8 Cuban Traditions You Should Know
Anytime you travel to a new country, it’s a good idea to be familiar with local customs. As a people, Cubans are surprisingly traditional. Cubans tend to be proud of their heritage and welcome guests who embrace their social conventions.
1. The handshake is in – In Cuba, the handshake still reigns as the most accepted form of greeting. While natives usually greet each other with a handshake and the greeting “compañero,” guests should not assume this level of familiarity and should instead greet Cubans with a handshake accompanied by the term, “señor” or “señora.”
2. Bring a gift to dinner – If you are invited to visit a new friend’s residence for dinner, you should be sure to bring a small, thoughtful gift, just as you would in your homeland.
3. The Pig Roast – The pig roast is a long standing Cuban tradition that is enjoyed by families, friends and restaurants. You have not experienced the full Cuba unless you have enjoyed a pig roast. The roast pig is cooked in open pits. The pork is roasted with a mojo (rum base) that will most likely include a mixture of garlic, lemon, oregano, peppers and olive oil when available. If you want to experience roast pork at a restaurant, most tour guides will recommend supporting a paladeres, a privately owned and operated restaurant.
Want to learn more about Cuba’s social conventions and traditions? Contact Yordi or Dave at Info@travelguidecuba.com.
4. Enjoy Nueva Trova – Pablo Milanes introduced the music Nueva trova to Cuba in the 1960’s. Cubans are extremely proud of their musical heritage. Trova is folk-ballads played with guitars. Usually the theme conveys some sort of protest message. Located near Parque Cespedes, Casa de la Trova is one of Yordi’s favorite hangouts in Santiago de Cuba.
5. Senior Citizens – The pension age in Cuba is 60 years of age. As a country that has longer life spans than most developed economies, Cuba’s elders are always seeking ways to supplement their pension. For persons engaged in work that is extremely demanding, they can receive pensions at age 55.
6. Hitchhikers – Cubans subscribe to the law that every state-owned car with the capacity to carry goods or people should help when transportation is needed. Hitchhiking is commonplace in the country. If you have a rental car, you will make a friend and show an understanding of local customs by accommodating a hitchhiker.
7. Santeria – Gaining a full appreciation for Santeria will take more time than you have on your trip. Santeria is a cult religion that combines elements of Christianity with the local beliefs brought to the island by slaves brought to work the plantations centuries ago. One of the Santeria beliefs is that everyone is born to a guardian saint who is worshipped throughout the practitioner’s lifetime. The Santeria rituals are fascinating and to be respected. Herbs, roots and flowers are often used as part of a ritual but other ritual might include sacrifice of birds or other animals.
8. The Special relationship between India and Cuba – Cuba has not forgotten that India was one of the first nations to recognize Fidel Castro’s government. Fidel always carried a photo of Indira Gandhi and India maintains an embassy in Havana. Cubans generally do not discriminate by nationality but Indians may feel a special bond with their Cuban counterparts. Occasionally, some Indians are mistaken for a Cuban hailing from the oriente provinces. These travelers may be received with unexpected cordiality.
Travelguidecuba.com is not a licensed People-to-People tour provider but works closely with licensed providers to help interested travelers enjoy the magic of Cuba. Complete Cuba People-to-People tours are licensed (CT-2013-299822-1) by the United States Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control to engage, organize and conduct authorized people-to-people travel to Cuba that engages participants in meaningful interactions with individuals in Cuba.