Cuba is a rare gem as far as countries go. In many ways, it fits perfectly into the mold of its Latin American cohorts and Caribbean neighbors. But in many, ways it’s in many ways.
To really know and understand what makes Cuba undeniably Cuban, you need to take a deep dive into the island’s culture. And one of your first stops should be to the island’s museums.
Cuba has so many museums that you’d have to spend an extended amount of time on the island just to experience a few of them. However, if you want to get the gist of the influences and circumstances that created the wonder we know as Cuba, we’ve named the top three below:
Museum of the Revolution (Museo de la Revolución)
Perhaps one of the most frequently visited museums on the island, the Museum of the Revolution, is housed in the former presidential palace. Here, you’ll learn about one of the most defining moments in Cuban history: the Cuban Revolution
The museum contains a combination of artifacts, photos and keepsakes that walk you through the years leading up to the Cuban Revolution and beyond. It’s not terribly fancy, but it’s designed in a way that keeps you engaged as you learn a great deal about the Cuban Revolution.
You’ll definitely want to reserve at least two to three hours so you can take in all of the information presented here. For the full effect, you should visit rooms according to the order in which they flow until you end up outside among the vehicle and aircraft exhibits. The information and artifacts are placed according to chronological order of the Revolution's events.
National Museum of Fine Arts
This museum, also known as Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes de La Habana, contains a varied art collection from both Cuban-born and international artists. There are classical art collections that date back to the1700s with eloquent depictions of colonial life and an impressive collection of modern art in both permanent and featured exhibitions.
The museum boasts a combination of mediums, themes and types of art replete with political commentary and social reflections indicative of Cuban culture. The museum itself is so vast that you’d do well to have a tour guide to help explain the history and cultural context behind some of the most stunning, provocative pieces of art on display.
Perhaps the most interesting part of this museum is the opportunity to witness the evolution of Cuba both artistically and culturally. For example, the works of artists like Federico Mialhe shaped how the world saw colonial Cuba while artists like Wilfredo Lam allowed Afro-Cuban themes like Santería influence his work. Works from other artists like Amelia Peláez and René Portocarrero show deep influences of Cuba’s take on modernism.
House of Rum
Also known as, Casa del Ron, is located in the beach resort town of Varadero. This museum is a popular destination in Cuba’s Matanzas’s province. This “museum” also doubles as a shop where you can taste and buy many varieties of rum, liqueurs and other products like honey and coffee produced in Cuba.
Rum flavors you’ll find here vary depending on when you visit, but even avid rum aficionados will find exotic flavors such as chocolate, coffee, pineapple, coconut and cream enticing. In additional to the flavored rums, there’s an impressive selection of rum types- light, dark, aged one to fifteen years and a variety of brands.
In addition to tastings, you’ll have the opportunity to tour the grounds and find out how rum is produced on the island. You’ll also learn the history of how rum production started in Cuba and why the taste of Cuban rum is different from any other rum in the world.
To learn about such a tedious, painstaking process is to also understand how forces like agriculture and recreation have played an important role in the country’s economy- both in times past and until the present day.
Headed to Cuba?
Want to see all three? Let insightCuba craft a private tour for you. Learn more here.
Written by: Aja McClanahan