Ham for the Holidays


On Christmas Eve, the streets of Trinidad, Cuba became electric. Even more so than the usual. You couldn’t walk a half block without stumbling over a table filled with cakes, freshly cooked meat being carved up street side or people of all generations milling about, getting that last little thing for the family gathering that night. Restaurants proudly displayed their goods; as you can see above, the pig was recently butchered and the turkey behind it had to be quivering under those feathers. When we got back to Casa Yami y Carlos, we were treated to the largest meal of white fish from the sea, beans & rice, plantain fritters, fresh fruit & salads, cakes, breads and rum we’ve ever seen. We joined our host family in celebrating the holidays their way and it was fantastic.

It was a Christmas free of commercialism, free of capitalism for the most part and decidedly ambivalent towards religion. Sure, the cathedral had a midnight mass, but the choir was drowned out by 1) the open air night club behind the place, 2) the huge Salsa party happening on the steps next to the church and 3) the general camaraderie amongst the people in the square. It all made for 1) a deep reflection on how cultures mark their holidays , 2) an open, warm celebration for all ages and 3) one great party. This was my second Christmas in another country – Argentine Patagonia was a few years ago – and it’s a very interesting & fulfilling time to become one with the people hosting you in their town.

Trinidad, Cuba, 2011.

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