Cuba Culture

No big celebrations in Havana Cuba on the 50th anniversary of the Revolution

Posted January 02, 2009 by publisher in Cuba Culture.


This capital city remained eerily dark and silent Wednesday night as the year ended and the day marking the 50th anniversary of the triumph of the revolution began.

There was no official explanation for the absence of celebrations, but persons who declined to be identified said that the government issued a last-minute ban on any public festivities. Celebrations will only be allowed to proceed after commemorations kick off Thursday afternoon in Santiago de Cuba, the island’s second largest city in eastern Cuba that is credited for unleashing and supporting the revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power.

His younger brother and current leader, Raúl Castro, is scheduled to deliver a keynote speech in Santiago before a crowd of dignitaries that will be aired on Cuban television.

In Havana, the televised news from the Agencia Cubana de Noticias announced there will be a performance in honor of the 50th anniversary at the Amphitheatre of Old Havana at 9 p.m. Little else was revealed about planned festivities. Cartoons filled television screens throughout the morning.

At the Tribuna Antiimperialista in front of the U.S. Interests Section, a stage was lit but empty. Behind it, a sea of Cuban flags waved in the breeze. The Plaza de la Revolución was also lit but deserted. In the working neighborhood of Playa, the Salón Rosado, which was scheduled to hold a dance and musical performers, was closed.

Only a handful of pedestrians and vehicles roamed the streets. Subdued parties were visible through the windows of a few homes in Playa and Nuevo Vedado neighborhoods. Occasionally, music could be heard and there was the aroma of roasting pig in the air.

The big hotels were holding New Year’s Eve dinners, but these events were not related to the celebration of the anniversary of the revolution, although the lobby of the Hotel Nacional was heavily decorated with posters and pictures of Fidel Castro and other revolutionary themes.

‘‘This is very sad,’’ said Juan, an intellectual from a prominent family, as he drove through the empty Avenida de Tropicana. ``You couldn’t circulate like this on the street before. The smell of roasting pig was overwhelming and the music from one home would mix with the music of the next home.

‘‘And I am not talking about 10 years ago. I’m talking a couple of years ago,’’ he added.

Loyal supporters of the revolution did not seem interested in lavish celebrations.

Member Comments

On January 02, 2009, abh wrote:

It’s quite an anniversary, for sure.
I wouldn’t mind knowing the source of this article.  I appreciate the sentiment, but I’m not quite sure…
De pinga pero hace falta un cambio de verdad
Vamos a ver
All hands on deck, lets see what we can do to help
All haters feel free to stay home in your armchairs..

On January 02, 2009, publisher wrote:

Source is from Miami Herald. Sometimes when they are in Cuba they don’t give out the names of the reporters because they are not there on journalist visas.

Too bad Raul wouldn’t let the people celebrate the glorious revolution. I guess he’s afraid there would be a revolution if too many people got together.

What a shame that Fidel pissed away Cuba’s future year after year.

Let’s lift the Embargo then watch Raul really squirm.

On January 02, 2009, abh wrote:

Yeah I guess I don’t quite have the exact same point of view but I hear where you’re coming from I guess…I mean the country is broke, point blank, then they get two devastating hurricanes, not sure if I disagree with them keeping the celebrations a little muted.  I think its clear that Raul is less interested in cold war-style public demonstrations “por gusto”, and I believe that is more in line with the thinking of average Cubans who are tired of that stuff day after day.

Anyway for me Jan 1st was all about Los Van Van by the malecon and they still did that…

On January 10, 2009, Sharmeen wrote:

Were we in the same country? Apparently the writers of this article didn’t go to the Jan. 1 celebrations which were massive. There were tens of thousands of people on the malecon to celebrate the 50th anniversary.  I was there for new years and the night being subdued is only because new years eve. is more of a family event in homes. although after midnight the malecon was happening. the real celebrations happen on the 1st. Then there were concerts, dances and a lot of fun.

And although there were massive hurricanes this past year, things seem a lot better in Cuba than when I was last there in 2001. Although the country is broke from the hurricanes, they still manage to keep up their health care and buy thousands of new buses for public transit. I think Cuba is stronger now than it has ever been since the collapse of the soviet union. It still amazes me with a country that struggles so much can still send 30,000 doctors to Africa to fight AIDS.

On January 10, 2009, publisher wrote:

You are the first and only person to report that there were big celebrations on the Malecon.

Congrats for pumping all that Cuban government propaganda into two paragraphs. Quite impressive.

Must be have been scripted by the higher ups for posting in Cuba forums and sites.

Get the word out that everything is just fine as the ship is sinking. I understand.

On January 10, 2009, abh wrote:

Why take the effort to write that last post Publisher?
Sometimes I wonder…
Los Van Van did play, as they almost always do, that was reported…I don’t quite see why you find it so important to claim that no one has any fun on Jan 1.  Seems kind of like a weird obsession or something, to be honest.

On January 10, 2009, publisher wrote:

Raul won’t let the people celebrate and I find that offensive to their pride.

If they can get hundreds of thousands of people out for an Elian Gonzales march, why don’t they want people to celebrate the 50 years of paradise?

On January 10, 2009, abh wrote:

Life in Cuba has basically been pretty miserable since the USSR left, I dont think its a big secret.  Lift the embargo, see what happens, but I just dont see the point in acting like the whole country is a dungeon when Cubans party just about as hard as anybody I know.
Im not a big Raul fan but it seems funny how you can mock Fidel for commanding huge crowds for these holidays, and then also condemn Raul for not putting up a big show.

On January 17, 2009, cubanaenmicorazon wrote:

I was in Havana and can give an eyewitness report. The Miami Herald article was either deliberately misleading or whoever wrote it is clueless. In Cuba it is traditional to have family gatherings at home on New Year’s Eve and to have big celebrations on New Year’s Day. On New Year’s Eve I went to several friends’ homes for special family dinners and gatherings. By the way, when I went to the store to buy champagne, it was packed with people stocking up for parties. I saw many houses with larger parties. On New Year’s Day tons of people were out and about. Everyone was in a festive mood saying “felicidades” to me as I passed. Walking around the neighborhood (in Vedado) there were people partying, barbecuing, etc. There was a huge crowd for the Los Van Van concert (other acts played before Los Van Van), and generally everyone was in a festive mood, dressed up, drinking and partying. People talked about what a momentous occasion the 50th anniversary was. They watched the Santiago celebration, the official observance of the 50th anniversary, on TV (as I did), and there was also talk of the caravan across the country that followed the path of the revolutionaries. It made a grand entrance into Havana on Jan. 8 to mark the anniversary of the entrance of Fidel, et al., into Havana, and there were huge numbers of people on the street to see it.

There was no ban on celebrations! Cuba afficianados should know by now that many outright lies are told to promote some agenda. Everything I have said I saw with my own eyes.

On January 17, 2009, publisher wrote:

Thanks for your input.

Too bad independent journalists aren’t allowed in Cuba without fear of expulsion should they dare write something “counter revolutionary”.

All is well in Cuba. That’s all we need to know.


On January 18, 2009, abh wrote:

I think there’s a difference between saying “all is well” and trying to give an accurate portrayal of what life is like.
We’ve got to find a medium between Granma and the Herald.

On January 18, 2009, Sharmeen wrote:

I am not saying there aren’t severe problems with Cuba, I am just saying that compared to when I was last there in 2001, things are pretty different and life is easier with the economy being healthier (thanks to trade with China, Russia and Venezuala). And in terms of the celebrations, i have pictures! i have witnesses to my hang over - there were tons of celebrations on the 1st. Not only with the concert at the malecon, but music in various neighbourhoods and restaurants. The govt did not outlaw any celebrations - and it wouldn’t make sense if they did. there were posters and banners everywhere celebrating 50 years of revolution - i think there was a huge sense of pride and celebration for a lot of the folks there. I don’t get why people would claim otherwise.

On February 22, 2009, luckylucien wrote:

There was a huge crowd in front of the US Interests Section or building the evening of Jan 1.  I couldn’t guess how many people there were, but the place was packed.  The crowd was mainly young people, and there seemed to be a lot of families..  BTW, I think one way to get the medium would be to read both Granma and the Herald.  Actually, I am finding Havana Journal seems to strike a balance betweed those of us who support the Revolution and those who oppose it.

On February 22, 2009, publisher wrote:

Thanks. We are trying to be the balance but the extremes are pretty “heavy” grin