Remedios, Villa Clara. Father Francisco de Quiñones, Remedios parrish priest, never could have imagined that his idea of organizing parrandas (local street festivals) – in order to attract more parishioners to midnight mass on Christmas Eve, would over time, become an attraction for hundreds of visitors, who arrive to the city every day, enthralled by this almost 200 year tradition.
At that time, Francisco resolved the problem with the help of young men, who would wake up neighbors with horns, whistles and bangles, calling them to attend the mass.
That’s how the celebrations which began in Remedios in 1820, and over time, eventually became one of the most long-standing and popular festivals in the country, later spreading to another 17 cities and towns across the island.
The December 24 celebrations see two neighborhoods compete every year: San Salvador and El Carmen, which as soon as the bells of the Iglesia Parroquial Mayor sound at 9pm, unveil their creative works adorning plazas and floats.
Displays are kept a secret throughout the year until the moment of the unveiling, at which point they are accompanied by a torrent of fireworks, sparklers, flares and traditional music by each group, all of which combine to create a spectacle attended by thousands of fans of these celebrations, who travel to Remedios from around Cuba and the world, attracted not only by the parrandas but also by the history and traditions of a city which last year celebrated its 500th anniversary.
There are only three hotels – the Mascotte, Barceló, and Camino del Príncipe offering a total of 60 rooms – for tourists visiting the eighth villa founded by the Spanish in Cuba; an insufficient number to accommodate international and national visitors who arrive to the colonial city, according to Regla Dayamí Armenteros, Ministry of Tourism (Mintur) representative in Villa Clara.
For the Ministry, the solution to this problem has been to collaborate with the city’s network of 101 privately-run bed and breakfasts, 60 of which have strong links with the state, noted Armenteros.
Both parties are committed to meeting clients’ needs, which is why we collaborate, rather than compete, a relationship which has enabled us to meet growing accommodation and restaurant demand, among others, noted the Mintur representative, speaking to Granma International.