“Even though this culture is of African origin, even though it is hundreds of years old, it is still very much alive here in Oriente." --- Roberto Sánchez Vigñot

Roberto Sánchez Vigñot
Director, Cutumba Folkloric Ensemble

A very large percentage of Cubans living in the areas of Santiago de Cuba and Guantánamo and surrounding provinces are of Afro-Haitian descent. This is evident in peoples' surnames, in the food, in the demonstration of folklore such as the Tumba Francesa, in the relatively common use or knowledge of creole, or patois as it is commonly known, and in many other cultural manifestations.

The Ballet Folklórico Cutumba, or Cutumba Folkloric Ensemble, was established in 1959 in order to preserve and extend such Afro-Haitian expressions of Cuban culture. Roberto Sánchez Vigñot is the Director of Cutumba, and has worked with the Santiago-based ensemble since he was 17 at the time the group was founded. Here he speaks about the role of Afro-Haitian culture on the Cuban landscape, about the challenges in developing and maintaining an ensemble dedicated to the preservation of such culture, and of the cultural life of Oriente, Cuba's eastern region.


The origins of Cutumba

Afro-Haitian influences in Cuba

Afro-Haitian songs and dances

Government support for the work of Cutumba

Ties with Africa

Current material conditions and how these impact Cutumba

The role of arts education

Differences between eastern and western Afro-Cuban culture

Impacts of North American and European influences on local culture

Carnival in Santiago

Cultural exchange with the United States

  Interview With Roberto Sánchez Vigñot © 1998 - Louis Head
    To contact Roberto Sánchez and Cutumba:  
    Lic. Roberto Sánchez Vigñot  
    Director General y Artístico  
    Ballet Folclórico Cutumba  
    Enramadas No. 115  
    entre Padre Pico y Gallo  
    Santiago de Cuba  
    Telephone: 53 226 2 24 42  
    Fax: 53 226 2 57 47