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Cubans take enormous pride in their cultural heritage and clearly consider throwing a great party to be part of that tradition. Carnival is lauded as the most long-standing and most popular festival of this jovial and musical nation and they go all out in the months of July and August with parades, street parties, colourful costumes, wild dancing, congo lines, fireworks and traditional music. The fun and frolics reach high levels over weekends, when the locals put their toil and troubles away and bring out the rum. Carnival comes with some entertaining traditions, like the carrying of huge effigies of well-known people paraded along the coastal road, the Malecon, and the gaudy 'faroleros', decorated lamp posts carried aloft by dancers. The wonderful thing about Carnival is the celebration of all aspects of Cuban heritage and culture including contingents like the Chinese Cubans who partake very actively in festivities. Other cities in Cuba also celebrate Carnival but not necessarily at the same time as Havana. Although Santiago de Cuba is renowned to host the largest and most riotous celebrations, Havana's Carnival remains the most well-known and well-attended event for tourists and foreigners. Santiago's Carnival is in late July, usually coinciding with the celebrations in Havana; Trinidad has its own, smaller version of Carnival in late June.
Havana Jazz Festival
Held every year, Havana's feast of jazz is eagerly awaited by fans around the world, offering four days of concerts, jam sessions and workshops. It claims to be the ultimate Latin music event in the world and its popularity speaks for itself. In 2012 Havana is hosting the 28th edition of this long-standing festival. Organisers claim to ensure that prices are kept as low as possible to ensure that the festival is affordable. Many artists travel to Cuba to perform without any remuneration, the event having gained a prestigious reputation for quality and good organisation. Past jazz masters who have attended the festival include Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Haden. The star of the show is Cuba's own famous Chucho Valdes, who usually performs with other local artists and international guests in the grand finale concert on the final night. For true jazz fanatics there is a Gold Access Havana Jazz Festival Pass, which grants the bearer access to all performances and venues. Even if you are not keen to partake in all the events, the Jazz Festival marks a good time to visit the city of Havana because there is an extra festive atmosphere and many touristic activities are discounted at this time to encourage good attendance and flaunt Havana's many attractions.
International Festival of New Latin American Cinema
The annual International Festival of New Latin American Cinema gives film lovers a chance to see new independent feature films, documentaries, shorts and animations exploring Latin American and Caribbean culture in cinemas across Havana. The festival exists to promote and acknowledge cinema that enriches or reaffirms the Latin American and Caribbean cultural identity and 2012 marks its 34th year. Categories in the competition include Fiction, Documentary, Animation and Opera Prima (for filmmakers on debut). Be sure to catch films from the 'Made in Cuba' category for the best local flavour. The festival also showcases international cinema and attracts many filmmakers from all over the world. The organisers host seminars and workshops in various venues, to promote the art of filmmaking in Latin America and to instigate discussion on cultural and artistic issues. Pick up a copy of the Film Diary for information and reviews of all participating films. This festival finishes just before the International Jazz Festival begins in Havana and many people like to get a taste of both; December is a period of jubilant cultural celebration in the city and a popular time to visit.