Dancing with La Conga de Los Hoyos

“This is a neighborhood of traditions”, Bandera tells Cubasi, when speaking about the famous neighborhood of Los Hoyos. “Here the children sing since they are born. It’s the only neighborhood where people from other places do not come to play”.

It was July 25, 1902 in full carnival that for the first time was played the La Conga de Los Hoyos in the eastern city. Since that day on it has been a myth.

Felix Bandera, his current director, joined the group through family influence, like the rest of the group members. He was ten years old when he began as post bearer, later he was choreographer, percussion director… and he only got separated from the Conga the time he spent on the military service.

After the death in 1999 of Sebastian Herrera Zapata (Chan), Bandera took over the direction of the group and with it also the activities carried out by the Cultural Group of the Conga of Los Hoyos.

“There –says Felix – we make community work. We prepare the children from the neighborhood to integrate them in the conga and schools come to visit us. University students also come by often to carry out thesis researches on the group and the neighborhood. That is really pleasing. So far all of them have earned their full points in their evaluations. The La Conga de Los Hoyos has a great history. When people think about the city they also think about us.”

The emblematic group has represented Cuba in several international events. In 1985 they visited Guyana and Barbados to celebrate with those countries their anniversaries on slavery abolition. In 1992 and 1994 they went to Cancun, Mexico. In that same year, some of the members of the group traveled to France, a country to which they returned in 1998 when the Soccer World Cup took place. In 2002 the rhythmic conga “disembarked” in the carnival of the Dominican Republic. They plan to do the same with the famous carnival of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, next February.

The famous conga not only reaches far beyond because of its musicality, it does also for the catchy refrains: One, two, three, four, make way that here comes the Cocoye (Uno, dos tres, abre que ahi viene el Cocoye); Mr. Watchman, why do you send me to sleep? Why do you send me to sleep?, with so many people in the streets and just one guard (Señor sereno por que me manda a dormir, con tanta genet en la calle y tiene que ser ami); May rain, it will rain…(Aguacero de mayo, agua que va a llover)

The group’s summoning power led by Felix Bandera is capable of gathering more than 20 000 people every year in a journey through the headquarters of its equals, like El Guayabito, Paso Franco, San Agustin, Pino Alto, and San Pedrito congas.

Most certainly the La Conga de Los Hoyos, as Felix Bandera affirms has influenced the lives of the people it represents. The old group is at its 108 years, reached on last July, a mirror of the neighborhood where it was born, with its culture, and traditions.

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