Carnival...or something like that

Trip Start Apr 10, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Cuba  ,
Sunday, June 25, 2006

* see pics on...

After three days in Baracoa, I was back on the bus - this time for the 18 hour trip back to Trinidad - aah! I decided to return because the town was having their annual carnival that weekend which I was very excited to see. I arrived at 6.30am and decided to stay at a different casa which was definitely a good choice - much nicer people. I bumped into two friends that afternoon who I had met previously on my travels - Sarah, a Swedish girl who I met in Guatemala and the other was a Cuban guy who I had met in Havana. They had met and hooked up in Havana - such co-incidence! It was fabulous meeting up with them though - they were traveling with another Spanish guy and we spent the afternoon at the Carnaval drinking beer with all the Cubans until the storm of all storms exploded upon us - tropical rain is insane!! In about an hour the streets had about 20 - 30cm of water rushing along them... so we swam back to our casas and hooked up later for more Carnaval - really just more drunken street party - those Cubans can toot it up with the best of them! There were some floats and performers that came along the streets and the costumes were often good but the dancers seemed bored to death! I had great chats with Jorge, the Spanish guy, and at least for one night, I didnīt have to be on my guard all the time because I was with other people :-)
It was really interesting seeing the Cuban version of carnival / fair / festival though - things that are so often taken for granted at the same types of events in other countries are very obviously not present: for example, the food is all the same - roast pork, pizza, spaghetti and criola (a typical plate with rice and a pork chop). Thatīs it. The type of variety generally seen at the same type of festival in another country just doesnīt exist. Also the things available to buy are also extremely limited (most stalls offered some or all of: sweets, toothbrushes, pens, basic household items) and it is a real treat for the kids to be able to have a few sweets. The Cubans simply don`t have the money for anything more luxurious - even at a once a year carnival. The luxury for the adults is being able to drink lots of cheap beer and the kids get to have a few sweets and some rides at the funfair. The funfair section was made up of generally antique looking rides (see pics on my website) and although the kids were having a ball, I found it really sad that its once a year that they get to ride on a tricycle.

I chose to give Carnival a skip the next (boiling!) day, and instead walked up to a hotel swimming pool which was crammed with somehow (relatively) wealthy Cubans (something I thought didnīt exist and Iīm still puzzled about where they got their money from) and their families - lots of kids, lots of rum and very loud merengue music but hey, it was fun! I tanned and swam for a few hours and then saw an Australian woman whom Iīd met the day before so we chatted for a while. I told her about my experience with the horrible Cuban guy and was horrified at her opinion that since he was a man, he probably just saw it as a good opportunity! It really scares me that the intimidation and violation of women has reached such an extent that such behaviour is considered innate and normal.
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