Yanelys Nuñez Leyva
HAVANA TIMES — A group of my friends and I recently got together with a former classmate of ours visiting Havana. During this get-together, we decided to spend a few days in the town of Remedios, which she is where she currently lives.
Everyone, enthused about the prospects of getting to know a new place, signed up for the trip. Ultimately, however, only three of us went.
We had to plan the trip so that it would coincide with our vacation time at work. We also had to plan it for a date after getting paid our puny salary.
After putting together a bit of rice, sugar, bologna and spaghetti (so as to avoid having to spend too much money on food there), we set out on our journey.
Getting to Santa Clara was relatively easy: we managed to get three bus tickets quickly. There was still, however, a ways to go.
After asking many locals about the cheapest way to get to our destination, we ended up in a cab which crammed four people into a space designed for three and charged us the rather outrageous sum of forty Cuban pesos per person.
This didn’t dampen our adventures spirits and, in 45 minutes, we had arrived at Remedios, a city declared part of Cuba’s historical heritage in 1980. We were numb and stiff from the “tight” journey but happy.
The town struck us as well preserved and clean. We also noted evident economic development (perhaps its proximity to the Santa Maria Key guarantees regular visits by tourists).
To our surprise, a considerable number of hostels, restaurants and hotels surrounding the town’s central park, were being frequented and enjoyed by a great many locals (which doesn’t mean the prices of the services and products offered were reasonable).
Another highlight of our trip were the churches of Nuestra Señora del Buen Viaje (“Our Lady of Safe Journeys”) and the Parroquial Mayor de San Juan Bautista (“John the Baptist Parish”), located very close to one another.
Our interest in the churches grew when they told us the legends that surround these two places of worship. It is said a virgin was found in a nearby swamp and that a simple altar was set up in the home of an old slave from Africa’s Lucumi tribe in her honor, before the effigy was taken to the parish.
The virgin, however, would mysteriously return to her original altar. Because of this, the townspeople decided to build a shrine which, after several transformations, would become today’s church.
Such legends are part of the city’s cultural dynamic. We became particularly aware of this when an elderly, humbly-dressed gentleman, with the enthusiasm and mastery of a skilled storyteller, told us some of the stories which enliven the town, in the park where several of these are recounted in sculptural relief pieces.
El viaje a San Juan de los Remedios fue muy gratificante. Este pueblo es nacionalmente reconocido además por sus parrandas que se celebran en diciembre.
Our trip to San Juan de los Remedios, also known for its December festivities, was a gratifying experience indeed.