Friday, 23 March 2018

A Cuban Landfall - Santiago de Cuba

The Morro Fort Is On Starboard As We Approach The Entry

Crystal Blues arrived on the south coast of Cuba at Santiago de Cuba, last Friday afternoon. Sailing under the ramparts of the Morro Fort, dating back to the 15th century, was an incredible arrival experience. The government run marina is about 1/4 mile inside the harbor, where we received a friendly welcome. Many visiting boats were anchored out, however the marina offered us a berth and we accepted gladly - the first time we'd berthed the boat since last November.

Ley's Favourite Vegetable Stall
This is Cuba's third largest city, with around a million people, though it's position in the far east of the country gives it an individual identity and a strong sense of independence. From this region the first rebellion against Spanish rule commenced, and later it was Castro himself who started from here to evict the Batista regime.

Of course the Cuba of today is very different, with a population that are embracing change as Cuba relaxes the old rules. Economic prosperity is still some way off, however the people do have some of the highest literacy and health care standards in the world.

Starting last Saturday we've traveled a little in the city and out into the mountains to the north west. This included an overnight trip to Bayamo, one of the oldest Spanish cities in the world, where we stayed in a "Casa Particulare", basically a homestay with meals available if we wanted. This cost around $25.00 per night. Ley figures the Cuban people invented the AirBnB concept, without the internet....

Overflight On Our Arrival

Over the years the Cuban people have learned to live with less, and the place is famous for keeping old cars running well beyond there regular use-by date.

Noel & Neil At The Morro Fort
We've enlisted the services of a local taxi driver "Noel", who has enriched our visit with his quiet pride and strong sense of humor. Noel's taxi is a fairly battered but reliable Moskovich (Russian) car - I asked how old it was one day, and he quickly replied "It's New! Just 30 years!" Compared to some of the vehicles we've seen, it is indeed quite new.

Cuba has been in our cruising sights for many years, and whilst we had a little taste of the land  last year, we had high hopes for our visit this year, keen to experience more of the people, food and music. We haven't been disappointed!

The annual music festival in Santiago de Cuba was in full swing when we arrived, a festival that is produced for the locals, not just for tourists. The national history includes waves of immigration from Spain, Britain, France and Africa. These influences have been distilled into a national musical palet that includes strong African segments, more traditional Cuban works plus Spanish influenced classical styles. Here in Santiago the African tribal roots are celebrated with community performances in a local coffee shop twice a week, where we were able to dance to a beat from 8 drums and a variety of percussion instruments accompanied by many voices.

Santiago Concert Hall

 At the local concert hall, we were fortnate to view a performance by the orchestra from the local conservatory, with guest vocalists from around Cuba and a guitar trio from Mexico. That same evening we danced in the streets to more classic Cuban sounds when the festival stage went live for the evening.

Learning To Busk, Latin Style
In the town square local troubadors entertain each evening, earning coins for their performance. I was able to spend an hour accompanying one guitarist with my newly purchased percussian instrment, the local Guayo.

Music is everywhere in this country. In the towns we often see people carrying guitars, brass instruments and drums, all a common sight. Culture is different here - some how more inter-personal, rich and educated than we expected. In Bayamo we came across a fencing school right on the street, while in Santiago we've visited two different chess clubs that occupy beautiful historic buildings.

We plan to sail onwards across the south coast of Cuba for the next few weeks.

1 comment:

  1. Que interesante! Loved this blog and following your travels. Glad to hear that you are enjoying la musica y la cultura. Tus amigos Chris Bill and Flaco el perro. Un beso grande ��


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