LIFESTYLE

Hee Haw! Cuban cowboys trying to bring western culture to island

Cuban cowboys celebrate the island's long-standing rural traditions with countryside games and dances.

In rural municipalities such as La Palma, in the westernmost province of Pinar del Rio, cultural councils have been promoting the revival of these rich and varied celebrations.

Games include a horseback competition in which galloping riders try to insert a small stick into a ring, known as a "sortija." There are also other kinds of games, both on and off horseback.

Local residents gather in a lush green field to watch the "sortija" race, cheering on the riders. Some spectators use umbrellas as shields against the intense Caribbean sun. A young woman on horseback chats with friends while young people gather beside a classic American car.

The rural celebrations are known as "El Guateque," which in local parlance means "The Big Party." There's always lots of music, singing and dancing.

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Local culinary specialties are displayed, along with books published by writers from the area. There is even a competition for singing poets.

And there are plenty of attractions for children, including old-fashioned games.

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