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You may have heard about the town of Trinidad in Cuba, but chances are you haven’t heard about Remedios.
Trinidad is a tourist hotspot and rightly so. It’s considered one of the finest colonial towns in the Americas, which is why it’s been named a world UNESCO Heritage site.
Now, picture Trinidad without the cobblestones and the mass of tourists. That’s Remedios. It’s Trinidad-lite.
Remedios is one of Cuba’s oldest towns, founded in 1515, at about the same time as Trinidad. It was originally a coastal town, but the residents were tired of being harassed by marauding pirates, so they moved inland. Now, it’s 5 kilometres from the northern coast in the province of Villa Clara.
On a recent visit as part of a tour with Sunwing Vacations , it felt like Remedios offered a slice of daily life in Cuba, away from the typical tourist track.
Church of San Juan Bautista
The Spanish colonial church on the main square in Remedios is probably the main draw for the tourists who do come here.
It’s the second oldest in the country, although it’s hard to describe exactly how old it is. The stone floor dates back to 1550, but most of the current chapel was built in the mid-1700s.
The interior is surprising study in contrasts. It’s relatively austere, with the exception of a high gilded altar and a mahogany ceiling. The result is that they really stand out. Thankfully, these two features were restored in the 1940s. At one point, the golden altar had been covered in white paint so the nasty pirates wouldn’t notice the value that lies beneath.
Party like it’s 1820
Although Remedios appears to be a sleepy little town, its 20,000 residents let loose at the annual Christmas festival, known as “Las Parrandas de Remedios”.
The tradition is said to have started in 1820 as something of a marketing ploy. The local priest was concerned about church attendance. He encouraged children to take to the streets and wake up the citizens using a variety of noisemakers, so that they had no other choice than to get up and attend mass.
Now, it’s a noisy party that attracts visitors from all over the world. The event features a big competition among neighbourhoods who build massive floats, along with brass bands and fireworks. Ironically, the ensuing hangovers are not likely helping with the turnout at morning mass at festival time.
Transportation like it’s 1950
If you like the old cars in Havana, you’ll see some of those in Remedios too, although I’m not sure that any of them were taxis.
If it’s a ride that you need, you can always try waiting at the horse and buggy stop, along with the other local residents.
Quiet streets and lunch spots
The real charm of the town is to be found in wandering the streets off the main square, lined with faded colonial buildings.
I wandered by a school and then into a library and was invited to take a look at the books. Some friendly patients waved to me from inside a clinic. As noon approached, some residents were wrapping up their morning chores and a few fellows were installed in the local watering hole.
Restaurants, both basic and elegant, prepared for the afternoon meal.
It’s Trinidad, before the tourists arrived, and well worth a day trip for an authentic small town experience in Cuba.
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