Lídice Fernández Espino

Lídice Fernández Espino

A dying hotel in Sagua la Grande

When Gran Hotel Sagua started to be built in 1925, nobody thought that it would be a ruin 90 years later. Located in the central part of the country, it was one of the most luxurious at the time. No other building in the region compared to it and its modern style, furniture and design. But the years made a dent in the hotel, and the locals witnessed its decline with grief. The few attempts that were made at rescuing it were never good enough, and they would be soon abandoned. More than its numerous rooms, its beautiful restaurant or its ample rooms, the people from Sagua miss the spirit of greatness that surrounded it. Now that Sagua la Grande is close to its 203rd anniversay, do we have to accept that its charm is lost forever?

A Strange Game Called Cucannia

Cucannia (cucaña) is a game for daring people. "It's like an extreme sport," said one of the participants jokingly, but it is indeed very difficult to get from one bank of the river to the other walking on a greasy tree trunk. Walking is not the only option accepted in the rules: crawling, sliding, jumping, almost anything is permitted. All kinds of oily substances can be used to grease the beam and make the crossing more difficult as well: grease, lard, vegetal oil, and what have you. The goal in this traditional game is to reach the opposite end and grab the flag that goes to the winner. One after another, men do their best not to fall into the Undoso River, in the municipality of Sagua la Grande, where many cucannia challenges are organized several times in the year. The flags are the medals in this game. Some of the best in the area treasure as many as seven.

Uvero Beach

I've always wondered why Uvero Beach is so popular among the people from Central Cuba, mainly among residents from Sagua la Grande, the closest municipality. It is not a particularly pretty place. In quiet days, mosquitoes and gnats won't leave beachgoers alone. The sand is not real sand, it's artificial. Despite all that, however, people continue to frequent it. It's unbelievable how Cubans living abroad miss the place and its distinctive features: the houses raised on wood posts; the parade of crabs that go crazy when it starts thundering; the rain water people save in tanks; the tanks themselves... The smell of sulphur floods the shore sometimes, and some people look for the smelly mud to put on their faces. The town is divided into three neighbourhoods – La Botella, El Vedado y Los Canalizos – and united by docks and marshes, and is populated by fishermen who have seen good times, but also the tragedies sown by the destructive wake of each hurricane. Uvero Beach looks the same as ever, adorned by its picturesque houses. It’s a tantalizing beach for many, even if I continue not to understand why.