HAVANA TIMES —In a couple week’s time, the streets and boulevards of Santiago de Cuba will once again become the stage of a colorful, popular festivity. Held every year from July 3 to 9, the province’s Festival of Fire (La Fiesta del Fuego) celebrates Caribbean culture, and is one of the summer festivities that people look forward to most intensely at this eastern end of the island.
Paying homage to the region’s history and traditions, the festival, first held in 1980, is the brainchild of one of Cuba’s most celebrated intellectuals, the late Joel James Figarola.
The cultural heritage of the Caribbean (“A Caribbean that Unites Us”, as one of the festival slogans affirms) is deeply rooted in the cultural idiosyncrasies of the people of Santiago de Cuba.
During the festival, the city becomes immersed in a sea of galas, symposia, theatre and dance performances, solo and group visual arts exhibitions, lectures, workshops, literary circles, seminars, street performances, trova jams and colorful parades.
This year’s festival, celebrating 33 years of history, will be dedicated to Colombia’s Caribbean region and will again explore elements of Cuba’s indigenous, European and African cultural heritage and religions.
As has become customary, the festival will be the stage for three main ceremonies: the grand cultural gala held in the main wing of the Heredia Theatre, the “snake parade” that advances from the Plaza de Martes towards the Parque de Cespedes and the the “Devil burning” along Michelson Ave.
One of the highlights of the festival will doubtless be the performance to be offered by Colombia’s award-winning folk music singer Toto Momposina, whose pieces speak to us of the cultural traditions of the city of Barranquilla and the Momposino people, to whom this year’s Festival of Fire is dedicated.
The evils that our Caribbean peoples endured for centuries of near-genocidal exploitation will be symbolically exorcised with the beating of drums, songs, dance, rituals and performances during the festivities, while Colombia’s papale and seresese rhythms will celebrate freedom, goodness, happiness and the undying faith in the communities of the Caribbean.