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The Truth Revealed
series: Cuba's Secret Side
air date: 2/26/13 4:00 AM
The Truth Revealed looks beyond the politics and propaganda at the Cubans themselves. People like Adolpho, a tobacco farmer who had open-heart surgery ten years ago and still tends his fields. Or Marco, who walks for miles each day, his operatic voice enticing villagers to buy his cilantro and hot peppers. Both live in rural villages where time moves more slowly and people look out for each other. Although Castro confiscated all land shortly after the Revolution, the Cuban government has since started allowing farmers to sell their excess harvest, and private food stands have popped up all over Cuba. Castro once tried - unsuccessfully - to eradicate religion in Cuba. Cubans still show their faith every year at the festival of San Lazaro. Many pilgrims crawl six miles to the church. Others drag rocks or suffer even more drastic penances. But Catholicism isn't the only religion in Cuba. Santeria - an African belief brought to Cuba with the slave trade - is practiced by over half the population. Hilda is a Santeria priestess and a devout Catholic. After hosting a huge Christmas dinner, she opens up her home to a secret Santeria celebration, complete with drums and dancing - and a spiritual possession. But as much as Cubans love their faith, they also love to laugh and entertain themselves. You'll find a game of dominoes on almost every street corner and the kids have their own hilariously Cuban version of Monopoly. They play to win and they're just as capitalist as their Yankee counterparts. That's a good thing, since the Cuban government is privatizing over a million jobs in Cuba. Manuel repairs shoes on a Havana street corner, and barely makes ends meet. And yet when his customers don't bother to pick up their shoes, he doesn't sell them - he gives them away. It's capitalism, Cuban style - with a human touch. Cubans are avid fishermen, and on any sunny morning you can find Jose fishing on Havana's waterfront. He owns almost no equipment and only two pairs of shorts, yet cheerfully shares his catch with anyone who comes along. Spear fishermen patrol the same waters, using homemade guns and occasionally catching enormous - and toothy - barracuda. A few really brave souls use blocks of Styrofoam to paddle several miles out to sea each morning in search of bigger catch. Their "boats" - barely larger than bathtubs - only last a few months so they often take them home for repairs. This time they've borrowed an old drill and can't get it to work, but they don't get angry. If there's one thing the Cubans have learned over the past 50 years, it's patience. But to really find out what makes Cubans tick, you have to visit Remedios during their annual fireworks festival. For nine months a year it's a sleepy little town, but in September the place splits into two teams - San Salvador and Carmen - and both sides prepare for war. They build enormous floats and complicated light walls, all run by century-old machines. Women design costumes and men make thousands of homemade firecrackers. Rusty tractors haul carefully concealed pieces of floats through back streets. And finally, the big day arrives... The square erupts with games, food, and rides. For the children, this beats Christmas hands down. The men enjoy themselves in baseball pitching challenges and patronize the local beer trucks. Everyone dances and gorges themselves. But this year Team Carmen is in trouble. The fireworks have already started and they haven't finished wiring up their light wall. There's a short somewhere, and they can't find it. And then - amazingly - the other side sends a team of men to help. Within minutes, the machines rumble to life and the competition is on. It looks more like World War lll than a festival - falling ash as thick as snow and fireworks going off in the middle of the spectators. The men use the burning debris to light their cigars, which they then in turn use to light more fireworks. The fuses are unreliable, to say the least. When they reach their grand finale, they ring the entire square with 20,000 fireworks and set them off in an unstoppable explosion. And then the festival begins. Dancing, tattoos, rides, and food. Towards midnight the floats make their grand entrance, and by morning Remedios is once again a sleepy little town. So who won the competition? Everyone has an opinion, but in the end they all agree. The town won - Cuba won - because a good time was had by all.
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