11 01 2011

Preparing the roast pork for a Noche Santiaguerra


Since last summer, an old Santiago tradition that had been discontinued for several years has been revived: Las Noches Santiaguerras (Santiago Nights).

This involves blocking one of the main roads in the city (Avenida Garzon) to traffic from Saturday morning through to late on Sunday night, for a distance of about half a mile. Along the route there are stalls selling bread, cakes, jams, yogurt, cheese (if you’re lucky), rum, beer and soft drinks. There are also half a dozen or so open air restaurants laid out, with tables laid with tablecloths and napkins, selling fried fish and chicken, roast pork and pizzas. Everything is priced in moneda nacional (MN), the local currency in which most Cubans receive their salaries and pensions.

This is very welcome to the people of Santiago, as too often restaurants, bars and entertainment are priced in CUC, the convertible currency that replaced the dollar as legal tender in the 1990s. This all contributes to a general feeling that life in Santiago is steadily improving for its people, for which credit is given to Lazaro Exposito, the First Secretary of the Communist Party in Santiago. As well as new shops and restaurants in MN, the infrastructure in the city has been greatly improved, including the water supply, which now delivers water 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The water tanks that most houses maintained to supply themselves during breaks in supply, are now redundant.

Electricity supply has also improved. I have been in Cuba for 13 days now and have not seen a single power cut, a very different picture to the (literally) dark days of the 1990s.

I went to the Noche Santiaguerra on Sunday night. The open air restaurants were all full. There were sound systems set up, playing salsa and reggaeton, with people dancing in the street. There was a stage where a group were giving a performance of rumba, an Afro-Cuban musical and dance style. There was also a sound system set up where some transvestites were giving a dance show. However, most surprising of all, to me, was a giant screen projected onto the side of a tower block, where videos were being shown of English language hits from the 70s, 80s and 90s. I watched videos of the Bee Gees, Bonny Tyler, Bony M and Credence Clearwater Revival. Obviously, they were working their way through the alphabet. I wondered what treats were to come as they got to the later letters.

To me it seemed really incongruous, on a sultry Sunday Caribbean evening, in a city famed for rebellions, revolution and Afro-Cuban culture, to be standing in a crowd watching a giant screen of the Bee Gees singing “Staying Alive”. But one thing that I’ve learned about Cuba is that it never loses its capacity to surprise.



3 responses

27 05 2011
Splendour « Tales of the Heroic City

[…] weekend in Avenida Garzon in Santiago, mobile toilets would be installed, ready for the Noches Santiaguerras. To use the toilet cost 1CUP. Most men seemed to prefer to keep their change for buying beer or […]

31 05 2011
Things I Will (and won’t) Miss about Living in Santiago de Cuba « Tales of the Heroic City

[…] Noches Santiaguerras (see post of 11th January), where every Saturday and Sunday night the Avenida Garzon is closed to traffic and there is live […]

3 06 2011
Sierra Maestra « Tales of the Heroic City

[…] This is the road that is blocked to traffic each week for the Noches Santiaguerras. […]

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