Partying at Bartolo’s Banana Plantation

Photo Feature by Janis Hernandez

Girl, we’re going to have a good time.
See how I’m here alone,
here at the banana plantation
of our friend Bartolo.

HAVANA TIMES — The above is the refrain from a well-known song of traditional Cuban popular music. What’s more, it has served as a pretext for a unique annual festival held in the municipality of San Luis, the one closest to the eastern Cuban city Santiago de Cuba.

Its main streets become crammed with stands designed to represent bohios (huts) from the island’s countryside. Though characterized by their palm-leaf thatched roofs, wood-slat walls and large banana-tree leaves and hanging clusters of that fruit, these are actually restaurants and taverns that serve residents and visitors alike.

There, you can taste the most delicious plates of local food – from their famous pork roasted on a stake to fried batter delights. No one can pass by the stand where the best pure coffee is brewed, hand-ground with mortar and pestle.

Few can resist from buying the souvenirs that range from typical handicrafts to oil paintings and watercolors painted on the spot by local artists. And you can’t miss seeing a “Bembe de Sao” ritual, sang and danced in front of an imposing altar of the saints with the attributes of Afro-Cuban religions.

Anyone going to this guateque (campesino fiesta) will be filled with the temptation to join in.  On one side the sounds of the Cuban “tres,” guitar and bongo make it impossible to keep your feet from tapping to the beat of some “son” or a “guajira” song, while the shanties where you can buy a frothy cold beer are additional incentives.

For six days — from Monday to Sunday (May 21-27) — locals and visitors reveled along with the San Luisians, those who take to the streets shouting good-naturedly to their friends: “We’re going to have a good time at Bartolo’s banana plantation.” 

These photos attest to what I’m talking about.

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