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Central Cuba Travel Guide

Remedios

San Juan de Remedios is one of Cuba's oldest towns. Founded in 1515 on the northern coast, it was moved inland to its current location in 1524, after the residents were harassed by pirates. Toward the end of the 17th century, a group of wealthy citizens tried to move Remedios still farther inland, but most of the townspeople resisted; those who wanted to move went on to found Santa Clara,

which became the province's principal city. Remedios slipped into its shadow and has retained a sleepy, unspoiled atmosphere.

Though small (20,000-some inhabitants), Remedios is culturally rich and remarkably well preserved. It's actually amazing that the city has survived at all, considering that its most famous tradition is Las Parrandas: an incendiary festival celebrated on Christmas Eve that practically reduces the entire town to ashes year after year. Legend has it that the festival began in the 1820s when a parish priest, who worried that not enough people where attending Christmas mass, sent a group of boys through the streets banging drums and making noise to wake people up and get them into the pews. The tradition has developed into an all-night festival lit by homemade lanterns and fireworks and animated by brass bands; its participants are cheered still more by copious food and drink.

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