Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Festival of the Virgin- San Clemente

The Festival of the Virgin takes place in San Clemente every year on September 8th. This is a time when the people celebrate the Virgin of Charity of Copper, a patroness of Cuba.The Virgin of Charity is a statue of the Virgin Mary on the mining town of El Cobre, Cuba. It is said a slave boy and two Indians in 1608 were hanging out on the coast and saw something floating in the water. It was a statue of Mary holding baby Jesus on a board with the inscription, "I am the Virgin of Charity."

Every year the festivities in San Clemente begin 9 days prior to the grand finale, where everyone gathers in the town center every night to pray and sing to the Virgin statue. People from all over the country come to celebrate all the festivities; the parade, singing and dancing, drinking, eating, shopping and the morning of the last day is the fisherman fiesta on the water.

Yes, that is a donkey painted like a Zebra! A man dressed as a black woman!

It was very interesting for me to go to the town center and witness a night of the praying. Chairs are put in a circle around the statue in the center of town and little girls in pink and white dresses go up to the microphone to say prayers. Then they sing and food is given to all who have come.

The fun part was all the partying! Unfortunately, I had lost my voice a few days prior to all the fun, so it was pretty difficult talking, let alone talking in Spanish! There were so many tiendas (small stores) set up along with a big inflatable slides for all the kids. Everyone just danced in the streets all night long and the bands were so loud you could hear them all the way down to my place (about .5 mile away). A few friends of a friend came and showed Megan and I how to traditionally dance, it was fun! The streets were just completely filled with could barely walk!

Before all the partying there was a parade that last almost 5 hours! It had really funny floats and then some really cool bands too. Each school in the area was to participate. Even the hotel employees walked in the parade! The bands were amazing...I am including some videos of them at the bottom of this blog! Enjoy!

On the morning of the Saturday of the final fiesta, everyone gets up early and see's the fisherman off to sea. They have a prayer to the Patroness of Fisherman and then they all sail out to sea. All day long there are small boats carrying people back and forth to the large fishing boats. There is just one big party after the next on the ships. These people know how to party! They party for ANY reason! I missed the farewell was WAY too early in the morning, especially after a long night of partying.

Some of my favorite people!

This boat is all decorated and ready to take people out to the big fishing boat!

Yes that is a snow cone machine!!

The weekend ended perfectly!

NEW: Bahia Bridge....I traveled with Santiago to the new bridge they are building in Bahia. In a few short months the new bridge will replace a lot of jobs in the area. You see, for the longest time the only way of getting over to San Vicente from Bahia were the ferries. The ferry ride was $.25 to get a mile to the other side and the ferry also held vehicles as well. This new bridge is going to change life for Ecuadorians in Bahia. It is going to expand business as well as tourisim. I got lucky and was able to take a tour with the construction manager of the cement portion. Santiago and I had some fun taking pics of the new bridge!

The bike/walking ramp.

The temporary sign introducing the bridge!

The beginning of the bridge on the Bahia side.

Me, sporting the hard hat.

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