Caldosa & rum for the fiesta del barrio

“Yanisleidys! Do you have any cumin?” “Are you ever going to learn to buy cassava?” “Caballero, if you drink all the rum now, all you’ll have for the party will be water!”

From street to street, neighborhood to neighborhood throughout Cuba, scenes like these are repeated over and over every September 27th, on the eve of the anniversary of the creation of the Comités de Defensa de la Revolución (Committees for the Defense of the Revolution), better known by their acronym CDR. The organization was formed on September 28, 1960, when, in the midst of one of Fidel Castro’s impassioned speeches, several explosions were heard. The reply of the multitude was to give cheers to the Revolution and Fidel immediately proposed the creation of a neighborhood organization that would defend the young revolutionary process against internal and external dangers through the surveillance by the people of enemy activity.

Over time, surveillance would be accompanied by other activities, such as polio vaccination campaigns, blood donations, collecting waste material for recycling, etc., but the tradition of the party remained unchanged.

Days before the “fiesta del Comité” a group of enthusiastic members raise money with the help of the neighbors and divide the tasks among them. One buys rum, another is responsible for the lights, others decorate the block…However, the undisputed star of the show is the person responsible for preparing the “caldosa.”

Caldosa is an enigmatic stew, a poor relative of the ajiaco, a traditional Cuban stew that contains large chunks of pork, beef, chorizo and a medley of vegetables. For the caldosa, alas, there is no fixed recipe. It takes whatever you can find in the market: potatoes, cassava, sweet potatoes, plantain, onion, garlic, pepper, oregano, cumin, salt, sausage of any kind, chicken giblets, mutton or pork ribs or pork head, water and its ready to be cooked. Everybody on the block contributes something from their fridge or pantry to the caldosa of unpredictable flavor. This jumble of meat and vegetables is then cooked in a huge pot outside right on the street. Placing the pot, filling it with the uncooked food, lighting the fire, and taking turns stirring the stew is a ritual in itself. When it’s done, it’s time to start the party.

This is the fiesta del barrio. Neighbors who don’t even glance at each other throughout the year may get deep in conversation with intimate details. A family who has recently moved has the chance of getting to know the people on their block. Others catch up on some juicy story. Meanwhile, the little ones run around, happy to be able to stay up late, and the teenagers play their favorite music that ranges from salsa to timba to reggaeton. While fruit punch is the usual beverage for kids and senior citizens, the omnipresent rum is coveted by the men—and some women.

The party may go on past midnight at least for a couple of hours more. Some people leave early, some at the stroke of midnight, while diehards may probably stay up until the break of day—as long as there’s rum to keep them company!

  • Cine Pobre: Cuba’s hippest & retro film festival is back

    Cine Pobre: Cuba’s hippest & retro film festival is back  LH 5

    After a two-year break, Cuba’s ‘poor man’s’ film festival is back. Founded by Cuban filmmaker Humberto Solas, the festival is traditionally held in the sleepy fishing village of Gibrara that wakes up …

    July 26, 1953: Attack on Moncada Barracks

    July 26, 1953: Attack on Moncada Barracks  LH 5

    On July 26, 1953 a group of young men and two women led by Fidel Castro attacked the Moncada Barracks in Santiago de Cuba while another group attacked the Carlos Manuel de Céspedes Barracks in the cit …

    Paco De Lucía at the 2013 Leo Brouwer Chamber Music Festival

    Paco De Lucía at the 2013 Leo Brouwer Chamber Music Festival  LH 5

    We cannot thank Leo Brower enough for his contribution to Cuban culture. Not only for his work—possibly the most extensive and solid of all time of any Cuban composer—but also for the time he has devo …

    International Workers’ Day

    International Workers’ Day  LH 5

    Hundreds of thousands of Cubans filed through Havana’s Revolution Square on Wednesday, May 1, 2013 in a May Day parade that paid tribute to Hugo Chávez, the Venezuelan leader…A sea of workers, many we …

    Balletomania at the International Ballet Festival

    Balletomania at the International Ballet Festival  LH 5

    Blind but beady-eyed, beaky-nosed, old, imposing and profoundly glamorous, Alicia Alonso stands in a single spotlight at the front of the dress circle of the Gran Teatro de La Habana, bathed in waves …

    Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope

    Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope  LH 5

    The Terry Fox Marathon of Hope takes place in Havana and all across the country, starting at 9am. This has the greatest participation of any country in the world with up to 2.3 million people running, …

    III Harley Davidson Rally (Encuentro Harlista!)

    III Harley Davidson Rally (Encuentro Harlista!)  LH 5

    This past weekend, I was thrust into one of Cuba’s most prismatic and emblematic subcultures and scenes: I rode along on the country’s first Harley rally, when over 50 riders made their way to Varader …

    2012 Arte y Moda Fashion show: Extreme style

    2012 Arte y Moda Fashion show: Extreme style  LH 5

    Habaneros are a special lot. Guilty of multiple crimes of fashion and poor taste from the yonky to the most outrageous lycra outfits and ridiculously short skirts, they manage even in the midst of eco …

    VII Jornada Cubana contra la Homofobia (IDAHO)

    VII Jornada Cubana contra la Homofobia (IDAHO)  LH 5

    From May 5 to May 24, Cuba will celebrate the 7th Jornada Cubana contra la Homofobia in Havana, Granma and other locations in Cuba. The two-week event included symposiums, lectures, films, art exhibit …

    Highlights of the 2012 Havana Art Biennial

    Highlights of the 2012 Havana Art Biennial  LH 5

    The 11th Havana Biennial is already under way and for those of us who have attended its exhibitions, installations and performances so far, it is a time of evocation and strong emotions triggered by t …

    1 of 8 pages »