The Cuban Soul: Dance


I absolutely love that salsa dancing is the go to routine when at a party or discoteca in Cuba. Not only does it require more skill and rhythm than the average American booty shaking, but it creates a safer environment to have fun. I could switch partners with any stranger, meet them face to face and have an honest conversation with that person all while keeping rhythm and exercising. Dancing in Cuba is a great way to break the ice. My friends and I found ourselves meeting many locals, who are now friends, in environments filled with music and dancing. The Cuban hand, feet and hip coordination is impeccable but something you have to continually practice in order to keep up with. Dance in Cuba is not only movement of celebration, but an actual art form (especially in the intense Cuban heat).

Another branch of Cuban culture derives from African slaves brought over by Spanish colonists to the island. The Afrocubanismo movement validated African-influenced culture and made “Blackness” a part of the national identity. Now today “Afro-Cuban culture is Cuban culture,” as said by Gilberto Martínez Gutiérrez, an Afro-Cuban artist.

An Afro-Cuban religion, called Santeria, requires a dance ceremony that I was able to witness. These dance performances celebrate and worship their Orishas (deities). The people in the background play strong beats on percussion instruments, while the women, dressed in traditional ceremonial attire, dance to represent different Orishas.

Eleggua, often represented as a child (or a small person in this case), wears red, black and white. He is one of the most respected Orishas but is known to be a trickster. He is always honored first in ceremonies because he is the messenger between humans and the other Orishas.

Oshún is popular, beautiful and a seductive Orisha of love, wealth, sensuality, fertility and art. She owns the rivers, renews the process of creation, and loves the color yellow.

Photo Jun 27, 1 44 11 PM

Oyá is the fiery warrior Orisha who guards the cemetary and rules over the egun (dead). She is also the ruler of the winds, tornados and hurricanes, and wears a skirt of nine different colors to represent this. She is a strong protectress of women and an enactor of change. Her colors are burgundy and purple.

Photo Jun 27, 1 41 02 PM

There are many more Orishas in the Afro-Cuban culture, all of which I can not begin to memorize. I found it so interesting how each deity has their own personality and style, especially in their dance steps. The respect for these personalities is believed to help make you who you are, as the Orisha that you are most like chooses you as their own.

So what are some key culture points in your city? I’d love to hear all about them in the comments below! Thanks for reading!

Sierra Dawn

I have previously written about the Cuban Soul with special attention to art and music. To read my initial take on the topic before I travelled to Cuba, click: The Cuban Soul: Art and Music

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