I’m not writing about the rafters from 1994 but the other rafters, those who live in the first Cuban village, capital and bishopric and almost on a daily basis cross the largest Cuban river with handmade bamboo rafts tied up with palm leaves or wires.
I’m referring to the rafters of Toa River. Annually, during the Water Festivities the city holds in order to celebrate its anniversary in August, they jump into the eastern fluvial basins in Cuba in an ancestral competition.
Orley Perez, a popular sailor from Quivican, explained for the local radio that by the age of nine he had learned to drive “cayucas” (as these rustic rafts are called), which are not only used during the celebrations but to take loads home given that they are the “cheapest and fastest” means of transportation.
Baracoa is a city of legends where, particularly during the summer, people get more creative to escape from heat and boredom which is common in rural areas. However, it is not the only municipality in Guantanamo province where, mainly in July and August, events are rather worthy of one of García Márquez’ novels than of reality.
From the sea to semi deserts.
The municipality of Caimanera, no more than two or three kilometers from the borders with the US Navy Base, annually celebrates an Aquatic Carnival which, though it is sponsored by the municipal direction of the National Sports, Physical Education and Recreation Institute, is opened since 2001 with songs and dances in homage to Yemaya, the queen of the seas.
In 2014, the goddess was offered a basket with fruit and flower wraths that were thrown to the sea while asking for her blessings for the festivities, informed Radio Bahia. It is said that the fishermen from the area, a long time ago, before setting sail always used to pay homage to this Yoruba deity. It is also said that historian Ofelia García Campuzano, director of the Museum, and Eulices Durand Urgellés, a craftsman, brought forward the proposal of retaking the tradition.
Another tradition is preserved in the midst of the Cuban semi desert located in Imias. It is called “La fiesta del verraco” (the pig’s party), it is a traditional celebration sponsored by the municipal Culture and Education directions. It consists on covering someone’s body with banana leaves, painting his arms and face with coal, and make him wear a pig’s jaw.
That someone will be “hunted” by another group of people in the roles of dogs, hunters and even sellers. It is some sort of game…, while some chase the pig, others collect meat, fat, grassroots vegetables, rum and money…, which will be placed in rucksacks. Once the pig has been caught, they will start crying the animal parts as if they were on sale around the town.
— “I sell legs without nigua, cocote, culinaria and plingaso”, that’s more or less what sellers cry.
The Pig’s party takes place every August 16, on Saint Joaquin’s Day, the patron saint of Guantanamo province. The wisest say this tradition started back in 1930 and the celebrations used to last two or three days. Nowadays, the event only lasts one day. In addition to the hunting, they also arrange “talks” on popular culture and combine other traditions, especially culinary and musical traditions.