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Visiting Family and Friends in the Summer

Visiting Family and Friends in the Summer

by Ricardo Alberto Pérez

Nowadays it’s pretty commonplace that many Cubans don’t live in the same place where they were born. In the last few decades we have been seeing many more people moving from area to area on the Island, as a result, these people are leaving behind relatives and customs. It’s natural that they always hope they will get to return to them from time to time. The summer vacation is the ideal time to get back to strengthen those wonderful bonds of love and identity.

This is the reason why some of the vacation travellers during July and August aren’t heading out to hotels or campgrounds. Instead, they’re off to visit the homes of both close family (parents, grandparents, siblings, uncles, cousins…) and even more distant relatives. It is a time to rediscover those family ties and catch up on news.

All of this reminds me of a wonderful personal experience. When I was a kid I used to love going with my parents to visit the farm that belonged to my aunt and uncle just a few kilometers away from the city of Remedios, famous for its parrandas. Playing with my cousins, seeing the animals and the fresh fruit on the trees, the beautiful landscape that included a river and all the undergrowth made me feel like I was living an adventure.

Something special always happens on these occasions between guests and hosts. People living in the country have a tradition whereby they always share the best they have in their homes: the best bed, the best food or the best electrical fan. Often two groups are created on these visits: one group is made up of the youngsters, the other one is composed of adults and each one defends its own particular interests. The younger folk tend to prefer going on excursions, playing volleyball or football, and going to discos and dance parties in the evenings, while the adults will set up the domino tables, roast some pork and make sure everything is in place for a carefree stay.

When the relatives live in the countryside, horses will probably become the major attraction for the city slickers. Going on horseback rides becomes an exciting activity, and sometimes the horsemen and women will engage in some improvised races. An added bonus of these rides is that you can also discover some lovely scenery far away from everything.

Some of these summer travellers will go with a specific objective in mind, such as like attending carnivals and other regional festivities. These often have quite a different flavor from the ones celebrated in Havana. The carnivals in Santiago de Cuba, Manzanillo and Bayamo, just to mention three, are always described as highly original and well-attended by local inhabitants and visitors alike. The Santiago de Cuba carnival, for instance, is considered the best in Cuba.

In the midst of this summer parade of people going to and fro, new inter-personal relations are bound to crop up. New love affairs are born and in some instances new families are formed. Friendships are bolstered and we can interchange customs including everything from eating habits to new recreational possibilities. Hosts will always show off the best of their neighborhoods or cities.

Sometimes these trips are the result of sincere friendship. Every year hundreds of young people come to Havana from all over the country to study at universities. In many cases they make great friends in the capital, living with them for the greater part of each year. In order to reciprocate, they will often invite their Havana buddies to spend some time at home with them during their vacations.

I am sure that most Cubans have enjoyed trips of this sort and have been able to relax and return to the daily grind refreshed and, as they say on the street, “con las pilas cargada,” that is, with their batteries recharged.

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