In 1820, a young priest named Francisco Vigil de Quiñones struggled with a problem. As the year came to an end, the number of people attending church decreased, supposedly because they preferred staying at home in bed during the (by Cuban standards) chilly mornings.
Francisco’s plan to solve this was as ingenious as it was simple: He would gather a group of children and tell them to make as much noise as possible to make sure that people were awake in time for mass.
The children gathered pots, pans, maracas, tins full of pebbles, and whatever they could find, and it worked! In fact, it became such a success that a decree was issued 15 years later that the noisy parade was not allowed to start before 4 a.m. This would evolve into one of Cuba’s most popular festivities, the Parrandas de Remedios.
The celebrations evolved over the years, and took a new turn when eight neighborhoods formed two rival groups, El Carmen (the hawk) and San Salvador (the rooster), competing against each other by creating the most elaborate decorations, making the most noise and setting off the most massive fireworks.
Today tens of thousands of rockets are placed along a long line in the city streets, while pyrotechnics run on each side with a torch setting them on fire. Unfortunately this massive display of fireworks has come with a price; accidents have occurred in which dozens of people have been seriously injured by the explosions.
Know Before You Go
Parrandas de Remedios takes place around Christmas every year. The massive fireworks are on display on Christmas Eve.