Yesterday we went to the Regla Museum in the morning. It's a small museum, but it's really interesting because it explains the Santeria religion, which is a mix of Catholicism and African religions. Each god (oricha) has its own animal, colors and a saint with which it's syncretized. I remember that in Miami (in Little Havana) I asked Pepe why there were so many rooster sculptures, and now I know that it's because of the influence of Santeria. Several of the "warrior orichas" are connected with the rooster, including Eleggua, who is syncretized with the Holy Spirit.
The most important ceremony in Santeria is called the Ceremonia de Santos. The person has to stay in a room for seven days, eating there, sleeping there, etc. They can't leave for the full seven days. After the ceremony they have to wear only white clothing (including umbrellas!), abstain from sexual relations, avoid attending funerals and contact with people outside the religion of Santeria for a whole year. A padrino also gives them a saint and rules for the rest of their life. For example, if they say you can't eat chocolate or have sex, you can never do that for the rest of your life. I knew that Pepe was going to have a ceremony while we are here but this ceremony seems to complex to do now. I asked him and he said that he needs a different ceremony first, in which he receives a silver rooster (we saw some at the museum), but he couldn't go out for three days so he isn't going to do it now.
I asked Sarai when people usually have the week-long ceremony (I've seen quite a few men and women all in white around Havana) and she said that it depends. Sometimes if a baby or child is really sick and the medicine doesn't help, the parents may dedicate them to a santo/oricha and do the ceremony at that age. She also told me that she's atheist but that almost everyone in Cuba practices Santeria.
After the museum we went to Playa Santa Maria del Mar. The Cubans we've asked said that this is the best of the Playas del Este. I think it might be the best in the world.
I had always thought that the pictures of beaches on postcards or calendars were fake, but it turns out they do exist, and they're in Cuba. The sand was white, the water was clear, blue and the perfect temperature, and the people and the beach were pretty and fun. And, like all places in Cuba, the music was fantastic!
We spent three hours there and didn't want to leave because it was so beautiful. Unfortunately, I got sunburnt at the beach, especially on my arms and shoulders. However, we still want to go to the beach as often as we can while we are here.
I also learned yesterday that Madison is pregnant. I guess now she has to stop smoking and drinking while in Cuba! After the beach Madison and I went to La Rampa again and then, because we already had on our bathing suits, we decided to go to Hotel Capri and swim in the pool on the roof there. I thought my guidebook had listed that as one of the places you can swim without being a guest for a price. However, Madison and I just took the elevator to the top floor and used the pool without paying anything. :) The pool felt really good on our sunburns and the views were really great from up there! We had pina coladas (virgin for Madison) and enjoyed the pool (and the sunset from the roof) a lot.
But then we had to go to Old Havana because we were meeting up with the other girls to celebrate Madison's newly-discovered pregnancy. We took a Coco Taxi after arriving in Old Havana and found the restaurant--Paladar Dona Eutimia. We arrived a few minutes after 8:30 but the other girls didn't come until 9:30. A little bit after they arrived, I left because I felt sick. My throat hurts and I'm starting to get a cough. I'm really tired and my sunburn is hurting me too. That's why I didn't write last night; when I got home all I did was put aloe vera on my shoulders and sleep!