Impact of the blockade on culture

Cuban music, art, and dance are enjoyed by people around the world. Budding artistic talent is nurtured and encouraged within the country’s free music and arts schools, and culture prmoted as a vital element for the education and development of each citizen. 

However, the ongoing US blockade severely limits access to supplies and exchanges - vital for its young people's arts education and the island's cultural development and heritage.

While Cuba does it's best with limited resources, it often has to pay over the odds and import materials form other countries at inflated costs. 

For example, it could save considerable amounts if instruments for music students, oil paints and paint brushes for visual artists and shoes and costumes for dancers in training, could be purchased from the US market.

A 2016 study by the Cuban Ministry of Culture estimated that $35,000 US dollars could be saved for those studying saxophone, $133,000 for those studying piano and another $2,000 on ballet leotards. These are just a few examples of a reality which affects all branches of arts education.

In Cuba's report to the United Nations on the impact of the US blockade in the culture sector the country estimated that in 2015 alone the damage amounted to $29,483,800 dollars.

"The US market could be the principal source of supplies for a significant group of raw materials, materials, tools and equipment with which the country’s artists, artisans and designers work if the blockade did not exist. But these products have to be imported by Cuban institutions from third countries, thereby involving prices that are up to 40 per cent higher," states the report.


The blockade also impacts on infrastructure projects. In 2016, restoration projects, including that of the Alicia Alonso Gran Teatro de la Habana, cost the country $672,300, 15 per cent more than if materials had been sourced on the US. 

Impact on Cuban artists and cultural exchanges
In 2016 the Cuban Ministry of Culture highlighted the blockade’s negative economic impact on Cuban musicians ability to perform in the US on cultural exchanges since many are prohibited form signing contracts. Cuba is also not permited to receive any financial benefits from sales in the US.

The extraterritorial nature of the blockade impedes the promotion, distribution and marketing of Cuban artists and negatively impacts product sale prices.

"This year the Cuban Institute of Music (ICM) organised 15 cultural exchanges in the US with 122 artistic performances.

The report estimates the export potential of Cuban music groups affiliated with the ICM to be as high as five million dollars a year, if blockade restrictions were lifted.

In regards to copyright protection between Cuba and the US, management institutions from both countries are still prohibited from signing Contracts of Reciprocal Representation (CRR), which protect artists and their work marketed in both countries.

The negative impact of the blockade also extends to visual arts, literature, online marketing of cultural products and the Cuban film industry.

For example, the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC) is prevented from accessing technology developed by US company Dolby.

The report notes, 'We find ourselves forced to use said technology for sound processes in our productions, without which it is practically impossible to insert ourselves into the international film market. This obliges us to partner-up with foreign co-producers in order to obtain the necessary licenses, in exchange for which we must cede a part of the potential profits of our films. This represents an annual loss of no less than $200,000 USD.'