If you are, as I write, packing blue suede shoes, sun hat and shades – getting ready for your holiday to Cuba – you´re going to be with us on very auspicious day that’s worth knowing about.
You´ll be greeted by a people en fiesta, with two or three days off work, and lots of middle to large-scale, open-air concerts in various of the capital´s neighbourhoods. And it’s not just here in Havana. These, mainly musical, shindigs will be taking place the length and breadth of the country. Some folks will hang huge flags from their balconies, others will go street partying; many just quietly stay home, glad of the rest. It’s not a good time to marry, file for divorce or register your baby´s birth. But it is quite an interesting time to be here. Its el 26 de Julio; July 26th.
On that day, back in 1953 – six years before the revolution was secured (Jan. 1959) – a group of young rebels attacked the Moncada Barracks – the island´s second most-important military base – in the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba. The effort failed but its young leader – laywer, Fidel Castro Ruiz – was marked for a long and very industrious future. And now el 26 is a national day (ferriada), bridged by a couple of days (de fiesta) either side.
It’s a lively time – good for wandering round the area you´re staying in and seeing how local people don their dancing shoes, hang out street-style or hang loose at home on their Bank Holidays. And, if you´ve the time and energy, totake a stroll along the sea-side wall – el Malecon – and stop (Malecon and N) to admire this impressive display (see photo) of dozens of proudly-fluttering national ensigns.
Oh, do bring your earplugs. Just in case one of those open-air, beer-fest parties happens to be playing right outside your bedroom window!