My Cuba

Jose Enrique Jimenez Gomez: Cuba’s El Presidente

Every Christmas, fierce rivalry between Remedios’ two neighbourhoods erupts into a festival called “Las Parrandas”.

Each year on December 24, the sleepy central Cuban town of Remedios comes to life as the two sides of it engage in a showdown – a battle to outdo each other in a carnival-come-festival called “Las Parrandas” with the wildest fireworks and the most elaborate float and light displays.

Competing in this means working every day, not sleeping. We are trying to do it better than the opponent, trying to beat him, and that takes money, work, sacrifice. But the winner takes the triumph of the people.

by Jose Enrique Jimenez Gomez, leader of El Carmen neighbourhood

The two neighbourhoods of El Carmen, whose symbol is a hawk and globe, and San Salvador, whose emblem is a rooster, are arch rivals. The teams spend most of the year preparing.

Jose Enrique Jimenez Gomez, 47, is leading the charge for El Carmen this year.

He has been competing since he was a child and led the neighbourhood from 1987 to 2007. But El Carmen has suffered a five-year run of humiliating defeats, and now he has been asked to return to try to lead the team to victory. He is determined to restore El Carmen’s reputation. 

“This is war,” he says, one morning on his way to his team’s headquarters – a warehouse where they have been secretly preparing a colourful, glittering float, which will be moved to the central plaza on the day of the competition.

We follow Jimenez and his team as they prepare for the event. Will he be able to turn things around? The people will decide.

See more from Al Jazeera English’s My Cuba series here