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  HOME | Cuba

Cuban Town Stages Traditional New Year’s Event

MAYABEQUE, Cuba – Hundreds of Cubans on Sunday celebrated the arrival of 2011 with a “duel” of floats at the event known as “Las Charangas de Bejucal” (the bands of Bejucal), a mixture of carnival, dancing and magic show that is considered to be one of the oldest popular traditions on the island.

The central square in the town of Bejucal, in Mayabeque province about 20 kilometers (13 miles) from Havana, early Sunday hosted the competition among carnival floats entered by the blue and red groups, something that for many is one of the most spectacular nights in Cuba.

The big attraction at the festival consists of witnessing the “surprises” revealed by each group’s floats, which are stationed on the opposites of the square, where the public watches the creation of a building of lights and color almost 20 meters (65 feet) high.

For about two hours, the rival “Ceiba de plata” and “Espina de oro” – as the blue and red groups are known – maneuver and operate their floats so that, little by little, colorful and brightly lit platforms with ornaments and dancers are created, all to the rhythm of the music and, in particularly, the Cuban conga.

Although the tradition is to hold the festival on Christmas, this time the residents of Bejucal welcomed in 2011 with the event because the bad weather during the last few days of December forced them to postpone the celebration until New Year’s.

The origin of the festival dates back to the period when Cuba was a Spanish colony and the birth of the red and blue groups is linked to the opposition between the Hispanic and African traditions, although over time that cultural rivalry has been disappearing.

Currently, many people choose their groups by family tradition, out of their admiration for the workmanship that each group puts into their floats, or because their favorite color is either red or blue.

This Sunday, the floats created by the groups illustrated or recounted different stories related to the opera “Madame Butterfly,” to Afro-Cuban cults, the history of theater on the island, global warming and even the revolution led by former Cuban President Fidel Castro.

The presenters at the event also did not fail to mention the economic reforms that the country will be facing this year and they reminded the public that in 2011 all Cubans will need to “work” a great deal to face the future.
 

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