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Puerto Padre: Off the beaten track at the beach

Puerto Padre: Off the beaten track at the beach

Puerto Padre, or “Villa Azul de los Molinos” (Blue Village of the Windmills), is a coastal town in northeastern Cuba. The nickname was motivated by the intense blue of its sky and sea, and by the many windmills in the area. The moniker was first used publicly in a poem back in the 1920s and became so popular that the merchants in the city adopted it as their slogan. There are no windmills anymore but the name has not lost force, although it may be due only to a whiff of nostalgia among the many persons who still use it. Other people, in keeping with the absence of windmills, have shortened the nickname down to Villa Azul.

Puerto Padre, a small town that is filled with poetry and history, is located in Las Tunas Province, “The Balcony of Eastern Cuba.” The city rises and falls with its many hills, and coming into the city is like starting at the top of a mountain and falling steadily towards the sea. A few kilometers beyond the city are the beaches—La Boca, La Llanita or El Socucho, which offer the visitor the chance to seclude themselves from the hustle and bustle of the big cities in the tranquil waters that are rarely disturbed by big waves.

The fishermen here are grateful for the peaceful and serene waters, for every night they go out to sea and spread out their fishing nets to receive whatever the sea will give them and then return home. In the morning, other fishing boats lie near the shore waiting for another fishing expedition, while the pier fills with people who are waiting for the ferry to take them from La Boca to El Socucho, two beaches and respective villages that are separated by a 300-meter wide canal.

Legend goes that in this canal there is a woman who draws to her bosom whoever dares to pass over her, which is reminiscent of Yemayá, Lady of Rivers and Seas in Afro-Cuban religion. The myth is actually based on an underwater canyon that lies between the two shores. This, however, does not stop young people from crossing the canal by canoe or makeshift rafts, or daringly still by jumping into the water from boats or ferries right in the middle and swimming the distance. Curiosity is inevitable, and despite the fact that there is a real danger of being swept by the currents, which can be pretty strong in the middle of the canal, every summer, hundreds of teenagers, and adults too, test their strength and resistance, and experience the adventure of defying the myth.

September 2012

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