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60 Years of Cuban Revolution celebrated with barbecues, parties

The city of Santiago in eastern Cuba, known as the Cradle of the Revolution, celebrates Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019, amid the aroma of barbecued pork and the music of New Year's partying, the 60 years gone by since the victory of Fidel Castro's rebels. EFE-EPA/Ernesto Mastrascusa

The city of Santiago in eastern Cuba, known as the Cradle of the Revolution, celebrates Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019, amid the aroma of barbecued pork and the music of New Year’s partying, the 60 years gone by since the victory of Fidel Castro’s rebels. EFE-EPA/Ernesto Mastrascusa

EFE

This city in eastern Cuba, known as the Cradle of the Revolution, celebrates Tuesday, amid the aroma of barbecued pork and the music of New Year’s partying, the 60 years gone by since the victory of Fidel Castro’s rebels.

In Cespedes Park, the main setting of the festivities and the place where Castro received the New Year in 1959 with a victory speech, hundreds of Santiago residents shouted “Viva” at the raising a giant Cuban flag, a hundred-year-old tradition that illustrates the long history of rebellion in this Hero City.

The custom, which dates back to the 19th-century fight of the Mabises guerrillas against Spain in the nearby Sierra Maestra mountains, has merged down through the years with the revolutionary symbolisms.

“We can’t separate them. In Santiago we dance for the New Year and for the Revolution, which is one only, from the wars of independence until now,” Belkis, a Santiago woman who goes every year with her family to see the ceremony in the plaza, told EFE.

For this teacher, the celebration “makes more sense if it’s shared with everyone else, above all on this date, for which we’ve been getting ready for months,” she said while admiring the fireworks that lit up the sky for almost half an hour.

In the streets leading to Cespedes Park, the stands for fruits, drinks and the traditional pulled-pork sandwiches stayed open until dawn was on the horizon, and hundreds of rag dolls were burned as a symbol of the year just ended.

“It’s a custom to burn the doll to get rid of all the bad and to attract the good luck we need so much,” said Surelys, who gave her rag doll feminine features and set it on fire amid the cheers of her neighbors.

For Santiago, the city where Fidel Castro (1926-2016) launched his uprising in 1953 with an attack on the Moncada Barracks and then entered triumphantly six years later, the annual Revolution celebration is not taken lightly.

For months a large poster showing the late revolutionary leader has displayed a countdown of the days yet to go until that date, amid an atmosphere of great expectation.

In Santiago, the abundance and diversity of products in the streets contrasts with cities like Havana, where bread is still scarce and the special sales for the big day are rather modest.

Despite the enthusiasm, Santiago residents have “their feet on the ground,” because after the smoke from the fireworks clears away, “life gets back to normal and you see you have to work hard to prosper,” said Daniel, a retired teacher who was born “with the Revolution.”

Meanwhile, 27-year-old Yoendris said Cuba looks “paralyzed compared with other countries. It’s not going anywhere, but even so the people are happy and try to do their best to keep going.”


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