Hola! My name is Yane Marquez and I was born and raised in Cuba. After graduating from the University of Havana and the Tourism School of Cuba, I worked for over 10 years as a tour guide, translator and event organizer for Cuba's travel companies and organizations. I guided many groups attending Cuba's main international festivals, fairs and events. A few years ago, I moved to Canada where I have continued promoting Cuba’s tourism industry. I would be more than happy to answer any question you have about festival Cuba travel. Do not miss out!
This Cuba tour offers the following Cuban hotels and Casas Particulares (Private Homestays):
The Havana Jazz Festival (Cuba Jazz Festival) was born in 1978 when Bobby Carcasses, and other
Cuban Jazz musicians, presented the first Jazz concert at the Casa de la Cultura de Plaza.
This is the origin of the title International Havana Jazz Festival "Jazz Plaza".
Based on this success, another Jazz festival was organized the following year,
featuring pianist Chucho Valdes.
In 1996 Chucho Valdes became director of the Havana International Jazz Festival and president of the Organizing Committee.
Cuba Festival Travel: 39th Cuba Jazz Festival "Jazz Plaza 2024" From January 21 to January 29, 2024
Travel to Havana, Vinales, Cienfuegos & Trinidad From 3,099 (tax included) Most Popular Tour for the 9th Year in a Row!
Referral Discount: $100
Invite 1 Friend and Pay $2,999 only
Invite 2 Friends and Pay $2,899 only
Invite 3 Friends and Pay $2,799 only
Invite 4 Friends and Pay $2,699 only
Invite 10 Friends and Pay $0 And remember every person you invite
will also receive a $100 discount!
Jazz Plaza 2024, the 39th International Jazz Festival of Havana, which is sponsored by famed Cuban jazz artist Chucho Valdes and ICM, or the Cuban Institute of Music, will be held in numerous locations throughout the Cuban capital from January 21 to January 28, 2024. In light of this, Authentic Cuba Travel® has once again partnered with the festival’s organizing committee as well as the ICM to offer the Official Jazz Plaza 2024 Cuban tour of the International Jazz Festival from January 21 to January 29, 2024.
The International Jazz Festival of Havana Tour from Authentic Cuba Travel® offers travellers complete access to each and every one of the concerts, venues, and happenings of the festival while also granting incredible access to some of the island’s most incredible and well preserved historical centers. UNESCO World Heritage Sites the likes of Trinidad, Cienfuegos, and Old Havana are only a few of the stops during the tour, which also presents the opportunity to engage and interact with Cuban locals outside of the traditional tourist areas.
The people of Cuba and their genuine culture offer something that simply cannot be experienced in less authentic Cuba tours you'll find elsewhere. Our tour is often imitated but never duplicated not only because of the incredible value we provide for your money but because of the "human" component that can only be provided by our Cuban experts. Visitors will find that the social, economic, and political structures of the country are fascinating not only to academics, but to all who get to experience the island in person.
Take A Sneak Peak at the Cuban Destinations You Will Visit Outside Havana
The International Jazz Festival of Havana is certainly among the island’s biggest gatherings, bringing in acts from all across the globe. More than 100 international bands, including Michael Fleiner’s Latin Jazz Septet and the Chico O’Farrill Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra have joined some of Cuba’s most famous artists in previous festivals, which have been a rousing success. Festival venues include Mella Theatre, Sevilla Hotel, Karl Marx Theatre, and the National Theatre of Cuba, presenting visitors with the unique opportunity to experience some of the finest jazz musicians in some of Cuba’s most historic and impressive buildings.
Authentic Cuba Travel® is pleased to invite you to the Official Cuba Tour to the Havana Jazz Festival 2024 open for Jazz Lovers & Jazz Professionals from All Over the World! Let's Celebrate the 39th Anniversary of the Havana Jazz Festival Together!
For many festival attendees, the anticipation of the event’s famous impromptu jazz sessions is among the biggest draws of the festival. It is incredibly common for artists to join together to create spontaneous music, and the opportunity to experience the coming together of international musicians in such a way is an incredibly rare and delightful opportunity. The International Jazz Festival of Havana brings in artists from the United States, the UK, Argentina, Chile, and more, and represents not only the spirit of Cuban music, but the sense of camaraderie shared by those with a deep appreciation for jazz.
The International Jazz Festival of Havana has played host to some of the biggest names in jazz over the years, and 2024 will be no different. Past festival guests have included Dizzy Gillespie, Luis Monge, Max Roach, Cubanola, and many more of the most famed artists of the genre. The festival has also seen performances from renowned Cuban Jazz Musicians such as Chucho Valdes, José Luis Cortés, Bobby Carcassés, Mayra Caridad Valdés, and more.
Showcasing some of the biggest names in the genre alongside jazz’s most talented newcomers, the performances and jam sessions of Jazz Plaza 2024 will definitely be something to remember, and Authentic Cuba Travel® is offering the chance to experience all that the festival has to offer as well as the opportunity to see Cuba outside of the usual tourist spots and to experience the island from a more authentic and exciting point of view.
US Citizens can Travel to Cuba under a General License for Support for the Cuban People . We CAN help!
Who Can Travel to Cuba under the General License for Support for the Cuban People?
Any US citizen or permanent resident genuinely interested in supporting the Cuban people can travel to Cuba from USA legally. Supporting the Cuban people by patronizing privately owned restaurants, stores, art galleries and other small businesses; and supporting the work of independent Cuban organizations is the main intend of this Cuba tour.
Even though Cuba tourism is not possible for US citizens, visiting Cuba under the General License for the Support for the Cuban People is a legal venue for those persons subject to US jurisdiction interested in partaking in activities of Cuban nongovernmental organizations and engaging with the Cuban people to learn more about Cuban culture and to support civil society in Cuba.
The Support for the Cuban People General License for US travel to Cuba is created through a do it yourself process rather than by submitting an application and awaiting approval. Fast, free and convenient, a General License for Support for the Cuban People simply requires US individuals to prepare their own documentation in a way that meets all OFAC guidelines.
We provide our US travelers guidance and assistance to complete the documentation package which should include the travel affidavit, the Cuba program, and the updated Cuba Travel Regulations on the Support for the Cuban People General License (515.574 (a)). Book or call us for more details.
Authentic Cuba Travel® has developed the Havana Jazz Festival program in cooperation with Cuban nongovernmental organizations, community projects and individuals that promote independent activity in Cuba. In compliance with current OFAC (Office of Foreign Assets Control) guidelines for the Support for the Cuban People General License, our itinerary consists on a full-time schedule of activities that will enhance the contact with the Cuban people, and support civil society and private entrepreneurial activity in Cuba; and that will result in meaningful interactions in between the US travelers and the Cuban people they meet along the way.
US individual travelers can not engage in financial transactions with Cuban entities which are under the control of, or act for or on behalf of, the Cuban military, intelligence, or security services. We keep our itineraries updated to make sure that American travelers are not directly or indirectly dealing with any of these prohibited entities.
For the complete Cuba Restricted List, please visit:
US travelers are responsible for maintaining all Cuba travel records for up to 5 years and for showing (if asked) evidence that they have engaged in authorized activities while in Cuba (staying at accommodations not listed in the Restricted List of Cuban entities, eating at privately-owned restaurants, shopping at privately-owned art galleries and stores, ect). Free time in excess or regular tourists' activities are not permitted.
At Authentic Cuba Travel®, we take care of all details both in North America and in Cuba, including VISA and flight arrangements to Cuba's main destinations via USA ports (Miami, Tampa, New York, Los Angeles, or other) or through third countries like Canada and Mexico. Authorized US travelers can travel through a third country subject to the same restrictions and requirements as those flying directly from USA.
Read what past travelers say about their experience with us. Click here
If it always has been on you bucket list to go to Cuba to attend the International Jazz Festival of Havana, and you are involved with a US University Jazz Ensemble or Jazz Band, Authentic Cuba Travel® will make your dreams come true. Authentic Cuba Travel® facilitated the Friends University Jazz Ensemble Cuba trip to Cuba in 2011. Do not miss the above documentary by Sierra Scott that showcases the entire journey.
Notice to US Recording Industry Associations, US Music Publishers’ Associations, US Musicians Associations, US Music Clubs, US Academies of Music, and other Music Institutes and Societies from USA
US Recording Industry Associations, US Music Publishers’ Associations, US Musicians Associations, US Music Clubs, US Academies of Music, and other Music Institutes and Societies from USA can organize a trip to Cuba under the provisions of the General License for Educational Activities, the General License for Group People-to-people Educational Travel, the General License for Support for the Cuban People, the General License for Professional Research, the General License for Semi-Professional & Amateur International Sports Competition, the General License for Humanitarian Projects, the General License for Activities of Private Foundations or Research or Educational Institutes among others. Certain conditions are to be met to comply with OFAC General License requirements for each category of USA Cuba travel though.
The mission of your organization and the objective of your trip to Cuba determine under what general license you can travel to Cuba legally. In general, most trips should consist of a full-time schedule of activities intended to promote the exchange with the ordinary citizens of Cuba. This full-time schedule must also include educational activities that result in meaningful interaction in between U.S and Cuban nationals. Free time in excess or regular tourists' activities are not permitted.
We take care of all details both in North America and in Cuba, including VISA and flight arrangements to Cuba's main destinations via USA ports (Miami, Tampa, New York, Los Angeles, or other) or through third countries like Canada and Mexico. Authorized US organizations can travel through a third country subject to the same restrictions and requirements as those flying directly from USA.
At Authentic Cuba Travel®, we have been organizing such educational and cultural travel experiences from the United States of America for years with great success. Call us and let us know more about your organization and we will provide guidance and assistance.
Support for the Cuban People General License DocumentationSupport for the Cuban People General License Documentation
VIP Havana Jazz Festival PassVIP Havana Jazz Festival Pass
9 Meals Included at Cuba’s finest privately-owned Restaurants15 Meals Included at Cuba’s finest privately-owned Restaurants
24/7 Luxury Air-conditioned Motor Coach24/7 Luxury Air-conditioned Motor Coach
24/7 English Speaking Guide24/7 English Speaking Guide
24/7 Support from ACT Staff24/7 Support from ACT Staff
Luxury Casa Particular (Private Rental Accomodation) or 5-Star Quinta Avenida by Valentin HotelsLuxury Casa Particular (Private Rental Accomodation) or 5-Star Quinta Avenida by Valentin Hotels and Luxury Casa Particular (Private Rental Accomodation)
UNESCO World Heritage Sites:
TWO(2): Old Havana and Vinales ValleyFIVE(5):Old Havana, Vinales Valley, Cienfuegos Historical Centre, Trinidad Historical Centre & The Sugar Mill Valley
Support for the Cuban People Activities:
Exchanges with nongovernmental organizations in Havana such as Cabildo Quisicuaba, Vocal Clave de Sol, Santa Amalia Tap Club, Jaimanitas Community Project, Callejón de Hamel Community Project, Children Theatre Group: The Little Beehive, among others.
Exchanges with independent organizations in Pinar del Rio such as Community Project El Patio de Pelegrin, among others.
Engage with owners and staff at privately-owned stores, art galleries and studios in Havana and Vinales Valley such as Piscolabis Bazar-Cafe, Rox 950 Jewelry Store, Clandestina Store & Studio, Poco Bonito Art Gallery, AMOS Photography Gallery, Experimental Printing Workshop, among others.
Exchanges with nongovernmental organizations in Havana such as Cabildo Quisicuaba, Vocal Clave de Sol, Santa Amalia Tap Club, Jaimanitas Community Project, Callejón de Hamel Community Project, Children Theatre Group: The Little Beehive, among others.
Exchanges with independent organizations in Cienfuegos, Trinidad and Pinar del Rio such as Casa Templo de Santería Yemayá, Korimakao Community Project, Trazos Libres Community Project, Entre Hilos, Alas y Pinceles Community Project, El Patio de Pelegrin, among others.
Engage with owners and staff at privately-owned stores, art galleries and studios in Havana, Cienfuegos, Trinidad and Vinales Valley such as Piscolabis Bazar-Cafe, Rox 950 Jewelry Store, Clandestina Store & Studio, Poco Bonito Art Gallery, Casa Huella Art Store, AMOS Photography Gallery, Experimental Printing Workshop, among others.
Guided Tours of Old Havana and Vinales Valley & Town.Guided Tours of Old Havana, Vinales Valley & Town, Cienfuegos, Trinidad & Sugar Mills Valley.
Price (All Taxes Included):
5 Star Package Price: $2,4995 Star Package Price: $3,099
Support for the Cuban People General License Documentation
All Access Santiago de Cuba Jazz Festival Pass
13 Meals Included
24/7 Luxury Air-conditioned Motor Coach, English Speaking Guide, Support from ACT Staff
Luxury Casa Particular (Private Rental Accomodation)
UNESCO World Heritage Sites:
San Pedro de La Roca El Morro Castle
Support for the Cuban People Activities:
Exchanges with nongovernmental organizations in Santiago de Cuba such as Suenos y Fantasia (Dreams and Fantasies), El Cobre Youth Steel Band, Sonrisas (Smiles) Community Work Group, Community Project, Quiquiriqui Community Project, Children Literary Workshop Menique, Tumba Francesa Society, among others.
Engage with owners and staff at privately-owned stores, art galleries and studios in Santiago de Cuba and Guantanamo such as Escalera de Edy Antique Bookstore, Claustrofobias Digital Bookstores, Rene Valdes Art Gallery, Casa de La Ceramica Art Gallery, Carlos Rafael Studio & Art Gallery, among others.
Guided tours of Santiago de Cuba’s Historical Centre, San Pedro de La Roca Castle, Museum of Colonial History, Municipal Museum of History, La Granjita Siboney Museum , Moncada Barracks, Santa Ifigenia Cementery (1868), among others.
Visits to the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of the Assumption, the Basilica of Our Lady of Charity, the Bacardi Rum Factory, Cayo Granma, among others.
Sr. Pablo Delgado
Instituto Cubano de la Música
Calle 15, No. 452, e/ E y F
Plaza de la Revolución
Ciudad de la Habana, Cuba 10600
We will visit the privately-owned AMOS Photography Gallery, and get up close and personal with the work of Ramses Batista, one of Cuba’s most well-established photographers today. We will also enjoy a complimentary lunch at AMOS paladar (privately-owned restaurant) also owned by Ramses Batista. As part of our Support for the Cuban People experience to Cuba, we will establish a dialogue with Ramses and his team to learn how they have been able to reconcile the socialist centralized economy with the demands of the free market in the booming private Cuban hospitality industry.
The first Jazz Festival of Havana was held at the movie theatre Payret in Old Havana in 1963. Even though it was not an international event, it played a key role in revitalizing the dormant Cuban jazz scene. It was attended by Cuba’s best in the genre such as the Leonardo Timor Jazz big band, the only big band left in Cuba at the time featuring jazz musicians such as Samuell Tellez, Fernando Vivar & Ruben Gonzalez. Omara Portuondo was among the roster of muscians at this first Havana Jazz Festival too.
A new wave of paladares (privately-owned restaurants) has recently swept the Cuban dining scene offering excellent food and charming ambient. We’ll enjoy an array of delicious meals at Cuba’s most stylish paladares during our Support for the Cuban People trips. This is a unique opportunity to establish dialogues with local restaurateurs and learn how they have been able to reconcile the socialist centralized economy with the demands of the free market in the booming private Cuban hospitality industry.
As an international event, the Havana Jazz Festival didn’t become a reality until 1978 when a string of concerts led by Cuban Bobby Carcasses and other renowned jazz musicians drew the attention of the world and international jazz masters. Given the fact that these concerts took place in the Havana municipality of Plaza de La Revolucion, the festival soon became known as the Jazz Plaza.
We will engage in conversations with owners and staff at privately-owned stores like Alex Oppmann, a self-employed Cuban (cuentapropistas) businessman who runs Alma Shop, a privately-owned Cuban store where you can find some of the finest Cuban gifts and souvenirs (from jewelry to Cigar humidors). Shopping in these sorts of stores directly supports the Cuban people and the Cuban families financially while encouraging independent entrepreneurial activities that in turn strengthen civil society in Cuba. Showcasing an original collection of exclusive artwork produced by Cuban artists and artisans from all over the island, Alma store serves as a one-stop shop for all things Cuban mementos.
By the hand of your Authentic Cuba Travel® guide you will explore the sights and sounds of the 142 hectares that comprise Old Havana, the Historical Centre of Cuba’s Capital. Getting to know Old Havana means getting to know her grand old palaces, squares and her people, it means taking the time to stroll her cobblestone streets once full of horse-drawn carriages and settle into a seat at a cafe to contemplate the daily life and sounds of the old city while catching the cool sea breeze.
Not to be missed during any Cuba travels aimed at Supporting the Cuban People, it is a visit to the outreach community project El Patio de Pelegrin. This humble privately-owned art gallery and pottery workshop in Consolacion del Sur has turned into a powerhouse for the promotion of cultural and artistic projects in this countryside community. This Support for the Cuban People activity will result in a meaningful interaction with the individuals of Cuba's countryside. We will present donations of educational & humanitarian items and ask how we can help promoting their work in the USA.
Palacio del Valle is one of those landmarks you simply can't miss when touring Cienfuegos. Located in the one-time aristocratic district of Punta Gorda, the Moorish-style Palace was built by wealthy Spaniard Oclico Valle Blanco in 1917 as his private residence. During the times of dictator Batista, there were plans to turn it into a casino when the Jagua hotel was completed nearby in the 1950’s.
As part of our Support for the Cuban People travel, we pay a visit to Rox 950 Jewellery store, a privately-owned Cuban jewelry store run by Cuban self-employed (cuentapropistas), designer and business woman, Rosana Vargas. Supporting Cuban women entrepreneurs like Rosana Vargas is the main objective of our shopping visits. We will engage with our Cuban host Rosana Vargas and her team in a conversation to learn more about the Cuban culture and how she has established her handmade silver jewelry brand in Cuba and in the USA.
In today’s tour to the Tomas Terry theatre’s interior you will be able to appreciate all the original elements of the theatre, including the Cuban wood carved 950 seat auditorium, the impressive ceiling fresco, the “mourning” balconies with intricate iron work and independent entrance, the incline stage and also the white Carrara marble of Tomas Terry at the theatre lobby.
During our Support for the Cuban People travels to Cuba, we will engage in authorized Support for the Cuban People activities that are organized by independent Cuban individuals and organizations. We will visit Korimakao, a cultural community project founded by popular Cuban actor Manuel Porto in the 1990’s in Playa Larga, a very remote rural county in southern Cuba. Porto wanted to bring theatre, music and dance to the inhabitants of this isolated area. The idea grew into the Korimakao Theatre Troupe & Cultural Project that currently involves local residents and artists.
We will visit Proyecto Comunitario Trazos Libres (Free Strokes Community Project), founded by contemporary Cuban visual artist, Santiago Hermes in La Gloria neighborhood, in Cienfuegos. Hermes has turned his house into the operational base for a cooperative of local artists whose work center around the preservation and promotion of Cuban artistic traditions through the production of art exhibits, performances and installations about the sugar, cigar and coffee production. During this Support for the Cuban People visit, we will mingle among the artists and enjoy unique handicrafts, murals, photographs, and traditional costumes.
UNESCO World Heritage Site, Trinidad and the Sugar Mill Valley is our authentic Cuba destination today. This sort of “museum town” of 50 000 inhabitants offers the Cuba travellers the more genuine colonial atmosphere found in Cuba these days. With buildings showing barely any signs of the 20th century and locals who even ignore the new names of the river-stone streets, you will find a hard time getting directions base on official street names shown in your tour guides and maps. Luckily we have our Authentic Cuba Travel® guide to show us around this morning.
The 44-meter-high Manaca Iznaga Tower next to the hacienda house was used to watch out slaves. Pedro Iznaga who bought the property in 1795 was one of Cuba’s wealthiest men.
During our Support for the Cuban People escape to Trinidad, we will engage in authorized Support for the Cuban People activities like a visit to Entre Hilos, Alas y Pinceles (Among Threads, Wings and Brushes), a Trinitarian artistic community project founded by renown painter and visual artist, Yudit Vidal who brought together over 20 very talented women artisans to produce finest linen clothing and embroidery of Trinitarian inspiration. The goal of this project is to provide a way for those craftswomen to financially support themselves and their families. Her painting on their traditional Trinidad stitching on linen produces unique artwork in high demand by locals and foreign visitors alike.
Tonight the International Jazz Festival of Cuba 2024 kicks off. Jazz history will be made and new names will be added to the prestigious list of national and international Jazz musicians that have performed on regular basis at the event such as Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Haden, Jack DeJohnette, Danilo Perez, Chucho Valdes, Arturo O'Farrill and many others.
We will pay a visit to Piscolabis Bazar-Café, a privately-owned Cuban bazaar and coffee shop run by self-employed (cuentapropista) Cuban fashion designer Sandra De Huelbes to shop for some exclusive clothing and accessories as well as unique souvenirs and local handicrafts. Shopping in these sorts of stores directly supports the Cuban people and the Cuban families financially while encouraging independent entrepreneurial activities that in turn strengthen civil society in Cuba.
Your Cuba travel experience wouldn’t be complete without a day trip to one of Cuba’s most unique and prettiest natural landscapes, the Vinales Valley made up of fertile plains of limestone origin. You can spot the famous mogotes (free standing cone-shape hills) anywhere in the valley. Bohios, palm trees and tobacco cops and houses are also easily found in the natural scenery that became known to the world thank to the landscape paintings of Cuban Domingo Ramos.
The Havana Jazz Festival Line-up in 2020 included rising starts such as Cuban Jazz singer, Dayme Arocena who delivered a powerful performance at Casa de La Cultura. Dressed in the traditional Santeria ceremonial white attire, her story telling songs invoked deities of Santeria religion with loud crying Afro-Cuban chants displaying an array of voices: low, high, euphoric, halt. The music surrounding her from her trio was very unconventional though with harmonies reminiscent of the hardbop and Brazilian pop.
Cuban musician Chucho Valdes, president of the Organizing Committee of the Havana Jazz Festival, won his eigth Grammy Award in 2011 for best album of Latin jazz. CD "Chucho Steps", recorded with his new band Mensajeros Afrocubanos, under the label Concord Picante.
Day 1. Sunday 21 January 2024. Hello Cuba
Today we finally land in Havana City, full of spellbinding scenes and sounds; this is Cuba’s largest city with over 2 million inhabitants.
US travelers can make flight arrangements out of Miami, Charlotte, New York, Newark, Atlanta, Houston, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, Orlando and Boston (USA), Cancun (Mexico) and Toronto (Canada).
You will be welcomed by your Authentic Cuba Travel® guide and bus driver who will facilitate an array of Support for the Cuban People activities with Cubans along the way. They will also be your 24/7 escorts to all the activities and attractions of the Havana Jazz Festival Cuba tour.
You will be shown to your modern air-conditioning motor coach and enjoy a short ride to your accomodation in Playa Neighbourhood or Vedado Neighbourhood. This is Havana’s downtown where most of musical venues and happenings of the Cuba Jazz Festival will take place. This is the place to be in the city in the coming days if you are a Jazz lover.
Evening venue: The Jazz Plaza 2024 kicks off today. We will participate in the Opening of the 39th Havana Jazz Festival. Your Authentic Cuba Travel® guide will hand out your VIP All Access Jazz Pass and show you to the best seats at the designated theatre (quite likely the Mella Theatre or the National Theatre of Cuba). Please, guard the Jazz pass dearly as it is not replaceable and grants you access to all Jazz venues in the city.
We believe that educational travel should engage foreign visitors with the cultural and social values of the Cuban society through people-to-people interaction. During the duration of the Havana Jazz Festival 2024, North American travelers will be able to spend quality time with the hundreds of Cubans that attend the various venues of the international event every night. Travelers will make friends, establish relationships and gain memorable experiences that both foreign visitors and Cubans will treasure for live and have an impact in their lives. The people-to-people engagement with Cubans is the key component that makes our educational tours to Cuba different from the rest.
Please remember that your breakfast is included and you can enjoy it daily from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.
Day 2. Monday 22 January 2024. Cienfuegos, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Morning. Authentic Cuba Travel®’s Havana Jazz Festival Cuba tour is often imitated, but never duplicated, among other things, because we take travellers to explore the authentic Cuba beyond the capital of the country. And today we will travel to Cienfuegos, Cuba’s second smallest province after Havana. Located in Central Cuba, this Cuban province is bordered by the Caribbean Sea to the south and Sierra del Escambray to the East.
Highlights of the province are the impressive neoclassical architecture of the provincial capital, the lavish Moorish architecture of Palacio del Valle, the outstanding Fortress of Jagua, the romantic colonial La Reina Cemetery and its historical centre that has been declared UNESCO World Heritage Site.
During our Support for the Cuban People trip to Cienfuegos, we will engage in authorized Support for the Cuban People activities that are organized by independent Cuban individuals and organizations. En route, we will visit Korimakao, a cultural community project founded by popular Cuban actor Manuel Porto in the 1990’s in Playa Larga, a very remote rural county in southern Cuba.
Porto wanted to bring theatre, music and dance to the inhabitants of this isolated area. The idea grew into the Korimakao Theatre Troupe & Cultural Project that currently involves local residents and artists. This Support for the Cuban People activity will result in a meaningful interaction with the individuals of Cuba. We will enjoy a special performance by Korimakao artists, musicians and dancers and present donations of educational & humanitarian items.
We will enjoy a delicious seafood lunch at privately-owned restaurant Paladar El Butty. We will meet the owner (akas El Butty) and his family who serve the best seafood in town accompanied by great hospitality!
Afternoon: upon arrival in Cienfuegos city, we will visit Proyecto Comunitario Trazos Libres (Free Strokes Community Project), a cultural community project founded by contemporary Cuban visual artist, Santiago Hermes in La Gloria neighborhood, in Cienfuegos city.
Hermes has turned his house into the operational base for a cooperative of local artists whose work center around the preservation and promotion of Cuban artistic traditions through the production of art exhibits, performances and installations about the sugar, cigar and coffee production.
During this Support for the Cuban People visit, we will mingle among the artists and enjoy unique handicrafts, murals, photographs, and traditional costumes. We will learn more about the role of this Cuban based nongovernmental art collective in the promotion of culture in countryside Cuba. This Support for the Cuban People activity will result in a meaningful interaction with the individuals of Cienfuegos, Cuba. We will present donations of educational & humanitarian items.
Escorted by local city planners and architects from the Office of the City Historian, the local organization in charge of the preservation and restoration of Cienfuegos Historical Center, we will embark on a walking tour of Old Cienfuegos. We will start in Parque Marti, a large square that is centered by a statue of Jose Marti, Cuba’s national hero, and surrounded by Cienfuegos’s most imposing neoclassical buildings.
Cubans called Cienfuegos the Spanish city with a French heart because it was founded by French refugees from La Louisiana in 1819- following the purchase of that territory by the US. There’s an inlaid rosette in the park that marks the exact spot where Don Luis de Clouet and other French families held the ceremony of foundation of the city back then.
The south side of the square is dominated by the Capitol of Cienfuegos, former city hall that houses the seat of the People’s Power today (provincial government). Inside the Capitol, there are beautiful mural paintings that depict Cienfuegos’s most remarkable historical moments as well the legend of the creation of the peninsula by native Guanaroca, the first woman created by the Siboney’s moon, Maroya.
Tomas Terry Theatre on the north side of the square was completed in 1889 by the family of Tomas Terry, an industrialist from Venezuela who settled in Cienfuegos and made a fortune in the sugar cane industry. It was Terry’s dream to build Cienfuegos grandest theatre. At his death in Paris in 1886, his widow and sons decided to honor his dream.
In 1887, a jury in Paris selected from among three architectural projects the proposal presented by Cuba born architect, Lino Sanchez Marmol for an Italian style theatre. The same year the first stone was laid down in the same location previously occupied by theatre Isabel II built in 1940.
Tomas Terry was not the only wealthy sugar baron that donated monies for the construction of Cienfuegos greatest public buildings. Take a look at the east side of the square and you’ll see the impressive neoclassical Catedral de La Purisima Concepcion built with the monetary contributions of the Lebranc, the Terry, The Acea and other families.
Cienfuegos’ aristocracy also built their private residences around the square, that’s the case of Palacio Ferrer, better known today as Casa de La Cultura. Showcasing Carrara marble floors and walls and a wrought iron staircase that leads to a tower from which you can enjoy a great view of the city, rumour has it it will be completed refurbished into an upscale hotel soon.
Before calling it the day, we will pay a visit to Poco Bonito Gallery, a privately-owned Cuban store run by self-employed Cubans (cuentapropistas) to shop for street and political art produced by millennial Cuban artists.
We will also visit to Casa Huella, a privately-owned Cuban store, run by self-employed Cubans (cuentapropistas) graduated from the Provincial Art School of Cienfuegos. We will meet with Frank, Tita, Alejandra and other artists.
Shopping in these sorts of stores financially supports the Cuban people and the Cuban families while encouraging independent entrepreneurial activities that in turn strengthen civil society in Cuba. Supporting these Cuban entrepreneurs is the main objective of our shopping visits. We will engage with our Cuban hosts in conversations to learn more about the Cuban culture and the challenges the emerging private sector is facing in Cuba.
We now go to Punta Gorda neighbourhood to check in at your Luxury Casa Particular.
Punta Gorda, the quarter of Cienfuegos one-time aristocratic families showcases the best privately-owned restaurants, villas and residences.
Day 3. Tuesday 23 January 2024. Tour of UNESCO Heritage Site, Trinidad
Morning: after enjoying a complimentary buffet breakfast at our hotel this morning, we will embark on a day trip to one of Cuba’s more authentic destinations, Trinidad and the Sugar Mill Valley both declared as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988.
The 45 minute coastal road trip is as worthy as the destination itself. And we will enjoy the amazing natural scenery of the Escambray Mountains and the blue waters of the Caribbean Sea as we go.
Trinidad was the third village founded by conquistador Don Diego Velazquez in 1514. However, it was not until the mid of the 19th century that Trinidad’s economy boomed becoming Cuba’s third largest sugar cane producer.
The origin of this prosperity can be traced back to the Haitian Revolution when hundreds of French refugees came to Trinidad fleeing the slave rebellion and established a number of sugar mills in the Sugar Mill Valley that soon became the backbone of Trinidad and Cuba’s economy.
During our Support for the Cuban People trip to Trinidad, we will engage in authorized Support for the Cuban People activities that are organized by independent Cuban individuals and organizations.
Upon arrival we will visit Entre Hilos, Alas y Pinceles (Among Threads, Wings and Brushes), a Trinitarian artistic community project founded by renown painter and visual artist, Yudit Vidal. Ms.
Vidal has brought together over 20 very talented women artisans to produce finest linen clothing and embroidery of Trinitarian inspiration.
The goal of this project was to provide a way for those craftswomen to financially support themselves and their families. Her painting on their traditional Trinidad stitching on linen produces unique artwork in high demand by locals and foreign visitors alike.
During this visit we will exchange with community members and Ms. Vidal, who has been named as "Ambassador for Peace" by the International Circle of Ambassadors for Peace of Switzerland and France. This Support for the Cuban People activity will result in a meaningful interaction with the craftswomen and their families. We will present donations of educational & humanitarian items.
Escorted by local city planners and architects from the Office of the City Historian, the local organization in charge of the preservation and restoration of Trinidad Historical Center, we will embark on a walking tour of the old city.
As we tour Trinidad’s Historical Center today, we will find that behind most colonial palaces of red terracotta tiles, wide porticoes and ample balconies there’s the name and fortune of a sugar cane baron with properties in the nearby Valle de Los Ingenios.
We will pay a visit to the romantic museum, Museo Romantico housed in the former Palacio Brunet. The museum displays china, silverware and locally-made furniture that once belonged to the Brunet and other wealthy families of Trinidad.
The former house of Sanchez Iznaga contains today the Museum of Colonial Architecture that tells us the history of Trinidad’s authentic colonial architecture through a display of a series of traditional building items (from adobe walls to door hinges to a 19th century shower stall!) and architectural elements such as an impressive portico, shaped fan door headers, el aljibe (a rain water collecting system) and shuttered windows.
We will also visit the Iglesia Parroquial de La Santisima Trinidad, that threasures the venerated Christ of the Veracruz; the Museo de La Lucha contra Bandidos, located in a former 18th century convent of San Francisco de Asis that displays objects related to the war against counter revolutionary military groups that operated in Sierra del Escambray in the early years of the Cuban Revolution; and many other buildings.
We will have a complimentary lunch at privately-owned restaurant, Paladar Solananda (one of Trinidad’s top ten private restaurants) located in a exquisitely refurbished colonial house showcasing European antiques and furniture. We will exchange with the staff and owners over mojitos to learn more about their entrepreneurial dreams in a centralized economy.
Afternoon: we visit the Casa Templo de Santería Yemayá. This is an opportunity to see a Santeria altar dedicated to Yemayá, Goddess of the Sea, and exchange with religious leaders about Afro-Cuban religion and influences in Cuba today.
Next, we will board our air-conditioning bus for a short 10 minute ride to the Valle de Los Ingenios (Sugar Mill Valley). By now we know the importance of the valley for the economic development of the city so it is only fair we pay a visit. We will stop at a lookout for a panoramic view of the series of valleys (San Luis, Agabama-Meyer and Santa Rosa) that comprise the Sugar Mill Valley. Many of the mills and estate house remain today (mainly in ruins though).
It could be the quality of the region’s clay and the skills of the artisans who have been passing from generation to generation the genuine techniques, but the fact remains that Trinidad’s pottery making is one of Cuba's most authentic traditions. We will visit the privately-owned Workshop of the Santanders, one of those legendary families next.
As we walk the streets of Trinidad, we will run literally into dozens of privately-owned studios and art galleries, most of them catering to mass international tourism to Cuba. Yet there are those rare artists who are not driven by commercialism, but by genuine artistic expressions. That’s the case of Iván Basso and Jorge César Sáenz. That's why, before heading back to Cienfuegos, we have chosen to devote some time during our Cuba tours for Support for the Cuban People to give our tour participants the chance to get to know them better.
Dinner is complimentary at your accomodation tonight, but you can also take some time on your own to enjoy a local paladar (private restaurants). Paladares are abundant in town today.
After dinner, we recommend to pay a visit to nearby Casa de La Musica to listen to Cuba’s best salsa bands live and dance with Cubans and tour mates. Your Authentic Cuba Travel® guide will keep you posted on the schedule of evening venues in the city.
Day 4. Wednesday 24 January 2024. Opening Ceremony of the Cuba Jazz Festival
This morning we say goodbye to central Cuba. After enjoying our last complimentary breakfast, we travel back to Havana City to attend the opening of the International Jazz Festival of Havana 2024.
At Authentic Cuba Travel®, one of the Cuba travel tips we always give our American travelers is to visit local communities off the Cuba's tourism beaten track to discover the authentic Cuba. And that’s what we will do next. US visitors will meet ordinary Cubans whose lives have been positively impacted by the artwork of the Caribbean Picasso- a nickname Cuban artist Jose Fuster is commonly given.
We will visit their homes at the seaside village of Jaimanitas, the epicenter of Jose Fuster street art gallery project. Here dozens of humble homes are covered in amazing, wildly ceramic murals, and other artworks.
Then we will have some time to exchange with Jose Fuster, and other members of the Community Project of Jaimanitas about this outreach program that has changed the lives of humble fishermen for the best. This Support for the Cuban People activity will result in a meaningful interaction with the individuals of Cuba. We will present donations of educational & humanitarian items.
Arguably serving the best Creole food in Cuba, today’s complimentary lunch will be served at El Aljibe restaurant, which garnered international attention after an appearance on US TV Show NO RESERVATIONS hosted by late chef Anthony Bourdain.
Afternoon: as part of our Support for the Cuban People travel to Cuba, we have scheduled a private exchange with the organizers and children of the Children Theatre Group, The Little Beehive located in Vedado neighborhood. This world renowned independent theatrical group, official UNICEF Goodwill Ambassadors, has performed extensively around the globe and even in the United States recently. The children and teachers will engage in a lively chat with our tour participants and even perform a play in English. What a treat! We will present donations of educational & humanitarian items and ask how we can help promoting their message of peace in the USA.
Evening: tonight marks the fourth night of the Havana Jazz Festival 2024. Your authentic Cuban guide will keep you posted on the schedule of the Jazz Festival so that you decide the best venues to attend. Keep your ear on the ground for the unscheduled Jazz sessions that usually unfold during this night. Also do keep your VIP All Access Jazz Pass handy to make sure you have complete access to concerts and music events.
Day 5. Thursday 25 January 2024. Old Havana, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Morning: As part of our Support for the Cuban People trip to Cuba, we will engage in authorized Support for the Cuban People activities organized by the Cuban community project Cabildo Quisicuaba, under the direction of Dr. Enrique Alemán Gutiérrez and its team of more than 74 health professionals and social workers that volunteer their time to the project. Promoting the community involvement in the preservation of the Cuban identity and its culture through different out-reach activities in Centro Habana municipality, the Cabildo Quisicuaba has made possible the creation of a community library, an amusement park for children, a community theatre troupe, 7 dancing and performing art groups, as well as several workshops.
We will meet with and enjoy the musical offerings of a local children's chorus or even the rapping abuelitas (grandmothers). This Support for the Cuban People activity will result in a meaningful interaction with the individuals of Centro Habana community in Havana, Cuba. We will present donations of educational & humanitarian items and ask how we can help promoting their work in the USA.
Featured Lunch: a new wave of paladares (privately-owned restaurants) has recently swept the Cuban dining scene offering excellent food and charming ambient. Today we’ll enjoy a delicious lunch at the stylish La California, one of Havana's top ten private restaurants.
This is a unique opportunity to see how Cuban entrepreneurship is reshaping the dilapidated Cuban culinary industry one dish at a time. As part of your lunch and your Support for the Cuban People experience to Cuba, we will establish a dialogue with local restaurateurs to learn how they have been able to reconcile the socialist centralized economy with the demands of the free market in the booming private Cuban hospitality industry.
Afternoon: the best way to appreciate the historic yet vibrant neighbourhood of Old Havana, a UNESCO World Heritage Site is by foot. And that’s what we will do after lunch guided by our Authentic Cuba Travel® guide.
Your Cuban tour guide will be explaining about the historical restoration project that is taking place in Old Havana. You will also visit social and community outreach projects during this walking tour.
We will start by visiting El Templete (or Little Temple in English), at the east side of Plaza de Armas (Square of Arms) the city’s oldest square and the seat of Spanish power and rulers in the island for over 400 year. Marked today by a neoclassical chapel erected in 1828 and a Ceiba tree, this is the spot where the foundation of the city took place in 1519.
We will also explore Palacio de Los Condes de Santovenia, an 18th century building that houses today the Hotel Santa Isabel dating back from 1867!
On the west side of the square is the Palacio de Los Capitanes Generales (Palace of the Captain Generals), Cuba’s most magnificent baroque building that was the seat of authority and the residence of the Spanish rulers (at the time known as Spanish captains general) in colonial times.
Adjacent to the Palace of the Captain Generals we find another beautiful example of authentic Cuban baroque architecture, the former headquarters of the Spanish governor or Palacio del Segundo Cabo.
We cannot continue our guided walking tour of this authentic Cuban attraction that is Old Havana without noticing Cuba’s oldest military fortress, the Fortress of the Royal Force. It was the first residence of the Captains general until the Palacio de Los Capitanes Generales was completed...some two hundred years later.
Now we will walk a few blocks to Plaza de La Cathedral (The Cathedral Square) surrounded by noble palaces and presided over by the Catedral de San Cristobal de La Habana.
The Jesuits began the construction of the church in the mid of the 18th century, but they couldn’t finish it as the order was expelled from the island in 1767. Considered as the most beautiful example of authentic Cuban baroque architecture, it contains the remains of Christopher Columbus inside a dramatic funeral monument.
During the early Spanish colonization of Las Americas, the wealth seized from people from Peru to Mexico, mainly in the shape gold, passed through Havana on the way to Spain. Merchants made fortunes providing goods and services to the crews while in Havana. That’s the wealth upon which the great buildings you see in Old Havana today were built and San Francisco Square is no exception.
Visit to the Experimental Printing Workshop, a cooperative workshop where young lithographers ply their art. You will have ample time to engage with Cuban artists about this independent art project that follows a very unique cooperative model in Cuba in which artists directly benefit from the sales of their artworks. Support for the Cuban People meaningful exchange in between the US travelers and the Cubans is quite an unforgettable experience of our Cuba tours and travel.
Plaza de San Francisco, our next stop, soon became the trade square of the city during early colonial times. Galleons full of Spanish immigrants and African slaves called port here to unload their human cargo and stockpile before continuing on journey to The West Indies.
No wonder Cuba’s first commodities market was built here in 1909, the domed Lonja del Comercio. Today it houses foreign enterprises with joint ventures in Cuba.
One of the latest squares to be founded in colonial times was Plaza Vieja (Old Square) and it was completely restored in the 2000s. Surrounded by wide-balcony elegant-porticoe mansions of Havana’s one-time wealthiest merchants, the square contains no government or religious buildings, an element that makes it unique in the Spanish fabric.
Now it’s time to enjoy some free shopping time, as we will visit the newest harbour side home of the Handicraft Market of Old Havana at the Cultural Centre San Jose’s Old Warehouse. This is the place to buy some Cuban souvenirs or a great paining or sculpture created by self-employed (cuentapropista) Cuban artists and artisants, or just enjoy the sea breeze as you admire the architecture of the building.
Next we will pay a visit to Piscolabis Bazar-Café, a privately-owned Cuban bazaar and coffee shop run by self-employed (cuentapropista) Cuban fashion designer Sandra De Huelbes to shop for some exclusive clothing and accessories as well as unique souvenirs and local handicrafts. Shopping in these sorts of stores directly supports the Cuban people and the Cuban families financially while encouraging independent entrepreneurial activities that in turn strengthen civil society in Cuba.
The array objects for sale are as diverse as the team of Cuban artists that produce them. Supporting these Cuban creators is the main objective of our shopping visits. While sipping on Cuban coffee, we will engage with our Cuban hosts in conversations to learn more about their approach to empower artistic creation inspired by Cuban culture.
Evening: tonight marks the fifth night of the Havana Jazz Festival 2024. Your authentic Cuban guide will keep you posted on the schedule of the Jazz Festival so that you decide the best venues to attend. Keep your ear on the ground for the unscheduled Jazz sessions that usually unfold during this night. Also do keep your VIP All Access Jazz Pass handy to make sure you have complete access to concerts and music events.
Day 6. Friday 26 January 2024. Authentic Havana
Morning: as part of our Support for the Cuban People trip to Cuba, we will engage in authorized Support for the Cuban People activities organized by world acclaimed Cuban community project Vocal Clave de Sol, founded by Nuria and Yamile Garcia in 2009. Promoting independent musical education in San Agustin, a community in Havana lacking in recreational and artistic venues for the youth, this independent organization started with just 9 members (ages 7 to 16) and has grown to more than 200 now.
During our visit we will engage with the members to learn more about the role of this nongovernmental organization in promoting traditional Cuban music and culture in the community. This Support for the Cuban People activity will result in a meaningful interaction with the individuals of San Agustin community in Havana, Cuba. We will present donations of educational & humanitarian items, enjoy a special performance by the students, and ask how we can help promoting their work in the USA.
The great US author Ernest Hemingway spent about 20 years in Cuba and today we will embark on a tour to follow his trail in the Caribbean island. We will start by visiting Finca La Vigia (Watchtower Farm) located on a small hill of San Francisco de Paula, a humble town in the outskirts of Havana, where the US novelist lived most of this time and completed his most successful novels.
Hemingway used to wake up early in the morning and write for about 6 hours, sometimes from a three story tower next to the main house, sometimes standing in front of a wooden book case on top of which we can still see his typewriter. Here he completed books such as The Old Man and The Sea and Islands in the Stream.
The property has been kept as a museum for more than 49 years. The interior of the main estate remains unchanged since 1959 when Hemingway left for the United States. Hemingway’ shoes, glasses, hunting trophies, original manuscripts, letters, books, pictures and all his possessions are on casual display just like the writer may show up anytime.
Many times, after completing his morning writings, Hemingway used to go out to Cojimar, a coastal fishing town where he kept his fishing boat Pilar, and then go fishing in the company of Gregorio Fuentes, the Cuban captain of Pilar for the rest of the afternoon.
And that’s where we are heading next. Worth mentioning the fact that his novel The Old Man and The Sea that granted him the Nobel Prize for Literature was inspired on the life of a fisherman from Cojimar. The presence of Hemingway can be felt around town from the small gazebo that contains a bust of the US writer to Las Terrazas restaurant where a large portrait painting of the author is displayed altogether with a collection of pictures.
We will enjoy a complimentary lunch at AMOS paladar (privately-owned restaurant) owned by Ramses Batista, one of Cuba’s most well-established photographers today. As part of our lunch and our Support for the Cuban People experience to Cuba, we will establish a dialogue with Ramses and his team to learn how they have been able to reconcile the socialist centralized economy with the demands of the free market in the booming private Cuban hospitality industry.
Then we will visit his privately-owned AMOS Photography Gallery, and get up close and personal with the work of Ramses Batista. We will revisit Mr. Batista’s 20-plus-year career featuring portraiture, social documentary, religion, landscapes, and nudes. Supporting these Cuban entrepreneurs is the main objective of our Support for the Cuban People trips.
Visiting an artist’s studio is like a small window into the artist’s mind and heart. Next we’ll get to explore those spaces with private visits to the privately-owned studios of some notable contemporary artists like Alicia Leal and her husband Juan Moreira as well as younger artists like Ernesto Benitez and the Britos’ Sisters making their mark on the Cuban art scene. We will engage with our Cuban hosts in a conversation to learn more about the Cuban culture.
Along the way, you’ll have the opportunity to share directly with the artists, ask them questions about their work and methods, and see the diverse influences, heritages, and imaginations at play. Meeting with Cuban artists up close and personal is an exclusive experience of our Cuba Tours.
Next we will learn about Cuba’s maritime history at the Fortaleza de Los Tres Reyes Magos del Morro (El Morro Fortress). The fortress was built in the 16th century to guard the entrance to the Bay of Havana from the attack of pirates and corsairs. Sitting on a rocky bluff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean it displays breathtaking views over Havana city. Showcasing an iconic lighthouse, 3 metter thick walls and deep moats, The Fortress has been a landmark of Cuba’s military architecture for centuries.
Inside the Fortress, there’s also a Cigar Store that carries all brands of Habanos. Your tour guide will show you to the store where you can puff the famous Cuban cigars.
Evening: tonight marks the sixth night of the Havana Jazz Festival 2024. Your authentic Cuban guide will keep you posted on the schedule of the Jazz Festival so that you decide the best venues to attend. Keep your ear on the ground for the unscheduled Jazz sessions that usually unfold during this night. Also do keep your VIP All Access Jazz Pass handy to make sure you have complete access to concerts and music events.
Day 7. Saturday 27 January 2024. Vinales Valley, UNESCO Heritage Site
Today we will take a day tour to explore another authentic Cuba destination, the Vinales Valley. Vinales was declared as Cultural Landscape Site by UNESCO in 1999 because of its beautiful landscape dotted with mogotes (conical limestone hills), tobacco houses and bohios (a sort of huts); because of the distinctive vernacular architecture of its houses; and because of an authentic system of agricultural methods for the tobacco harvest that farmers have been passing through generations.
En route to Vinales Valley, we will visit the outreach community project El Patio de Pelegrin, the brainchild of Cuban painter Mario Pelegrin. This humble privately-owned art gallery and pottery workshop in Consolacion del Sur Municipality (Western Cuba) has turned into a powerhouse for the promotion of cultural and artistic projects in this countryside community.
During this visit we will engage with Mario Pelegrin and his team to learn more about the role of this independent organization in Pinar del Rio. This Support for the Cuban People activity will result in a meaningful interaction with the individuals of Consolacion del Sur, Cuba. We will present donations of educational & humanitarian items and ask how we can help promoting their work in the USA.
Upon arriving at Vinales town, we will enjoy a delicious traditional countryside lunch at the privately-owned bar-restaurant Paladar Yuri & Nino, El Campesino. Yuri is a young woman entrepreneur who started this small restaurant that has expanded into a large establishment. Yuri and her family work hard to create delicious and plentiful food that comes with a beautiful mountain view.
Afternoon: we will take another escape into the local tobacco farm of one of those families that have inhabited the region for generations dating back to colonial times when Spaniards- from Canary islands mainly, settled in this region in an attempt to move away from the monopoly of tobacco trading imposed by Spain. We will learn about the ancient techniques of tobacco growing of this region that produces the best tobacco in the world. We will also learn about the daily life and struggle of the locals.
Our Support for the Cuban People tours and travel to Cuba continues with a meeting with the owners of a local Room for Rent business. After Cuba’s open up to private enterprise, renting rooms and houses have become one of the most popular activities among Cubans. Even Vinales town, tucked away in Sierra de Los Organos, is not immune to the entrepreneurial fever overtaking Cuba these days. And private accommodation businesses are booming in the village of Vinales.
We’ll take a tour to the Indian Cave. Once used as a burial site by the Gunahatabeyes, one of the native people of Cuba, the cave was rediscovered in 1920. We will walk some 300 meters into the cave towards a river that flows underground the mogote. Then we will travel by boat another 400 meters to the other site of the hill.
There’s a gigantic 180-meter-long mural on the side of one of the mogotes known as Dos Hermanas. This is our next stop. The painting was done by Cuban artist Leovigildo Gonzalez, a pupil of Mexican Diego Rivera and is better known today as the Prehistoric Mural because it depicts prehistoric animals whose fossils were found in the region.
Then we will head back to Havana just in time for freshen up, have some dinner (not included) and go out explore tonight’s main venues of the International Jazz Festival of Havana. Did we mention yet that you should not forget your VIP All Access Jazz Pass?
Evening: tonight marks the seventh night of the Havana Jazz Festival 2024. Your authentic Cuban guide will keep you posted on the schedule of the Jazz Festival so that you decide the best venues to attend. Keep your ear on the ground for the unscheduled Jazz sessions that usually unfold during this night. Also do keep your VIP All Access Jazz Pass handy to make sure you have complete access to concerts and music events.
Day 8. Sunday 28 January 2024. Closing Ceremony of the Havana Jazz Festival
Morning: another key element of our authentic Cuba tours that sets our Cuba travel company apart from the rest it is the escapes that we make into the most humble yet genuine neighbourhoods of Cuba to discover authentic traditions and get to know the real Cuban people. And we are about to experience another one of those adventures as we visit Santa Amalia neighbourhood where a group of elder dancers have maintain tap dancing alive in Cuba for decades. Now they will display their dancing skills to live Jazz music.
We will spend the morning exchanging with members of the Santa Amalia Community Project and the Santa Amalia Tap Club.
Next, we’ll also visit the Callejón de Hamel Community Project, an alley where all the buildings display murals inspired by Afro-Cuban culture and religions.
We'll meet with project director and artist Salvador Gonzales Escalona at his studio to review the influence of the African culture and religions in Cuban art.
Salvador Gonzalez is a well known Cuban muralist, painter, and sculptor. He has murals in Philadelphia, New York and Norway.
Optional lunch (not included in tour cost): with the help of your Authentic Cuba Travel® guide assisting with individual bookings, lunch time serves as a good opportunity to try a new paladar (family-run privately-owned restaurant) and support the independent Cuban entrepreneurs.
Then we will go shopping to some of Havana’s most recognized privately-owned stores. Shopping in these sorts of stores directly supports the Cuban people and the Cuban families financially while encouraging independent entrepreneurial activities that in turn strengthen civil society in Cuba.
We will meet with Alex Oppmann, a self-employed Cuban (cuentapropistas) businessman who runs Alma Shop, a privately-owned Cuban store where you can find some of the finest Cuban gifts and souvenirs (from jewelry to Cigar humidors).
Then we will meet with Rosana Vargas, a Cuban self-employed (cuentapropistas), designer and business woman who owns Rox 950 Jewellery Store, a privately-owned Cuban jewelry store.
Before heading back to our hotel we will pay a visit to Clandestina Store and Studio, the first privately-owned store opened in Cuba in 2015, run by self-employed Cubans (cuentapropistas) Idania del Rio y Leire Fernandez to buy some unique Cuban fashion clothing.
Evening: attend the closing ceremony of the 39th International Jazz Festival of Havana 2024. Please, do not forget your VIP All Access Jazz Pass.
Day 9. Monday 29 January 2024. Good Bye Cuba!
Today marks the end of our Cuba Jazz adventure. Your Cuban guide and bus driver will escort you to the International Airport for departure.
The History of Cuban Jazz Music
From the Jazz Big Band "Brothers Castro" to Chucho Valdes. Brought to you by Authentic Cuba Travel®
While jazz music has many of its roots on the island nation of Cuba dating as far back as the end of the 19th century, it was really in the 1920’s that the genre gained an established presence in the country.
It was then, in 1929 to be specific, that the first Cuban jazz big band Brothers Castros led by a saxophonist named Manolo Castro was formed, and over time, the genre grew in fame and size. While considered to be the first jazz big band of the time, Brothers Castros was far from the last.
During this time many American jazz bands were hired to play in the Caribbean island. Cuban musicians learnt from those American bands not only the intricacies of the jazz language but the international repertoire and soon they became masters of the musical genre not only in Cuba but in the very USA.
By the 1930’s Cuban music had become popular across the globe, a fact that favored the birth of numerous jazz big bands flourished in Cuba the likes of Leucona Cuban Boys, Riversai, and The Curbelo were practically household names.
In 1932, the musical works of American jazz legends such as Duke Ellington and Fletcher Henderson had an impact on Cuban jazz musician Armando Romeu who, together with other famed Cuban artists such as Chico O’Farrill, Bebo Valdes, Kiki Hernandez, and Rafael Tata Palau, formed the first of a series of Jazz big bands.
Many Cuban artists, including the likes of Mario Bauza and Miguelito Valdes had established themselves in New York City as early as 1930, with Bauza gaining the opportunity to work with such jazz greats as Dizzy Gillespie and Cab Calloway.
When Bauza’s brother-in-law, Frank Grillo, arrived in the city in 1937, he suggested that they form a band blending the sounds of traditional jazz with those of Afro-Cuban music. In 1941, he did just that, and Machito and the AfroCubans were formed with Bauza serving as their music director. The band went on to perform with Charlie Parker and other famous jazz musicians of the time. Dizzy Gillespie renamed it Cubop when it added Cuban Chano Pozo to its own band.
Even while America was becoming a popular venue for Cuban jazz in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s, Havana was still an equally popular area for the genre. It was during this time that Armando Romeu and Luis Escalante teamed up with Gustavo and Leopoldo Pucho Escalante to form the famous jazz band The Bellamar.
During this time, the first Cuban bop band was also formed. Known as The Beboppers, the group featured Rene Urbino, Kiki Hernandez, Daniel Peres, and Chico O’Farrill. It was also during this time that Armando Romeu was hired by the famed Tropicana cabaret. Here, he formed a big band that included more than 12 members, including Daniel Perez, Kiki Hernandez, and Peruchin Justiz, among others. Critics by large considered the band to be among the best in Cuba.
One of the most important events in this part of the history of Cuban jazz is the emergence of Luciano Chano Pozo as one of the most famed jazz artists of the time. Pozo began as part of the radio station RHC’s orchestra in Havana, as well as the author of a number of famous rumba tunes, such as Parapampin. Pozo starred in the famed Congo Pantera at The Tropicana and became a highly famed soloist in Havana before moving to New York, where he became as much of a legend of American jazz as he was in Cuba.
The Filin, or The Feeling also emerged during the 1940’s when Cuban musicians abandoned the music’s Spanish and Italian roots to create something new closer to Jazz influences. Artists who belonged to this style include Jose Antonio Mendez as well as Cesar Portillo de la Luz, both of whom hold a firm place in Latin American music history. The founder of Cuba-Bop, unrelated to New York’s Cubop, Nino Rivera (from within The Feeling lines) also went on to put Cuban jazz music on the global map.
Other famed Cuban jazz artists of the 1940’s included Palau Brothers, the Brothers Lebatard, and the famous Casino de la Playa, the latter of which included popular singer Orlando Guerra, as well as pianist Damaso Perez Prado, who went on to be known as The King of the Mambo.
By the time the 1950’s rolled around, Havana’s mafia was hard at work trying to turn the city into the island’s equivalent of Las Vegas. Show business increased rapidly in popularity, with the hotels and nightclubs of the era offering jazz sessions. International stars such as Sarah Vaughan, Cab Calloway, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, and Benny Goodman visited the city with some frequency, and the Tropicana, with the help of Armando Romeu, became the center of Havana’s jazz scene.
Here, Sunday jazz sessions played host to the likes of El Negro Vivar, Tata Palau, Milt Jackson, and Ralph Burns. In 1957, 1900 Havana and the Tropicana played host to many musicians, DJs, and jazz fans from both Cuba and the United States with the goal of sharing musical experiences. It was also in this period that the first Cuban Jazz LP “El Cubano” was recorded. Featuring the likes of Bebo Valdes, Guillermo Barreto, El Negro Vivar, Kiki Hernandez, and Gustavo Mas, “Cuban Jam Sessions” was one of those records that altered the course of Cuban Latin jazz not only on the island, but even in the United States.
The success of the Cuban Revolution in 1959 altered the landscape of Cuban jazz, and the music of the 1960’s included rhythms such as the mozambique and the pachanga which initially were very popular, but quickly became forgotten. During this era, rock, bossa nova, and other forms of music made their way to the island, diminishing the popularity of jazz and relegating it to smaller venues and concerts. The big bands almost disappeared in this decade.
Cuban jazz musicians like pianist Frank Emilio Felipe, Pucho Escalante and Dulzaides and worked to keep jazz alive, the latter trained many young musicians. By 1961, Armando Romeu had left the Tropicana, though in 1966 he agreed to direct a band of young Cuban jazz musicians.
In 1963 the first Havana Jazz Festival was held in Cuba at the Payret Movie Theatre. All jazz bands and popular musicians showed up such as singer Maggie Prior and Omara Portuondo, and the Jazz band of Leonardo Timor, the last remaining big band of the time that featured many important musicians of the time, including Samuell Tellez, Fernando Vivar, and Ruben Gonzalez.
During the late 1960’s, Samuell Tellez and Chucho Valdes were among the popular young names in Cuban jazz. In 1966, The Cuban Institute on Cinematographic Arts and Industry (ICAIC) created an experimental group led by composer/ guitarist Leo Brouwer which combined sounds such as jazz, rock, Afro-Cuban, and Brazilian music, and European Concert music.
Many of these orchestra members formed quintets or quartets that performed in a variety of jazz festivals, including Poland’s Jazz Jamboree, where genre legends Dave Brubeck and Gerry Mullingan were quite anxious to listen to the sounds of the Chucho Valdes Quintet. Valdes’s group Irakere, organized in 1973, gained nearly instant success, earning the praise of such musicians as Earl Hines, Dizzy Gillespie, Stan and David Getz, and Leonard Feather, the famous jazz historian.
In 1974, Irakere embarked on a historical US tour sponsored by Columbia CBS playing at a number of US jazz festivals such as the ones in Newport and Montreal. This tour and the resulting success of Irakere helped lead to the creation of Irakere’s first Grammy winning album in 1979. For much of the 1970’s, Irakere ruled the Afro-Cuban genre of jazz alone, and it was only at the decade’s end that acts such as AfroCuba and Emiliano Salvador’s Quintet really entered into the scene.
In 1979, Casa de La Cultura de Plaza, a venue in Havana’s Plaza de La Revolucion municipality played host to a string of concerts organized by jazz player Bobby Carcases. It was these concerts that formed the basis for the national and later international event known as Jazz Plaza or the International Jazz Festival of Havana. These concerts have featured some of the biggest jazz musicians not only of Cuba, but of the United States, Canada, Latin America, Australia, and Europe.
Ronnie Scott and Dizzy Gillespie were regulars of the festival, with Scott serving as a co-organizer until 1993. Other acts who have performed at the festival include Cuban jazz master such as Chucho Valdez, who now organizes the event, as well as Armando Romeu, Tata Guines, Frank Emilio, and others, while globally renowned artists such as Max Roach, Richie Cole, and Leon Thomas are also among the names who have played the festival in previous years.
The Jazz Plaza music festivals have helped to bring attention and renown to many Cuban musicians while also spreading the music of international artists across the island. Many of the Cuban artists who have performed at Jazz Plaza have gone on to be nominated for and even receive Grammy Awards within the Latin Jazz category, with Chucho Valdes certainly remaining among the most globally renowned of them all.
Authentic Cuba Travel®
Cuba Festivals & Events
Authentic Cuba Travel®'s festival tours are sanctioned, hosted and fully sponsored by Cuba’s key Culture Ministries, Organizing Committees and Cuban personalities. Travel with the peace of mind of knowing you are in the best hands!
Tour participants are provided with “All Access” Pass to participate in all official venues and activities of Cuban festivals.
Premium seats at the opening and closing ceremonies of our festival Cuba tours.
Tour of festival related venues across the city, escorted by Cuban culture personalities and world class tour guides.
Enjoy unlimited access to programmed concerts and festival events.
Travel to UNESCO World Heritage cities such as Old Havana, Vinales, Cienfuegos Historical Center, Colonial Trinidad, Santiago de Cuba, and other Cuban cities.
Exchange with Cuban and international musicians, exhibitors, publishers and personalities.
Participate in the most traditional and popular ceremonies in Cuba such as The Fire of the Cannon of 9 O’Clock at the Fortress of San Carlos de La Cabana.