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Oct 25, 2022

Culture Tuesday: Cuban Culture Intersecting Belizean Culture

This week’s Culture Tuesday feature is all about Cuban culture. We will take a closer look at some of the similarities between Belizean and Cuban music, food, and visual arts. This year, Belize and Cuba celebrated twenty-seven years of diplomatic ties. Recently, the Belize City House of Culture hosted a Cuban National Culture Day event in celebration of the first time the Cuban national anthem was sung. Cuban music, cuisine, and art were on full display at that event.  News Five’s Paul Lopez filed the following report.


Paul Lopez, Reporting

Carlos Perrotte is, perhaps, one of the most knowledgeable musicians in Belize. He left Cuba in 1999 during a cultural exchange program to work as an advisor to the Belize Arts Council, now the Institute of Creative Arts. He was tasked with developing its music program. It was during that period that Perrotte met his wife.


Carlos Perrotte

Carlos Perrotte, Musician

“I born 1970, November fifth. My family, really nobody is a musician in my family. I just have an uncle that like plays guitar. I sometime escape from school and go to my uncle house and see how the man do things. So, I get interested in that. When I get eight years, my mom put me in music school.”


Following the exchange program, he would return to his homeland, but soon after decided to return to Belize to marry his girlfriend.


Carlos Perrotte

“I am very root man. I like root. I remember when I come here, I remember the first time I go to the Bliss, the old Bliss, the best Bliss you guys have. Now forget it, I loved that bliss. I see a Mr. Peters, mien that blow my mind, why because he is a roots man. He sings out of tune and out of key, but that root inside of him.  I said man; I can make something here nice. After that I see the steel band and that is the next thing I get hmp.”


Equipped with a Masters Degree in Music and a specialization in percussion instruments, Perrotte is currently a fulltime music instructor.  His contributions to the development of music in Belize over the last twenty-two years are too vast to mention. Perrotte is infusing his Cuban culture into local music, with the creation of a genre called Cugaz. It is a blend of Cuban, Garifuna, and jazz music.


Carlos Perrotte

“It doesn’t matter who you are and where we are, we are connected. Cuba has Africans and Belize too. So, right there is the similar stuff. Some of the rhythm is very similar, only thing with Cuba is a little bit more syncopated and difficult. But everything is the same African rhythm, root, and aspect of the music.”


And, the richness of the Cuban culture comes from more than just its music. As salsa rhythms release joy into the atmosphere, traditional Cuban food creates a party of flavors on the taste buds. I was able to try something similar to a Belizean favorite, at a recent Cuban Cultural Day event at the Belize City House of Culture.


Karen Cabrella

Karen Cabrella, International Chef

“We serve a tradition Cuba. We serve lechon, we call lechon, and it is roasted pork. We serve rice and beans we call congri. It is black beans and white rice. I have a special ingredient there that I will not tell you of course right. Also, we serve cassava. The cassava has gravy that we make with onion, garlic; it is like a little bit sour. You taste to right. It is with lime, sour lime.”


There is also the mojito. Some historians trace its origin back to Havana, Cuba. People there were known to consume a mojito a day to prevent illness.


Karen Cabrella

“You make with rum, sugar, lime, and mint leaves. Then you mash and then put soda water and enjoy it.”


Paul Lopez

“And it’s delicious, and it gets the party going. When you drink mojitos you want to dance the Cuban dance.”


Karen Cabrella

“You drink and you think you drink like lemonade because it doesn’t have the flavor of the alcohol. That is the secret of that drink, you know.”

From music, to food, and visual arts, Cuban culture intersects Belizean culture in many ways. This art exhibit inside the Belize City House of Culture has on display visual art pieces from renowned Cuban artists. Each piece tells a tale about the history of the Cuban people, much like what Belizeans see from the works of its own visual artists.


Ilona Smiling, Curator, Museum of Belize

“We wanted to do an exhibit that highlighted Cuban culture and we also wanted to give a glimpse between the relationship between Cuba and Belize. A lot of the doctors we know, they go off to Cuba to study medicine and come back, but in addition to that a lot of Cuban doctors also come over and assist us, especially during the COVID pandemic. So, we definitely needed to highlight that contribution that they made.”


Francis Fonseca

Francis Fonseca, Minister of Culture

“So tonight, we celebrate Cuba, we celebrate the strong friendship between Belize and Cuba and we celebrate the revolutionary spirit, and the resilience and courage of the Cuban people, que viva Cuba.”


Reporting for News Five, I am Paul Lopez

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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