Caribbean Festival 2020. A tribu,te edition

By Mayté Solano Gómez

There are many cultural events that have been postponed around the world due to the coronavirus pandemic. That is the case in Cuba of the Fiesta del Caribe. However, this celebration of Caribbean culture will not be overlooked in this 2020.

Although the festival, also known as the Fiesta del Fuego (Fire Festival) has been postponed until the same date in 2021, from July 3 to 9, this year it was decided to hold a tribute edition, with the support of new technologies and the collaboration of the press. Therefore the best moments of the previous meetings will be remembered and the 40 years of the Siboney Studios, a subsidiary of the Company of Recordings and Musical Editions in Cuba, will be recognized.

Also, according to Orlando Vergés, director of the Casa del Caribe (institution that sponsors each event), they will be talking about its significance and the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the cultural production of Cuba and other nations.

Thanks to this option, it will be possible to access photographs, documentaries and other materials illustrating the cultural diversity of the festival, in addition to giving a preview of the program of the 40th Caribbean Festival.

Knowing a little about the Caribbean Festival.

This international event that takes place every year, based in the eastern province of Santiago de Cuba, brings together all the cultural performances and the scientific and literary work of the peoples of the area. It is also a meeting for groups carrying the traditional popular culture of Cuba and the Caribbean.

The festival emerged in April 1981 with the title First Festival of Performing Arts of Caribbean Origin. In 1983 it welcomed international participants for the first time. Since its conception, important intellectuals from the Spanish-speaking, English-speaking, and French-speaking Caribbean have contributed to its success.

This Fire Festival is sponsored by the Casa del Caribe and the Provincial Direction of Culture of Santiago de Cuba and each year is dedicated to a country in the region. In 2021 ths country is Belice.

Main activities within the framework of the Caribbean Festival

In this festival several shows are put on, most of them outdoors and different activities are held. All of them showcasing the country involved.

In the Caribbean Festival you can enjoy theoretical and cultural activities such as: exhibition of artistic movements, popular crafts and plastic arts. The Parade of the Snake and the traditional Burning of the Devil are some of the most anticipated moments for all who attend the event.

Casa La Nenita, in Santiago de Cuba
Casa La Nenita, in Santiago de Cuba. A great casa particular where you can stay if you want to enjoy the Caribbean Festival in 2021.

Here are some of the highlights:

• The International Caribbean Symposium That Unites Us, a space for reflection and debate on issues related to the shared history and culture of the peoples of the Caribbean.

• Presentation of the Casa del Caribe International Prize, which recognizes the work of national and foreign personalities and institutions that have excelled in promoting, developing and researching traditional popular culture.

• Presentation of the José María Heredia Plaque, which is awarded to prominent national and foreign personalities who have made important contributions to Cuban, Latin American and Caribbean cultural work, and who have contributed to its promotion and dissemination throughout the world.

• Presentation of the Caribbean Magazine and the publication of the Casa del Caribe.

During the festival, a meeting between the Ministry of Culture with intellectuals, artists and a representation of the participating groups also takes place. Here they exchange ideas and debate in a cordial and supportive atmosphere. Plastic arts, meanwhile, find their space in the event at the Caribbean Show, where a group exhibition of artists of this type is presented at the Oriente Gallery. Press conferences are scheduled at the International Press Center with personalities from Cuban and foreign culture invited.

Other popular events

• Homage to Cimarrón, a show that takes place in the town of El Cobre in recognition of the slave rebellion.

• The opening of the festival, with the participation of the public, is the Serpent Parade, where national and foreign groups participate. It begins with an invocation to Eleguá (Deity of the Yoruba religion, considered the owner of the roads and destiny, the one who opens or closes the path of life, prosperity, happiness, luck or misfortune).

• Concert “Sol, Mar y Folklore Caribeño”, a traveling show of the different expressions of traditional popular culture. It includes Haitian-Cuban and Jamaican folklore, and groups of Congolese origin participate, as well as son, rumba and conga from the eastern side of the Island.

• Fire Parade, which begins with a Congo ritual, in greeting to Nzambi, supreme ent among the practitioners of the Palo Monte religion. Then the Mpaka, emblem of the Fire Festival, is handed over to the country to which the next festival will be dedicated.

 Burning of the devil. Caribbean Festival.
Burning of the devil. Caribbean Festival.

• Burning of the devil, where a hurricane of drums bid farewell to the groups and participants in the festival. Next to the sea a great devil, a symbol of evil, is set on fire. Burning it leaves the way ready for the next meeting.

What will the Caribbean Festival be like in 2020?

Through the use of technologies and social networks, the tribute edition of the Fire Festival in 2020 will be shared with the whole world. Through the magazine Fuegos del Caribe, a live broadcast of what is happening will be available from 10, in the morning through the Facebook page StreamingCuba (transmissions via Internet made by the Santiago audiovisual producer Lia Videos). Other pages of the Cuban Ministry of Culture network will support this initiative, which is centered on the Caribbean Festival platform.

Caribbean Festival platform
Caribbean Festival platform

This multiplatform has an application for Android mobile phones, galleries to promote the International Exhibition of the Caribbean, of plastic arts and a library that proposes a back catalogue of Del Caribe magazines and books published by Casa del Caribe. In addition, there is space for news and academic texts of the history of the Festival and to announce new screenings.

This edition will also be used, until 2021, to carry out a promotion campaign. In this way, photos, videos, comments with the hashtag #Yoestuveenelfestival will be published on social networks. It is a way to recover memories and stories of the Fire Festival with leaders, support groups and other participants.

For its part, the theoretical event “The Caribbean that unites us” will provide a forum for the World Congress of Popular Cultures of the Caribbean, which will take place through panels, conferences and round tables.