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A Cuban Sunday in Sancti Spiritus
Cienfuegos (Cuba), February 1st 2015

It’s an ordinary Sunday when we visit Sancti Spiritus. This provincial capital in the hearth of Cuba is often overlooked by travellers, as there are cities nearby with more picture perfect sights. Sancti Spiritus, however, proves to be an ideal spot to learn how normal Cubans spend their Sunday.

Who fantasizes about Cuba, will probably think about rum, salsa and incredible music; shopping isn’t the first thing to come to mind when thinking about this communistic country, which is more famous for its notoriously empty shops than for it’s well stocked malls. Therefore, it is even more surprizing to stumble into a shopping Walhalla just outside Sancti Spiritus. It is nothing fancy, but many malls in Europe can learn a lot from this “Feria Agropecuaria” in terms of atmosphere. People from all over the region come on Sundays to this fairground to shop at the hundreds of market stalls. Most agricultural activities in Cuba are done through cooperatives which have to sell their produce mainly to the government at fixed prices. The government distributes the products over the country and determines the price that consumers have to pay. Nowadays, cooperatives are allowed to sell ten percent of their produce on their own and this “Feria Agropecuaria” is one of the sale channels that they use. Selling vegetables, fruit and meat is only one of the functions of this fair; it’s also an open air party ground. When arriving at ten o’clock in the morning, people are already dancing on extremely load music that fills the air through enormous load speakers. People not only dance, they also drink. Alcoholic beverages are a lot cheaper in these kind of venues than in other places in Cuba. While a can of beer often costs around 90 eurocents in Cuba, here you can buy 700 millilitre of a draft variant for 12 eurocents. Rum is also heavily consumed against a price of 2 euro per litre.

The agricultural fair is a place for Cubans to buy their food directly from the cooperations

When the risk of permanent ear damage becomes all too real, we walk to the city centre of Sancti Spiritus. Festive music appears out of one of the colonial buildings where a salsa band is playing. People invite us to come inside, to listen to the music and to admire their abilities on the dancefloor, which is filled with people. It seems as if we are the only ones with locked hips; probably because we are the only non-Cubans around. In The Netherlands, the dancefloor is mainly used by girls and women, because many men are convinced that “real men” don’t dance. In Cuban culture this is nonsense. Men, women, young, old, fat or skinny: everybody who can stand on their feet lets their hips shake with a beaming smile on their face. North Europeans, like ourselves, will also be surprized that people of all ages have no problem to dance in an exotic and sexy way. Fat ladies with hair rollers and multiple muffin tops piling over their tight fitting trousers, dance just as seductive as her beautiful sixteen-year-old daughter. For us, it is even more remarkable that the daughter finds this completely normal. A Dutch counterpart would probably hide herself in a corner, feeling miserable due to the shameless appearance of her mother.

The agricultural fair is a popular day out. Not only buying food, but also drinking and dancing

On the central square of Sancti Spiritus, local couples and families also gather to enjoy their Sunday together. People are bringing their own rum to the square. Rum fuels the good atmosphere on the square as it is highly effective to get drunk and it is easily sharable with everybody that stops by to make a chat. Plastic cups are passed over to each other and laughter fills the square. Cubans really seem to know that there is a time to work and a time to enjoy yourself. The Sunday is definitely a day for the latter: it’s a day to drink strong rum, to listen to great music and to dance like there is no tomorrow.

Most stalls do not have a lot of different products for sale
A locally brewed beer. The cheapest you can get in Cuba.
Waiting for customers
Every cooperation has its own market stall
The city centre of Sancti Spiritus

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