Cucalambeana country fair at El Cornito, Las Tunas

This is a long way from the regular tourist circuit and is an opportunity to see real Cuban country folk. You may not like the cockfighting, but it undeniably has a place and a role in the countryside culture and history of Cuba. Every year, the capital of the northeastern province of Las Tunas, nicknamed the Balcony of the East, becomes the venue for the Jornada Cucalambeana in memory of Las Tunas-born poet Juan Cristóbal Nápoles Fajardo (aka El Cucalambé), who was the most important Cuban “decimista”—country ballad poet—in 19th-century Cuba. The purpose of the festival is to keep alive the music and traditions of the Cuban countryside.

The event lasts five days and always begins in late June to include July 1, which commemorates the birth of El Cucalambé. The meeting is held always at the same place: El Cornito, which was once the home of the poet and is now a hotel. El Cornito is located on the outskirts of the city of Las Tunas and occupies an extensive area. Besides the regular hotel accommodations, there are several sculptures dedicated to El Cucalambé and areas for horseback riding, children’s playground and several small plazas.

The Cucalambeana is a collection of different events that includes the recital and singing of décimas, a Spanish stanza of ten octosyllabic lines created in Spain between the 16th and 17th centuries, and which in America was adopted by popular sectors of the population, especially by country folk; the Justo Vega Competition of repentistas, or improvisers, who come from all over the country to show their talent at this difficult art; and Colorín, which showcases children who have taken up the tradition.

Another activity held during the festival involves the exhibition of traditional country dances, which takes place at one of El Cornito’s plazas. It is a competition that is divided into two teams: the Blue and the Red. All of the activities held during the festival are divided into red and blue teams, which give the festivity an added incentive. The costumes, hats and kerchiefs worn by the competitors are always in one of these two colors.

The improvisation event is one of the most popular, given that the poets create their décimas from the “pie forzados” contributed by the audience. A “pie forzado” is a phrase prompted by anyone present and which the poets/composers must follow in order to create their poem or song on the spot. Experts agree that “repentismo,” or the improvisation of décimas, requires great talent and quick thinking and that it comes from the cradle.

Unique to festivals in Cuba is the beauty pageant that takes place during the Cucalambeana. The chosen girl is believed to be the image of a typical country woman (tall, long black hair and dark skin) and is declared “La Flor de Birama,” or The Flower of Birama and all the other girls are the Petals. During the festival, in their roles as the Flower and the Petals attend all of the events wearing the Cuban national dress and their beauty is adapted into words by poets.

For 45 years, the Cucalambeana has celebrated peasant traditions and honored the rich culture of the Cuban countryside.

  • Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope

    Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope  LH 5

    The Terry Fox Marathon of Hope takes place in Havana and all across the country, starting at 9am. This has the greatest participation of any country in the world with up to 2.3 million people running, …

    III Harley Davidson Rally (Encuentro Harlista!)

    III Harley Davidson Rally (Encuentro Harlista!)  LH 5

    This past weekend, I was thrust into one of Cuba’s most prismatic and emblematic subcultures and scenes: I rode along on the country’s first Harley rally, when over 50 riders made their way to Varader …

    2012 Arte y Moda Fashion show: Extreme style

    2012 Arte y Moda Fashion show: Extreme style  LH 5

    Habaneros are a special lot. Guilty of multiple crimes of fashion and poor taste from the yonky to the most outrageous lycra outfits and ridiculously short skirts, they manage even in the midst of eco …

    VII Jornada Cubana contra la Homofobia (IDAHO)

    VII Jornada Cubana contra la Homofobia (IDAHO)  LH 5

    From May 5 to May 24, Cuba will celebrate the 7th Jornada Cubana contra la Homofobia in Havana, Granma and other locations in Cuba. The two-week event included symposiums, lectures, films, art exhibit …

    Highlights of the 2012 Havana Art Biennial

    Highlights of the 2012 Havana Art Biennial  LH 5

    The 11th Havana Biennial is already under way and for those of us who have attended its exhibitions, installations and performances so far, it is a time of evocation and strong emotions triggered by t …

    2014 Serie Nacional de Béisbol Play-offs

    2014 Serie Nacional de Béisbol Play-offs  LH 5

    Simplicity is the key word for baseball in Cuba, with no luxury boxes, huge electronic scoreboards or celebrity baseball players. As in many things in Cuba, there is no shortage of passion and this se …

    Marabana—The 2012 Havana Marathon

    Marabana—The 2012 Havana Marathon  LH 5

    Marabana is Havana’s annual marathon. Typically an exercise for me in making resolutions to get fit and participate in the race the next year, or a reminder that last’s year’s resolution is now forfei …

    Cubadisco: Cuba’s premier music awards show

    Cubadisco: Cuba’s premier music awards show  LH 5

    Nothing to do with discotheques, the International Cubadisco Fair begun in 1997 as a way to bring to national and international attention what the Cuban recording industry has been up to. It includes …

    1st Havana World Music Festival

    1st Havana World Music Festival  LH 5

    Organized by a nonprofit group led by young Cuban singer and composer Eme Alfonso, the 1st Havana World Music Festival (February 7-8, 2014) sought to open a window from Cuba onto the world and from th …

    The Marabana – Run Charlie run

    The Marabana – Run Charlie run  LH 5

    Race experience (Nov 2010) It is dark outside, 5.30am. Wishful thinking that I could simply sleep in and let the Havana marathon wait another year. I have, after all, been signed in various times over …

    1 of 8 pages »