everything has its roots in the inspirers of the independence of Cuba and its maximum expression is found in the humanist vocation of Jose Marti, his idea that the only way to be free is to be cultured and to be educated.
SYMBOLS OF IDENTITY
Exploring our national symbols naturally begins with the iconic elements such as our flag and the royal palm, hailed as Cuba’s national tree and the reigning queen of our landscapes. Another significant symbol is our national bird, the tocororo, adorned in the colours of the flag, representing freedom; a poignant metaphour as the bird succumbs when confined within a cage.
Cuba has a rich cultural and historical heritage. Throughout the country you can find 10 UNESCO World Heritage, 272 national monuments and more than 350 museums.
HISTORICAL TAPESTRY: FROM INDEPENDENCE TO REVOLUTION
Cuba has a rich history linked first to the struggle for Spain’s independence and then to the revolutionary struggle against the neo-colonial yoke of the United States. This exciting story and the legacy of the great personalities and leaders who made it possible, such as Jose Marti, Fidel Castro, Ernesto Che Guevara, is a learning motivation for many visitors.
RHYTHMS OF CUBA
The mixture, of our culture and identity is also shown in the immense variety of our music and dance; there is no one who can resist dancing to the son, the chachacha, the mambo, the bolero, everything that is summarised today internationally as salsa. Cuba is the origin of the “salsa” and indisputable sanctuary for those who like to listen and dance to these rhythms. There are many events that are held during the year, among which Cubadisco and the Havana Jazz Festival stand out, one of the most prestigious in the world.
However, music and dance live permanently in the streets of Cuba; and in its dynamic nightlife. The Cabaret Tropicana and the Fabrica de Arte are obligatory sites in Havana; and in Santiago de Cuba: The Casa de la Trova.
The ajiaco is reflected in our religious beliefs, which are characterised by syncretism and in which the borders between Christianity and the African religious tradition are lost. It is reflected in our highly recognised literary artistic expression and our visual arts and our handicrafts, which visitors can appreciate in different specialised markets, but also in the main hotels in Cuba.
Everything is reflected in our traditions, in our rum and its widest diversity of cocktails born in Cuba such as the mojito, daiquiri, Cuba Libre, just to name a few with which to relieve the heat of the eternal Cuban summer. The Guayabera, which today is a regional garment born in our city of Trinidad characterises our way of dressing.
UNVEILING CUBA’S HABANOS LEGACY
Cuba proudly holds the title of the world’s premier tobacco producer. The 27 esteemed tobacco brands, safeguarded by the “Habanos” designation of origin, encapsulate a rich history and cultural legacy. Delving into the world of “Habano” becomes an exhilarating journey for visitors, commencing amidst the lush, verdant valleys of Pinar del Rio, where the finest tobacco leaves are cultivated. Following the evolution of this exquisite crop, one can culminate the experience by savouring it alongside a Havana Club rum or a robust and sweet Cuban coffee.
HAVANA: AN ENCHANTING CITY
Havana is one of the most beautiful cities of the continent, a city full of paradoxes and contradictions, whose main attractions are the beauty of its historic core, its exceptional eclectic architecture, ranging from tropical baroque, art nouveau, to revolutionary iconography. Its culture places it as one of the best destinations to visit in Latin America.
The history of Havana is genuinely captivating, with a wealth of intriguing museums, noteworthy restoration projects, and a splendid artistic and cultural legacy waiting to be explored. Within its streets, you’ll encounter a sensory feast—from vibrant paintings, murals, novels, and poetry to the rhythmic beats of Cuban rumbas. The delightful ambiance of Havana’s streets, coupled with colourful murals, promises a sensory journey where each corner reveals the city’s offerings, spanning from lively street music to the allure of cabaret.
A SYMPHONY OF DAILY LIFE AND VINTAGE CHARM
An enchanting facet of Havana lies in observing the rhythm of daily life: the joy of children playing baseball in the streets, the itinerant troubadours, spontaneous and candid conversations unfolding at every corner, and the distinctive manner in which the Cubans create, debate, and, above all, revel in life. Immerse yourself in their stories and the palpable passion that propels them forward, all while relishing an engaging game of dominoes amidst an atmosphere of tranquillity and calm that permeates the air.
Variety and colour are not only shown through art and culture, as the city’s car park is one of the most impressive in the world, hundreds of classic cars from different eras and styles make the mobile park one of the most iconic worldwide. Being able to take a ride in one of these spectacular vehicles will turn your trip into a real luxury of another era.
MUSICAL MELODIES AND CULTURAL VIBRANCY
The capital of Cuba marvels with its lively nightlife and musical culture that springs from its boulevards. Life in Havana is spectacular, in it all musical styles are represented and they are lived with great frenzy. The city has a wide range of live concerts and improvised recitals, in many streets and squares you will find great local artists.
Above everything else, the most cherished treasure of Cuba is its people, renowned for their warm hospitality, infectious joy, and unwavering friendship, coupled with a profound sense of dignity, generosity, humanity, and solidarity. Additionally, Cuba stands out for its elevated levels of social development and education, resulting in a society marked by both high educational standards and a commendably low crime rate. For Indian visitors, connecting with a Cuban villager becomes a unique experience—a person well-versed in, admiring, and enjoying the rich culture and history of India, thereby fostering a deep appreciation for India as a friendly nation.
Hence, my recommendation for Indian visitors is to immerse them in the vibrant rhythm of Cuban salsa music, allowing the contagious smiles of the Cuban people to carry them away. Let the beats guide you through the streets of Havana, where you can lose yourself in the city’s rich history and traditions. Conclude this unique journey by indulging in the rich aroma of a Cuban Habano cigar, fortified by the invigorating strength of a mojito. Finally, experience the sheer bliss of plunging into the crystalline waters, followed by a scenic ride through valleys adorned with intense greenery under the bluest sky imaginable.
Most importantly, I encourage the ongoing collaboration in forging a shared path of friendship between our nations, travel being an important part of that solidarity.