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Culture of Cuba

From Academic Kids

As Cuba is a meeting point of both European, African and Amerindian cultures, the culture of Cuba is unique and diverse. Much of it, especially Cuban music, is known worldwide.

Contents

Family

Traditionally in Cuba, the family has been a tightknit and important institution. However, since Fidel Castro's rise to power in the Cuban Revolution of 1959, the family as a social institution has begun to change.

Children are required to take part in social activities outside of the home, resulting in children spending less time with parents.

Cuba's divorce rate is high. There are many reasons for this, the most prominent probably being the strain on relationships some government policy causes, and housing problems. Little housing has been built since the 1960s, and it is common for a family to live in the same apartment for three generations.

Women

Women's rights has always been a concern of the socialist Castro government, and most women today work outside of the home.

Childcare facilities are common in Cuba, and this has helped to relieve some women of the stress of raising children and thus allowed them to enter the workforce.

In 1974, the Family Code was passed, giving men and women equal rights and responsibilities for housework, childrearing and education. However, despite official government policy, and as with much of Latin America, machismo is common amongst men, and stereotypes of women continue to exist, though they are becoming rare.

During the periodo especial, the phenomenon of jineteras has appeared: Illegal female prostitutes aiming for the foreign tourist and asking for pay in US dollars. The Castro government had made an issue of giving proper jobs to the many prostitutes that, before 1959, complemented the Cuban touristic offer.

Entertainment

Unlike most of Latin America, soccer is not a major game in Cuba. Baseball is the most commonly played game. Introduced by American dockworkers in Havana in the 19th century, the game has played a role in Cuban independence from Spain. Banned in 1895 by the Spanish, secret games funded José Martí's revolt. Cuban peloteros rank highly internationally and some had migrated to US leagues.

Every year, Cuba holds the School Sports Games, a competition for school students. The best athletes from age 11 to 16 are invited to be tested for the Schools for Sports Initiation (Spanish acronym: EIDE). EIDE students attend regular classes, receive advanced coaching and take part in higher level competitions. The top graduates from this school enter one of several Schools of Higher Athletic Performance (Spanish acronym: ESPA).

Cubans also enjoy watching Cuba's four(4) television stations, Cubavision, Tele Rebelde, Canal Educativo (Educative Channel) 1 and 2(they were created as part of the new "Educational Revolution program, in which TV education its a main point and basis of the program) dancing (many types of dance have originated in Cuba, for example the salsa dance called "casino"), going to baseball games and watching boxing. Although they have a great culture they have a lot of movies in which they play latin-american and european movies. Great theathers with quality plays, an excellent classic ballet, and a very live musical movement (from salsa, to jazz, even rock and a merge of salsa and jazz called "timba-jazz") Though illegal, cockfighting is common, too.

Religion

Castro's policy on religion has changed much since 1959. Originally in line with Karl Marx's statement "Religion is the opiate of the people", religious Cubans were persecuted could be denied jobs or an education by the government.

In the 1970s, the relationship between the government and religious institutions (especially the Catholic Church) began to improve. By 1976, the state granted Cuban citizens religious freedom, with some restrictions, and in 1992, the constitution was amended to allow total religious freedom. About 25% of Cubans today are Catholic. Some Catholic traditions were lost, but the church has imported the Mexican Christmas plays (pastorelas) trying to reconnect Cubans to Christianity. Catholic laymen are important in the pacific opposition movements.

Another large religion in Cuba is Santería. Santería is a blend of Catholicism and traditional Yorùbá religions. When African slaves first arrived in Cuba during the 1500s, they were taught a few simple prayers and were baptised by the Spanish. The slaves combined this limited form of Catholicism with their traditional religions to create Santería, which survives to this day.

There is also a Jewish community in Cuba, primarily made of up descendents of Sephardic Jews fleeing the Spanish Inquisiton. In the early 20th century, they were joined by Ashkenazic Jews from Eastern Europe. Though the Jewish community is small, the religion is, like Catholicism, undergoing a revival.

Cuisine

All Cuban food is rationed. A ration book called a libreta is supposed to guarantee sugar, rice, beans and cooking oil from shops, however, there are still massive shortages and even a libreta does not ensure that you will be able to purchase food.

The Soviet Union's collapse in 1991 ended grain imports from that country, which were used to feed cattle and chickens. Since 1991 beef, chicken, milk and eggs became scarce. The egg shortage has led to the rise of a popular joke:

  • Fidel Castro, at a speech: Comrades, God willing, we will have enough eggs for all the people of Cuba!
  • Raúl Castro, whispering: But comrade, we are communists, there is no God.
  • Fidel Castro: Don't worry, comrade, there are no eggs either.

A lack of fuel for agricultural machinery meant that crops could not be harvested. These problems have improved a little in recent years, but shortages are still common. To supplement their rations, some Cubans buy products through the black market. Others raise chickens and grow vegetables.

One example of traditional Cuban cuisine, or criollo as it is called, is moros y cristianos, "Moors and Christians", rice with black beans. Criollo uses many different seasonings, with some of the most common being onion and garlic. Cassava, rice, beans, eggs, tomatoes, lettuce, chicken, beef and pork are all common ingredients.

Coffee is also grown and drunk widely in Cuba.

Language

As with all of Latin America, Spanish is spoken in Cuba. In Cuba, men will sometimes be called compañero, and women compañera, both meaning comrade, a communist term that entered the language after 1959.

Many words from Cuban Amerindian languages have entered common usage in both Spanish and English, such as the Taíno words canoa and tabaco.

When speaking to the elderly, or to strangers, Cubans speak more formally as a sign of respect. They shake hands upon greeting someone and farewelling them. Men often exchange friendly hugs (abrazos) and it is also common for both men and women to greet friends and family with a hug and a kiss on the cheek.

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