To travel from one side to the other of the Toa River, the largest Cuban river, people don’t use sophisticated boats or with deep draft, but they cross it on rafts made of bamboo that are powered with a long staff.
The locals that inhabit the Cayo Guin town, close to 3 thousand men and women, and others from the surrounding areas are experts in these rafts since they cross from one side to the other of the stream several times a day.
They cross to take the kids to school, go to work, buy food and especially as part of the Festival of the Waters. It is the way the Baracoa people celebrate each summer the foundation of Our Lady of the Assumption of Baracoa by Diego Velázquez in the distant date of August 15, 1511.
In that celebration they sing, dance, exchange dishes that challenge the more experienced palates, as in the case of papaya stuffed with crab and coconut milk. They welcome relatives who moved to another location but return at this time of year just not to miss the party.
But the biggest attraction in the Festival of the Waters, where there is always room for traditions that survive in Baracoa, is the bamboo rafts race. Best of all is that there is no discrimination of age or sex. Both women and men have readied “boats” for the last ten years with the desire to pass the test.
Crossing the Toa can be an arduous task, especially for those not accustomed to this type of exercise. But those born in Cayo Guin and around the river know its secrets and its tricks. Across the river they lost their first tooth, have fallen in love with a girl or have felt the joy of being born there, attached to nature.