New Year’s Eve in Havana is traditionally not a major public celebration. Locals usually stay at home with their family eating roast pork and yucca before throwing buckets of water over their balconies onto the streets below. On this evening many tourists end up at overpriced dinners and shows.
The Old Havana (Habana Vieja) late afternoon streets contained suckling pigs either dressed waiting on a spit or already roasting over coals.
Suckling pig on spit balanced against a Havana wall
After the shooting gallery, Rocío and I came across a bar operating. A functioning bar is usually inconspicuous in touristy Old Havana (Havana Vieja). However, after Fidel Castro’s death all alcohol sales and entertainment officially stopped for 9 days and this was the only disobedient venue seen.
Enjoying a prohibited drink at the reggae bar gets Bob Marley’s approval
The small bar’s stereo played but not blasted and strong 2 for 1 mojitos cost 3 CUC (US$3). The NKOTB t-shirt-wearing manager’s view was that people should be able to mourn Fidel Castro’s passing how they liked. If they wanted to remember Fidel by playing music, they should be able to play music. He also gave us a different Fidel’s CD: Fuego Caliente by Argentinean reggae artist Fidel Nadal.
In the rear kitchen an empty burner kept flaming and I would not be surprised if communist Cuba provided free gas but not matches.
Fidel Nadal’s ‘Fuego Caliente’ CD the bar manager gave us; through the back door is a stove burning gas for no apparent reason
A Japanese tourist and her jinetero were the bar’s only other guests and we all joined in conversation, enjoying the bar’s rebellious spirit.
Camagüey, Cuba’s third largest city was founded in its current location in 1528. The city’s labyrinthine streets in its UNESCO world heritage-listed historic centre are worth wandering. Camaguey is also a good base for exploring its eponymous province, Cuba’s biggest, including Reserva Ecológica Limones-Tuabaquey, Nuevitas and Refugio de Fauna Río Máximo, the Western Hemisphere’s largest flamingo nesting site.
Camagüey’s central square; the building on the right features an image of Che Guevara and a common official Cuban phrase ‘until victory always’ (hasta la victoria siempre)
Rocío and I first visited Camagüey for an afternoon in between the bus from Holguín and the train to Nuevitas. Returning Christmas day after a night on a hut floor, we desired a shower and proper bed. From our worst Cuban accommodation we chanced upon our best: Casa Juanita y Rafael, a lovingly decorated guest house with super high ceilings and a beautiful courtyard (25 CUC/US$25 per night). The courtyard included a fish pond in Camagüey’s symbol, a large ceramic vessel called a tinajón.
Our guest house (casa particular) courtyard featured Camagüey’s symbol the tinajón (large ceramic vessel)