Excursion « Las Parrandas de Remedios »
Price: 25 CUC (for adult only)
For several weeks at the end of each year, the quiet town of Remedios becomes the site of one of Cuba's great street parties and religious carnivals, Las Parrandas. A unique popular fiesta, celebrating the end of the agricultural works, a tradition deeply rooted among the population, resulting in the most attractive festivity in the country. This celebration culminates on the 24th of December to last until dawn.
During the "parrandas", a "fierce" competition takes place between the neighborhoods of San Salvador, represented by the colors red and blue, and a rooster as a symbol, and El Carmen, represented by the color brown and a globe as well as a sparrowhawk as a symbol. In secret, each group designs and builds an allegoric float, often sixty feet high, to be hauled to the central plaza. (In a few small towns with very narrow streets, such as Remedios, they also build monstrous stationary displays packed with shinning bright lights).
All night long,in the center of town, the revelers face off in an evening of dancing, drinking, uncontrolled pyrotechnics and public-spirited indulgence with both groups claiming victory in the morning. As the saying goes: For 364 days, the villagers save their energy, only to spend it all in one evening.
History of the « Parrandas » ...
The whole thing allegedly began in 1820, when the local priest sent some altar boys out to bang on pots and pans and scare some parishioners into the midnight Advent Masses. It later evolved into a sort of battle of the bands and fireworks between two sections of the small town. Today, the festivities drag out over the weeks leading up to Christmas Eve, and have even spread into neighboring hamlets. Still, Plaza Martí in Remedios is the place to be, and the night to be there is December 24th.
Comments, tips and hints :
We had a GREAT time watching the worked up and over-excited crowd participate in this wild and "crazy" fiesta. During the fireworks, we were running here and there, looking for protection under a tree or a balcony because of the fallout of ashes, not wanting to miss the highlights of this fiesta. The villagers of Remedios were extremely welcoming and invited us to participate in the "parrandas" which they are quite proud of.
That evening was a truly unique experience in Santa Maria, something that we will remember forever!