The Carnival of Havana 2014
Having first been celebrated in the late 1500s, the Carnival of Havana may not be as famous as its rival in Santiago de Cuba, but it's still the oldest in the island, the one comprising more years of history and tradition than any other in Cuba, making unique and prestigious in its own right.
A dazzling stage for young and old
Every summer the long avenue fringing the Malecon is closed down at night (from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m.) for over a week of dancing parades, ornate floats, brightly-coloured costumes featuring the most striking of designs, loudly beating bongos and a generic frenzy of and impromptu street parties. The festivities are not limited to an adult crowd, as the children have their own carnival too, with an entire day dedicated to the Kids Carnival, where little ones take to the streets in full costumes with their own floats and their own choreographies.
Eclectic, eye-catching costumes in full colour
One of the main aspects that make attending the Havana Carnival worth attending is the explosion of colour present in what the skilful dancers and musicians wear. One of the pluses of witnessing such an event is the ability to marvel at the inventive, colourful and original design of every year's array of costumes. Sometimes there's a theme, sometimes there's none, the display is worthy of admiration regardless.
Elaborate floats, comparsas and congas
The ornate carriages that parade down the Malecon every year, featuring dancing queens and kings are nothing short of spectacular. On top of these many choreographed numbers take place whilst at street level, synchronised comparsas (dancing groups with a theme), some of which are legendary and exist since the 1900s, steal the show. Everyone moves to the conga beats blaring from frantic drummers breaking a sweat as they energetically let music seep from their pores and make their intoxicating tunes resonate through the streets and fill the steamy, starry Havana night.
The all-important music and dancing
And, of course, nothing sets this show alive like the ever-present music, without it the dancing would lose its magic and the colours floating in the air wouldn't have anything to synchronise to in their hypnotic, swaying moves. Just when the music from one comparsa starts to die out after its passing, you're eagerly waiting for the next one to come on scene as you start to make out their melodic tunes getting ever closer from a distance that will soon be no more. As part of this all-colourful show that the Havana Carnival embodies, there's also a good dosage of Cuban pride that's too intoxicating to resist.