Friday, September 30, 2011

Celebrate Nashville conjures 1897 Vanity Fair; Cuban Village was on modern Park Police site

Vanity Fair educational panel at Centennial Park

The Celebrate Nashville Cultural Festival will be held at Centennial Park tomorrow, Saturday, October 1, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The whole idea of a modern cultural celebration on this site is actually a faithful echo of the original 1897 exposition that brought the park into being. Both can be described as a jubilant display of people and treasures from all over the world. We're getting our own little Epcot World Showcase on, right here in Music City, just as our ancestors did in 1897.

Back then, the Parthenon didn't exclusively showcase Greece (it was the Nashville/Davidson County pavilion), and the Memphis pyramid was all about the West Tennessee city, not its Egyptian namesake. But there was a section of the original Centennial Exposition called Vanity Fair, which was very much about reproducing the look, feel, sounds, and tastes of faraway lands - including China, Mexico, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, and Spain, among others.

What intrigues me most about the 1897 Exposition is the "Cuban Village" that was part of Vanity Fair.

Cuban Village was made up of seven buildings, and the space it enveloped would surround where the Park Police building is today (see the map below).  It was a a "colorful" village - there were Cuban cigars (of course), dancers (including "THE SENSATIONAL SPANISH SEN SEN DANCING GIRLS"), shops, food, donkeys - the whole nine yards. In one notable incident, when the dancers wore "abbreviated dress," brawls broke out.

If you go out to the Park tomorrow, look for the educational panels about Vanity Fair - they're in the Parthenon and also along the park's walkways. If you happen to stroll by the Park Police building on the way to or from your car (there are no official events there), do a little dance - heck, get your flash mob on - and shake it a little, in honor of the original dancers of the Centennial Exposition's Cuban Village who got this whole thing started.

Just keep your clothes on.

2011 Celebrate Nashville map, with 1897 Cuban Village and
modern Park Police building added in by

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...