Category: Markets / Finance / January 2, 2013 5:01 PM EST
Cubans in Havana welcomed the New Year with a memorable performance by Los Van Van on Monday (January 1) at a celebration marking the 54th anniversary of the uprising that brought former President Fidel Castro to power on January 1, 1959.
The ailing Castro was succeeded by his brother, Raul Castro, in 2008.
The younger Castro has ushered in a number of landmark market-oriented reforms to the Soviet-style economy in an effort to modernize the system.
Supporters here said they stand by the 54-year-old revolution and the bassist and director of the Van Van Orchestra, Juan Formell, said they were there to celebrate the anniversary alongside the thousands in attendance.
"We are going to enjoy it and dance and we are going to show how much we love Van Van and the Cuban Revolution," Formell said.
The Latin Grammy-winning band performed as the crowd danced in the street to the Caribbean beats reminiscent of their earlier works from the 80s and 90s.
"I think [the revolution] will last more than 54 years with all the effort, the emphasis, the drive that these people truly have and which gets better every day," said Vivian Rodriguez, who attended the performance.
Similar celebrations were held in cities and towns across the island to mark the 1959 revolution that transformed the Caribbean island into a communist state 90 miles (145 km) from U.S. shores.
The government's free market reforms introduced over the last two years, are designed to encourage small businesses, private farming and individual initiative, along with plans to pay state workers more.
"Fifty-four years [of revolution] and I think it will last a bit longer because there are things that still come up, that continue to happen. The world is changing, this is going to change a bit," said tourism worker Javier Suarez Gonzalez.
While many Cubans hail their government's achievements in education and health, many yearn for a better life, more freedom and much more than the $20 they earn on average each month.