Las Parrandas de Remedios
The famous and unique “Parrandas de Remedios” (aka Parrandas Remedianas) is one of the largest and oldest festivals in the Caribbean’s, it takes place between the 16th and 26th of December, but it’s on December 24th that everything reaches its climax and gets really crazy with fireworks, firecrackers, lights structures, floats, music, dance, and of course "muchas cervezas" !
The town divides itself into two groups, the Carmelitas (from the El Carmen neighborhood) with an eagle as their emblem, and the Sansaries (from the San Salvador neighborhood) with a rooster as their emblem. During the Parrandas a "fierce" competition takes place between the two groups. In the previous months, they each build "in secret" a large float (carroza) and a huge and elaborate structure packed with thousands of multicolor lightbulbs that make moving figures (they are called Trabajos de Plaza). They also organize a fireworks show including a crazy "side-show" of thousands of home-made firecrackers!
On the evening of December 24th, the face-off begins and each group reveals their work on the town’s main square. After the parade, the competition and fiesta continue until dawn when both neighborhoods claim victory. As they say in Remedios, people save their energy for 364 days, only to spend it all in one night!
History of the "Parrandas" : The Parrandas allegedly began in 1820, when the local priest sent some children out on the streets with spoons, pots and pans so they can make noise and sing verses in order to get the parishioners to attend the Advent Masses. It later evolved into a sort of "battle" of sound and light to wake-up the other section of the town, and ending in the street party that has remained till these days.
Here are some comments and tips (from our personal experience):
• You must not be afraid of crowds, if so then avoid being in Remedios on December 24th!
• If you wish to remain right in the middle of the action (Main Square) during the fireworks and firecrackers displays, we recommend wearing a hat, glasses, and clothing made of fabrics that don't catch on fire easily. Be prepared for a lot of fireworks fallout and firecrackers flying in all directions.
• If you prefer to stay undercover, you can go to Hotel Mascote located on one corner of the Plaza, and look at the action from their windows and blaconys, but note that the view is somewhat limited.
• Any such crowded street-party is always a paradise for pickpockets, avoid carrying large sums of money, there's not much to buy there anyway, except drinks and snacks.
• Hold your camera firmly in your hand with the strap wrapped around your wrist and avoid carrying a purse to avoid snatching
• Be aware of what's going on around you, especially when they ignite the thousands of firecrackers!
We had a GREAT time participating in this WILD and CRAZY fiesta! The Cubans were extremely welcoming and invited us to participate "like real Cubans" by staying in the middle of everything, even during the "loco" fireworks/firecrackers display when we had to run all over the place seeking cover under a tree, an arch or balcony. We didn"t want to miss any part of this evening filled with lights, colors, music, fire, and people who really know how to party! Participating in the Parrandas (edition 2002 and 2006) is one of the best memories of our many trips to Cuba; a unique experience that we will never forget!
Click to watch our YouTube video of the Parrandas de Remedios (Dec. 2006).
Click to watch our Gallery of the Parrandas.
Lily & Normand