In search of Cuba’s National Symbols!

What do symbols tell us about ourselves and our aspirations? Cuba’s national symbols!

Columbus is not the only person who has exclaimed that Cuba is the most beautiful land ever created.  Cubans and thousands of tourists share this opinion. The island is fertile for agriculture with a beautiful climate and plenty of rain, providing an ample diversity of vegetation. Its geographic location is an ideal stop off point for migrating birds and there are some endemic species too! Cubans are rightly proud of their island and the national symbols that they have inherited!

In every village and community you will see these representations lovingly painted on the walls; a tall palm tree, a delicate white flower, and small bird with an unusual long tail!

Cuba has many types of palm trees, and this one is not an indigenous species, but it is sure to be the first palm tree that you see when you arrive in Cuba.  The “Palma Real” (Roystonea regia) or Royal Palm, originates in Florida and Mexico. It can reach an amazing 40 or 50 feet in height and stands majestic with a characteristic crowning crest of leaf fronds.  It grows everywhere on the island and despite its great height and slim trunk, can withstand hurricane force conditions. The Royal Palm embodies and represents the endurance of the people.

The choice of another non native species for national flower reflects the non indigenous nature of the islands population. The “Mariposa” (Hedychium coronarium) or White Butterfly Jasmine originates in Asia, Indonesia and India and is part of the ginger family and is found commonly flowering in the rainy season as it like damp conditions. The flower is a beautiful and delicate white with large petals and the flowers emerge from an encased and layered flower head. The scent is a deliciously fragrant, delicate jasmine aroma. During the wars of Independence the Cuban ladies wore this flower in their hair and it’s said they hid messages passed between rebels in the flower stalks! Today it’s a popular flower for religious offerings and personal decoration. This exquisite flower represents the purity, independence and rebellion of the people.

Cubans are fond of putting small birds in small cages but the national bird will never withstand this form of captivity!  It’s a shy bird that values its freedom and if caged will fly repeatedly at the bars until it batters itself to death!!

It’s not an abundant species but it’s indigenous and endemic to Cuba. It’s likely that most Cubans have never seen this bird in its natural setting and so we hired a guide to help us find it. The lovely elusive “Tocororo” (Priotelus temnurus) or Cuban Trogon can only be found in particular locations and it’s well worth seeing. The plumage is of white, red and blue, the colours of the Cuban flag and its name reflects is song “tocororo tocororo”. This beautiful bird is a representation of an idea of freedom and patriotism that all Cubans aspire to.

If you’d like to see these lovely species and more why not book a tour to Cuba? “Cuban Snapshot” 8 days or “Mi Cubita” 13 days.

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