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Remedios: The Birthplace of "Parrandas"

Cuba's central province of Villa Clara boasts a wide range of attractions for the growing leisure industry, which takes advantage of the country's exuberant nature, cultural traditions and history.

The town of San Juan de los Remedios, the eighth village founded by the Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century, stands out in the said province, a transit point for thousands of foreign travelers visiting the largest Antillean Island every year.

A well-preserved architecture and irregularly-designed streets characterize the town of Remedios, which is also famous all over the country and abroad for its festivities, known as "Parrandas de Remedios"

Considered the oldest festivities in Cuba, the "parrandas" were initially promoted by Father Francisco Vigil de Quiñones, who used to officiate at the Church of the Village of San Juan de los Remedios.

The priest, who was concerned about the absence of parishioners at the so-called "Misa de Gallo" (midnight mass), had the idea of encouraging children to take to the streets and wake up the citizens using whistles, horns and tin cans, so that they had no other choice than get up and attend mass.

That singular and noisy initiative got deeply rooted among the population, resulting in the most attractive festivity in the country. In 1871, the "parrandas" adopted a structure that has survived the passage of time.

Street in Town of Remedios
Portals in town of Remedios
Church

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.

According to tradition, when the bells of the Iglesia Parroquial Mayor (Great Parochial Church) toll at 9 o'clock on the night of December 24, both neighborhoods make public their creativeness and efforts made during the entire year to participate in the competition.

Floaters, lamps, fireworks and traditional music are combined to exhibit the elements each neighborhood designed and built in secret during the whole year.

The typical music during the "parrandas" is known as "repique", and it reminds the pealing of bells calling to midnight mass. Players use such instruments as railings, cowbells, drums and trumpets.

The memory of those celebrations is compiled at the Museum of Parrandas, which opened in a 19th-century building in 1980 in Remedios, where photos, documents and hand-made objects linked to the festivities are preserved.

With that singular manifestation of Cuban popular art, the province of Villa Clara gives a unique touch to its options for foreign vacationers, who are interested in learning about the myths and traditions of a Caribbean nation with a history that is over five centuries old.

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