The villages and towns due east of Santa Clara  are renowned islandwide for parrandas, the noisy year-end revels that date back more than a century. The festival apparently began in Remedios  on Christmas Eve in 1822, when a zealous priest went through the streets making frightening noises meant to rouse the townspeople and scare them into attending midnight mass. The villagers took the fiesta-like din to heart and gradually evolved a classic Mardi Gras–type carnival celebrated during the days around Christmas and New Year’s.
Eventually the parrandas spread to the neighboring villages (14 communities now have parrandas). Fireworks were introduced and the revels developed into competitions—really, massive fireworks battles—to see who could make the loudest noise. Each of the villages divides into two rival camps represented by mascots: the Carmelitas of Remedios , for example, are represented by a gavilán (hawk), and the Sansacrices (from San Salvador) by a gallo (rooster).
The villagers invest ludicrous emotional value in their wars and spend months preparing in secret. Warehouses are stocked full of explosives and sawhorses studded with fireworks, and the final touches are put on the floats (trabajos de plaza) that will be pulled by field tractors around 3 a.m. Spies infiltrate the enemy camp. Even sabotage is not unknown.
The rivals take turns parading all through the night. Rum flows. The singing and dancing gather pace. Conga lines weave through town. Huge banners are waved, to be met by cheers or shouts of derision. ¡Viva la Loma! ¡Viva Guanijibes! The excitement builds as each neighborhood stages fireworks displays. The opposing sides alternately present their pyrotechnics. The streets are filled with deafening explosions from stovepipe mortars, rockets, and whirling explosives whizzing overhead and sometimes into the panicked crowd, and the smoke is so thick that you can barely see your way through the streets.
Finally, the wildest fireworks are unleashed and the fiesta culminates in an orgy of insane firepower. Pretty fireworks don’t earn points. The most relentless, voluminous bombast determines who wins.