The Cuban Revolution had perhaps its widest cultural influence in the field of literature. Many now famous Latin American novelists (like Gabriel García Márquez, Mario Vargas Llosa and Julio Cortázar) visited Havana and worked with the Prensa Latina news agency or on the Casa de las Américas review.
Not all have maintained their allegiance, just as some Cuban writers have deserted the Revolution. One such Cuban is Guillermo Cabrera Infante, whose most celebrated novel is Tres tristes tigres (1967). Other established writers remained in Cuba after the Revolution: Alejo Carpentier, who invented the phrase ‘marvellous realism’ (lo real maravilloso) to describe the different order of reality which he perceived in Latin America and the Caribbean and which influenced many other writers from the region (his novels include El reino de este mundo, El siglo de las luces, Los pasos perdidos, and many more); Jorge Lezama Lima (Paradiso, 1966); and Edmundo Desnoes (Memorias del subdesarrollo). Of post-revolutionary writers, the poet and novelist Miguel Barnet is worth reading, especially for the use of black oral history and traditions in his work. After 1959, Nicolás Guillén, a black, was adopted as the national poet; his poems of the 1930s (Motivos de son, Sóngoro cosongo, West Indies Ltd) are steeped in popular speech and musical rhythms. In tone they are close to the work of the négritude writers (see Martinique), but they look more towards Latin America than Africa. The other poet-hero of the Revolution is the 19th-century writer and fighter for freedom from Spain, José Martí. Even though a US radio and TV station beaming propaganda, pop music and North American culture usurped his name, Martí’s importance to Cuba remains undimmed.
Music is incredibly vibrant on the island. It is, again, a marriage of African rhythms, expressed in percussion instruments (batá drums, congas, claves, maracas, etc), and the Spanish guitar. Accompanying the music is an equally strong tradition of dance. A history of Cuban music is beyond the scope of this book, however there are certain styles which deserve mention. There are four basic elements out of which all others grow. The rumba (drumming, singing about social preoccupations and dancing) is one of the original black dance forms. By the turn of the century, it had been transferred from the plantations to the slums; now it is a collective expression, with Saturday evening competitions in which anyone can partake. Originating in eastern Cuba, son is the music out of which salsa was born. Son itself takes many different forms and it gained worldwide popularity after the 1920s when the National Septet of Ignacio Piñeiro made it fashionable. The more sophisticated danzón, ballroom dance music which was not accepted by the upper classes until the end of the last century, has also been very influential. It was the root for the cha-cha-cha (invented in 1948 by Enrique Jorrin). The fourth tradition is trova, the itinerant troubadour singing ballads, which has been transformed, post-Revolution, into the nueva trova, made famous by singers such as Pablo Milanés and Silvio Rodríguez. The new tradition adds politics and everyday concerns to the romantic themes. There are many other styles, such as the guajira, the most famous example of which is the song ‘Guantanamera’; tumba francesa drumming and dancing; and Afro-Cuban jazz, performed by internationally renowned artists like Irakere and Arturo Sandoval. Apart from sampling the recordings of groups, put out by the state company Egrem, the National Folklore Company (Conjunto Folklórico Nacional) gives performances of the traditional music which it was set up to study and keep alive.