Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 27 December 2014

Havana great time: Cuba parties to celebrate revolution’s 50th anniversary

A dancer performs during the 50th anniversary celebration of the Cuban Revolution at the main plaza in Santiago, Cuba Thursday Jan. 1, 2009. Fifty years after triumphant armed rebels took power, Cuba celebrated the revolution's anniversary Thursday with toned-down festivities following a trio of devastating hurricanes and under the enduring public absence of an ailing Fidel Castro. (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills)
Dancers perform during the 50th anniversary celebration of the Cuban Revolution at the main plaza in Santiago, Cuba Thursday Jan. 1, 2009. Fifty years after triumphant armed rebels took power, Cuba celebrated the revolution's anniversary Thursday with toned-down festivities following a trio of devastating hurricanes and under the enduring public absence of an ailing Fidel Castro.(AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills)
Cuban army officers chant revolutionary slogans during the 50th anniversary celebration of the Cuban Revolution at the main plaza in Santiago, Cuba Thursday Jan. 1, 2009. Fifty years after triumphant armed rebels took power, Cuba celebrated the revolution's anniversary Thursday with toned-down festivities following a trio of devastating hurricanes and under the enduring public absence of an ailing Fidel Castro.(AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills)
The President of Cuba, Raul Castro speaks during the 50th anniversary celebration of the Cuban Revolution at the main plaza in Santiago, Cuba, Thursday Jan. 1, 2009. Fifty years after triumphant armed rebels took power, Cuba celebrated the revolution's anniversary Thursday with toned-down festivities following a trio of devastating hurricanes and under the enduring public absence of an ailing Fidel Castro. (AP Photo/Ismael Francisco/Prensa Latina)
Dancers perform during the 50th anniversary celebration of the Cuban Revolution at the main plaza in Santiago, Cuba Thursday Jan. 1, 2009. Fifty years after triumphant armed rebels took power, Cuba celebrated the revolution's anniversary Thursday with toned-down festivities following a trio of devastating hurricanes and under the enduring public absence of an ailing Fidel Castro.(AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills)
The President of Cuba, Raul Castro speaks during the 50th anniversary celebration of the Cuban Revolution at the main plaza in Santiago, Cuba, Thursday Jan. 1, 2009. Fifty years after triumphant armed rebels took power, Cuba celebrated the revolution's anniversary Thursday with toned-down festivities following a trio of devastating hurricanes and under the enduring public absence of an ailing Fidel Castro. (AP Photo/Ismael Francisco/Prensa Latina)
People chant revolutionary slogans during the 50th anniversary celebration of the Cuban Revolution at the main plaza in Santiago, Cuba Thursday Jan. 1, 2009. Fifty years after triumphant armed rebels took power, Cuba celebrated the revolution's anniversary Thursday with toned-down festivities following a trio of devastating hurricanes and under the enduring public absence of an ailing Fidel Castro. (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills)
The President of Cuba, Raul Castro speaks during the 50th anniversary celebration of the Cuban Revolution at the main plaza in Santiago, Cuba, Thursday Jan. 1, 2009. Fifty years after triumphant armed rebels took power, Cuba celebrated the revolution's anniversary Thursday with toned-down festivities following a trio of devastating hurricanes and under the enduring public absence of an ailing Fidel Castro. (AP Photo/Ismael Francisco/Prensa Latina)
People listen to a speech during the 50th Anniversary celebration of the Cuban Revolution at the main plaza in Santiago, Cuba, Thursday Jan. 1, 2009. (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills)
The President of Cuba, Raul Castro, speaks during the 50th anniversary celebration of the Cuban Revolution at the main plaza in Santiago, Cuba, Thursday Jan. 1, 2009. (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills)
Jose Rivera Castillo, 72, center, a veteran of the Rebel Army shouts slogans during the 50th Anniversary celebration of the Cuban Revolution at the main plaza in Santiago, Cuba, Thursday Jan. 1, 2009. (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills)
A woman watches the 50th Anniversary of the Revolution ceremony on television in her home decorated with a photograph of Cuba's leader Fidel Castro in Havana, Thursday, Jan.1, 2009. Fifty years after triumphant armed rebels descended from the eastern mountains, communist Cuba celebrated the revolution's anniversary Thursday with toned-down festivities after a trio of devastating hurricanes and under the enduring public absence of an ailing Fidel Castro. (AP Photo/Javier Galeano)
A boy watches the 50th Anniversary of the Revolution ceremony on television in his home decorated with a photograph of Cuba's leader Fidel Castro in Havana, Thursday, Jan. 1, 2009. Fifty years after triumphant armed rebels descended from the eastern mountains, communist Cuba celebrated the revolution's anniversary Thursday with toned-down festivities after a trio of devastating hurricanes and under the enduring public absence of an ailing Fidel Castro. (AP Photo/Javier Galeano)
A man carries a dead pig over his shoulder to be cooked for new year's dinner in Havana, Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2008. Cuba will also celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1959 revolution on Jan. 1, 2009. (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills)

Fifty years after triumphant armed rebels descended from the eastern mountains, communist Cuba celebrated the revolution’s anniversary with toned-down festivities following a trio of devastating hurricanes and under the enduring public absence of an ailing Fidel Castro.

Although Fidel Castro continued convalescing in private, the festivities were filled with nostalgia and praise of the bearded rebel leader known as the "Leader of the Revolution."

His brother, President Raul Castro, predicted the revolution would survive another 50 years, "that will also be of permanent struggle".

The celebrations, including dances and concerts across the island, belied the start of a year infused with possibilities for increased cash and visitors, and other changes that might ease Cubans’ daily hardships.

Many hope for improved relations with the United States when President-elect Barack Obama takes office on January 20 following declarations he would talk directly with Raul Castro and lift severe restrictions on family travel and remittances to the island.

"I hope he gets rid of the blockade," 42-year-old Ana Luisa Mas said as she bought a pork leg for her family’s New Year’s Eve celebration, referring to decades-old US trade sanctions.

"We are very hopeful that with Obama our relatives will be able to visit us more, and send us more money," she said, manoeuvring through hundreds of shoppers packed inside the enclosed Cuatro Caminos farmers market, rushing to buy black beans and rice, salad greens and other New Year’s Eve dinner standbys.

"We also hope that Fidel will stay with us a little bit longer," Ms Mas added.

Raul Castro, who succeeded his older brother in February, quoted extensively from his brother as he spoke from the same balcony where Fidel declared victory over dictator Fulgencio Batista’s government.

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