Excursion : Las Parrandas de Remedios

Are you looking for a real party ... Cuban style!?

- This excursion is offered only once per year, on Christmas Eve.

- Cost: $19 or $25 USD (depending on Tour Operator)

- Includes: Transportation back and forth to Remedios (~ 45 minutes form Cayo Santa Maria), service of a guide, a few drinks may be included (depending on chosen tour).

- Departure form hotel at ~ 20h00, back at the hotel around 1:30AM

Description :
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 carnivals, it's called "Las Parrandas Remedianas". These deeply-rooted popular celebrations culminate on December 24 and the festivities last all night until daybreak. The town is divided into two groups: the Carmelitas (from the El Carmen neighborhood) and the Sansaríes (from the San Salvador neighborhood). One group is represented by a sparrowhawk and the other by a fighting rooster. The two rival sides each prepare a big float and a massive structure decotared with hundreds of multicolored lights. They are placed at the corners of the main plaza. The two groups engage in a friendly competition with parades, light shows, songs, music, fireworks and firecrackers. Both groups claim victory at the end of the festivities.

As they say : The people from Remedios spend 364 and a half days each year saving up their energy, and use it all up in less than 12 hours!

History of "Las Parandas" :
The revels originated in the 1820's, when, on seeing few parishioners in his church, the local priest sent some altar boys out in the middle of the night to beat on wooden rattles, cowbells and other kinds of bells to rouse the people and call them to Mass. The practice has been repeated, year after year, during the Christmas season when the people from one neighborhood go to wake up those in the other.

Our comments, appreciation and little advice :
(December 24, 2002):

  • One should not be too affraid of being in a crowd. Although there is still enough place to circulate. We never felt invaded by the crowd.
  • If you to decide to stay in the center of the place, i.e. in the heart of the action (this is what we did!), we strongly suggest to wear a hat (and preferably glasses too) because there are many sparks, remains of fireworks and firecrackers which fall down to the ground. Long clothing is also preferable.
  • There are some designated safe places for the tourists who prefer to look while remaining under shelter.
  • As always in any crowd or street parties: Do not cary on you valuables or large amount of money. There is nothing much to buy anyway, expect for a few beers, if desired.
  • Our bus left Remedios at around 1:00AM, we would have liked to stay a little bit longer because a big part of the festivities were still to come. It's the disadvantage of the organized excursions. It seamed that they were no other way available to get back to the hotel.
We had LOTS OF FUN, a feast for the eyes, and lived some strong emotions while looking at people celebrating and taking part ourself in this boosted and colourful fiesta! During the fireworks, we would run everywhere while sheltering sometimes under a tree, an arch or a balcony in order not to miss any stage of this crazy competition! The Cubans of Remedios were very welcoming and invited us to take part in this traditional event of which they seem very proud.

This evening is one of the most pleasant and strongest memories of our last vacation in Cayo Santa Maria. We shall never forget this unique experience! We're already looking forward to go back to Remedios next year over Christmas Eve!

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