For breakfast at Barbara’s house, we had guava, bananas, pineapple, bread (with mayonnaise), coffee, orange juice, and omelettes (tortilla). Little did we know, that would be breakfast everywhere we went for the entire trip.
Barbara told us about her religion and explained to us about the Afro-Cuban/Santería “saints” called “orichás,” which were coordinated with the Roman Catholic saints to protect their religion when they were unable to worship (mostly as slaves). So she showed us her relics – each saint mapped to an orichá (which looked like a baking dish with a lid); she also had a black madonna/virgen. Later in the trip, we saw another black madonna at a house of worship for Santería.
We then went to Casa Luis to meet everyone and go on our first “tour.”
The bus took us all to Revolution Square (Plaza de la Revolución) where there are giant images of Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos as well as the José Martí Memorial building. The most interesting part of this stop is all the old cars lined up to take people on taxi trips. These were the most well taken care of old American cars we saw.
After this stop, we went to Fusterlandia! A really amazing neighborhood where a guy named Jose Fuster has made the entire neighborhood into mosaics.
And in a cool twist, we got a glimpse of Fuster himself!
We heard from a Cuban (I won’t say who) about how they get information into the country…apparently, you hire a guy to bring you a thumb drive to you every week and you copy everything from it and give it back. It might have soap operas, international news, American movies, who knows what else. Interesting how information can still flow in no matter how much the government tries to control it.
Anyway, as this was New Years Eve, 6 of us got together and decided to go out. It turns out that New Years Eve is a family holiday, so Barbara was insistent that we eat with her and her family. Once we were done with dinner, we told her we wanted to go out with some friends and she warned us not to be on the street at Midnight. Apparently, it’s a tradition that people throw water off their balconies into the street at Midnight. And sometimes they will throw other things like eggs or glass!
We wandered around, got some dinner, and found our way to a hotel to see if their bar was open. A guy who worked at the hotel told us there was a party on the roof and for 15 CUC we could go up and it was open bar. So we followed him up to the roof and there were maybe 40 people up there. As our group was handing him money, I had a funny feeling about it, so I snuck off to ask the bartender – he told me it was 3 CUCs per drink with no special or anything. So I went back to our group and got the money back from the guy.
When Midnight came, there were no fireworks, but several cannon blasts and church bells. We watched as people got hit by water from balconies and then headed back to our homes. It was a bit anti-climactic. Barbara and her family were still up partying, but at this point, we had walked over 7 miles during the day and were pooped.
The next morning, I found this poor guy who I’m sure had a major hangover once he woke up.