Havana: Africa Meets Cuba in Callejon de Hamel

When Africans were brought as slaves to the New World, one of the traditions they brought was their religion.

In Cuba, this religious tradition is known as Santeria and it exists side by side with Catholicism. Each Sunday afternoon, Callejon de Hamel, a block-long shrine to Santeria located between Aramburu and Hospital Streets in Havana comes alive with rumba music and dancing.

Callejon de Hamel Mural

Artist, Salvador Gonzalez, whose studio is located in the middle of the Callejon has been creating these artworks, sculptures and murals since the 1990s. Now the entire block is awash in vibrant colors.

Statue from Callejon de Hamel

Callejon de Hamel underscores the significance of Santeria to Cubans.

Statue in Callejon de Hamel
Mural in Callejon de Hamel
Another statue
Callejon doll

This doll was embedded in the ground near the entrance to Callejon de Hamel.

with artist Salvador Gonzalez

A friend who had met Salvador in Havana more than 10 years ago, gushed that I had to meet him. She didn’t know if he’s still be there 10 years later and I didn’t know that Callejon de Hamel was where his studio is located or that he was the artist behind the sculptures I was looking at. But something about the work made me think of him, so I asked and was shown his studio. He wasn’t there. But my friend, Lett and I, hung around admiring his paintings. Luckily, just as we were getting ready to leave, he showed up and graciously agreed to take this photo. Of course, I had to tell him about my friend who had spoken so glowingly about him.

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23 comments on “Havana: Africa Meets Cuba in Callejon de Hamel

  1. Thanks, Mozes. Can you believe, a Sony digital? I’m looking to upgrade to a DSLR – hopefully, before my next trip.

  2. I may be 18, but I’ve taken a lot of photography classes in my day. Do you know how to use a DSLR? A few filters here, some contrast there, and I think your photos would be the best around!

  3. Well, your writing and point of view are quite mature for someone your age — you seem pretty level headed.
    No, I don’t. But I used to own an SLR and I’ll give myself a crash course. Thanks for the tip. I’ll keep that in mind.

  4. These are some great shot of Havana. My husband wants us to that a trip down.
    As for your camera it is a good investment to get a SLR, I have three nikon ones.

  5. Thanks, Polly. You should definitely take a trip. Stayed at a B+B, met some wonderful people, ate a lot, drank a lot, danced a lot. Spent a week in Havana and still didn’t see everything I wanted to. Can’t wait to go back.
    Yes, I’m planning to get one. I had a Canon before so I’ll probably stick with that. I like the Nikon — it was a toss up. I settled on getting the Canon because I think I read that I can still use some of the lenses I had on my old camera.
    How’s Kingston today?

  6. Hey Marcia, sorry I didn’t get back to you yesterday but this is really a great post. I love the photos, especially the one at the end of you and the artist Salvador Gonzalez. I want to travel more but things are a bit on the tight side right now. But I can live through your photos and adventures.

    I meant to ask how many hours are you ahead or behind me? It is 1120am here in Chicago. Talk soon.

  7. Not a problem, Cheryl. I’ll be working at home today (Thurs) and tomorrow, we can chat anytime. Are you on Skype? If you are, look me up. I’m in NYC – an hour ahead of you. I love to travel, can’t wait for my next trip – London. I’ll gladly share my travels with you.
    What are you working on now?

  8. No I’m not on Skype. I’m not the most tech-savvy person in the world. LOL I shy away from most tech stuff so everyone was surprised when I decided to start my blog. 🙂

    Okay, well hello New York. And London? My cousin absolutely adores London, I can’t get him to stop talking about it. He wants to move there but I told him he can’t leave me behind. I look forward to hearing about your travels.

    Right now I’m working on trying to find work, unfortunately. I’m trying to start a freelance writing business but it is not easy right now to find ANY type of work in this economy. I’ll spare you the details. I’m also finishing my bachelor’s degree in creative writing. So I’m trying to keep as busy as possible. I’m glad we buddied up because it helps to see others writing and outlook on things. I’m going to be adding photos to my blog soon. Stay tuned.

    What about you, what are you working on?

  9. Get on Skype, that way when your cousin moves to London you can chat everyday without breaking the bank!

    Anyway, I know what you mean about the economy — it sucks but there are still some opportunities out there. As I tell people all the time: you’re only looking for one job. Plus, it calls for a different kind of thinking. All the old ways of doing things are falling by the wayside — it’s a great time to do something different. What exactly do you mean by freelance writing business? Will you be doing the writing yourself or will you contract it out? How will you find clients, what kinds of clients would you write for, what kinds of writing would you plan to do?

    I’ve thought many times about doing a MFA but never got myself in gear to do it. Now, I’m ready for something else.

    London’s nice but I hate the weather. I couldn’t survive in a place that’s overcast or rainy 6 days out of 7. I need sun! But I love going there. This will be my third visit and I might time it to coincide with the London Book Fair that takes place during the first week of April. Will decide in a few days. I’m also hoping to take the chunnel over to Paris – I’ve always wanted to do that.

    What am I working on now? Well, besides the blog, I’m re-writing a client’s memoir. It’s a lot of work. She originally dictated it to someone else so now I’m working it into a story. That’s what I should be working on but writing about my travels is way more fun!
    So back to the manuscript.
    Chat later!

  10. I just recently got skype, and it’s amazing being able to video chat with 2 friends at the same time even though we’re at different parts of the United States.

    My dream job would probably be writing for magazines, but like you said, Cheryl, “it’s hard finding any type of work” especially a writing job.

    I also wanted blog buddies for the same reason, looking how other people write really helps me with my own writing, so I’m thinking of trying different types of writing in my blog later.

    Marcia, I think London would probably be a great match for me, I love cloudy days and rain, which is why I was considering going to college in Washington. I’d still like to visit Washington one day, it’s on my bucket list somewhere.

  11. I love, love, love Skype! With friends and family all over the place, it was expensive to keep up with them. Skype made that all possible. It’s the best way to stay in touch.

    What kinds of magazines would you want to write for? And would that be freelance or on staff? With more and more magazines cutting back, not sure what kind of job you’d be able to find and writing content for other established blogs doesn’t pay much, sometimes nothing. But there’s money to be made — the Huffington Post and the Daily Beast were both sold for millions of dollars so people are willing pay for your content and readers/followers, which is what these blogging behemoths have.

    Oh, Mozes, cloudy days depress me. One good thing about London – the nightlife. It rocks!

  12. I’d most likely do freelance, because I don’t like to be told to write something. If it interest me, then I’ll write about it, and since I want to write about it, then I want it to be good. I think it’s difficult to make something you have no interest in a good piece of writing because you have no vision as to what it should look like, sound like etc. As for the type of magazine, that’s a very good question. Since many magazines have a very specific focus, it’s hard to write for a lot of them because I don’t know a thing about fishing, gardening, or being a mother for example.

    Working for Reader’s digest would be great, and maybe even National Geographic, that’d be really cool too. But for now, I guess I’ll just have to find one I’ll excel writing for and maybe get a few opinion/feature pieces for local newspapers until then.

    I’ve heard of people making money with blog, but you gotta be a major blogging star for something like that. I have no intention of making money off blogging, but… it would be nice if something like that happened.

    Today’s blog is about newspapers, ironically, so be sure to check out when you get a chance.

  13. Well, you can start with opinion pieces – I don’t think they pay for those though. Also, look at magazines you read now or like to read to see how their articles are written. What are your interests? Start there and find magazines and other publications that are looking for people.

    National Geographic would be a fabulous publication to work for! You should check it out and see what kinds of writers they’re looking for.

    I wouldn’t sneeze at using my blog to make money but I’m not there yet.

    I’d love to hear what you have to say about newspapers.

  14. I don’t agree — when you are an experienced writer you’ll be able to write about anything, anytime.

  15. Hi Marcia, sorry I’m just checking back in but I had a class. You’re right, you definitely have to look at the job market differently. It is not as simple as it used to be. In answer to your questions, I would write the articles myself but I haven’t figured out how to find clients. I’ve been using just word of mouth right now and pointing people to any clips I’ve written for a couple of websites. I’m still new at all of this so I’ve been trying to learn as much as I can. Any ideas you might have would be welcomed. The workshop I’m taking right now is on the Business of Freelancing so that is helping me with pitching ideas and markets. Right now my writing has been mostly literary but I’d like to get into some consumer writing as well. A lot of my classmates are going for an MFA but I’m not ready for that just yet. 🙂 I think I saw your professional blog yesterday, you’re in writing and publishing, right?

    Yeah, I know what you mean. I can take a few days of gloominess but then I need some sunshine. The London Book Fair sounds like fun. I hope you make it. Your 3rd visit, huh? That’s really so cool. I think my cousin has been about that many times and never gets tired of it.

    Re-writing a memoir sounds like a lot of work. I would love to have a big project like that to work on though. I’ve had a few projects come up since December but just small stuff. I need a really long project to keep me occupied for a while.

    Well, I hope you had a good, productive day. I’m off to find something to snack on and then to bed. Busy day tomorrow. I look forward to hearing more about your travels. We’ll talk in the evening.

  16. Hey Cheryl,
    Just thought I’d check in before going to bed and saw your response. Let’s chat tomorrow and I can see what ideas come up. Would 4 pm your time work? There’s a weekend symposium on James Baldwin here — started tonight but couldn’t go, want to check it out tomorrow so 4 your time would work for me. Let’s chat then if it’s good for you.

  17. Hey Marcia, 4pm should work but I will let you know if it will be later (I have an appointment that should be done at 330p but I’ll let you know for sure). If you are busy after 4pm then we can talk whenever you have time. I appreciate your time and assistance. Look forward to talking to you.

  18. Afternoon, Marcia, I’m back home and 4p works out fine for me. Hope you got a chance to go to the James Baldwin symposium. That sounds like such fun. I love his work. You want to chat here or via email? Either way is fine with me. Talk later.

  19. Hi Cheryl,
    The symposium starts at 7, that’s why I thought 4 (5 for me) would work. You’re not on Skype, right?
    Let’s chat by phone then. 646-290-9212.

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