A Cuban woman who promotes gender equality to the rhythm of the Son wins the UNESCO Transcultura Programme call

Yarima Blanco has the vital energy of a person born in eastern Cuba. In 2006, she became the first woman to graduate from the University of the Arts (ISA) majoring in the tres, a fact that has marked her life, on a journey with an instrument that, until then, had been the exclusive domain of men in higher education.
Today, Yarima directs and heads the septet Yarima Blanco y Son Latino, where she defies no few myths every day. One of those challenges is her performance with the tres, a stringed instrument born in rural areas that plays a leading role in the soundtrack of peasant festivals in Cuba. 
Conducting a music group is a challenge especially because I am the only woman in the septet. In addition, the fact that I’m the one who plays the tres puts me in a more awkward leadership position, because of the role this instrument plays in a septet and its importance in improvisation. It has been my job to show that women are equally able to play music and direct at the same time

In March 2021, Yarima decided to address another challenge and applied for the call of the UNESCO Transcultura Programme to participate in the next edition of WOMEX, the Worldwide Music Expo, to be held in the city of Porto, Portugal, from 27 to 31 October. Yarima dared to take the chance and won. Along with other Caribbean groups, Yarima Blanco y Son Latino became one of the winners of the call.

Partnerships and culture for sustainable development

Seeking to provide young Caribbean artists and music professionals with new opportunities to access the international market, UNESCO Transcultura and WOMEX have forged a strategic partnership. Thanks to this initiative, 58 applications from music professionals were funded by the Programme and the 4 winners will go to WOMEX, where they will have the opportunity to perform for producers, entrepreneurs and audiences, as well as exchange with artists from other parts of the world. 

The proposal made by Cuba's Yarima Blanco y Son Latino was one of the dozens of applications submitted from Barbados, Belize, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago. Thanks to this initiative, the presence of Caribbean applications to WOMEX increased by 60% in comparison to previous years.

Transcultura, a programme implemented by the UNESCO Regional Office for Culture in Latin America and the Caribbean, with funding from the European Union and the contribution of UNESCO offices in the region, aims inter alia to create opportunities for young artists from 17 Member States of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM) and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) in order to enhance the role of culture in the sustainable development of their countries and boost their careers. For Yarima, the opportunity to participate in WOMEX is an open door. She sees it as a new step in the defence of traditional Cuban music, of culture as an instrument for gender equality and in her efforts to find new paths towards the creation of music. 

When I had the opportunity to have my own group, I decided to defend traditional music, but with a new approach, changing how the percussion was treated by using more Cuban timba influences. From the septet format I wanted to play different genres of Caribbean music, to show how a septet can make a dancer move with the same intensity as a salsa orchestra.

From her native city of Bayamo, she fell in love with the tres. First, thanks to a teacher at the National School of Art (ENA), then with lessons at the University of the Arts (ISA), where maestro Efraín Amador taught her to play Mozart, Bach, and even Astor Piazzola's tangos on the tres! For her, it has been a journey of innovation and challenges that have brought her this far, and she is now ready to take the next step. 
We will participate in WOMEX to show our music as seen through the eyes of a Cuban woman playing the tres!