By IRINA ECHARRY, photos: CARIDAD
HAVANA TIMES, April 24 – In the central Havana barrio of Cayo Hueso you’ll find a distinctive place where color and cheer light up the street. I’m referring to the Callejon de Hamel Afro-Cuban art project.
Its creator, Salvador Gonzalez Escalona, a painter, muralist and sculptor, is a sort of savior in the neighborhood. His walkway turns many heads toward the surroundings of the humble people who live there.
In 1990 he created this novel block-long art gallery, revitalizing the street in which children, workers, and common people in general can interact with the works that are displayed and the shows that are held for them.
A comment by Cuban researcher Fernando Ortiz reminds us that “All people who deny themselves are on the path to suicide,” and that seems to be the principle that guides Salvador Gonzalez, who doesn’t want us to forget where we came from.
On Sunday, April 19, the alley’s 19th anniversary was celebrated with the presence of Natalia Bolívar, a researcher and writer who is devoted to unraveling the world of Afro-Cuban culture and revealing its mysteries to us.
After a ceremonial ritual in front of the work dedicated to the Palo Monte religious order called Cruz del Sol, whose tremendous energy is known within the popular faith, there broke out the drums of Rumbatá, a rumba group from Camagüey province.
Guarapo (fresh sugar cane drink), beats and music set the day’s atmosphere, as a huge vat of soup was cooked for all. There was a mix of people dressed in white, fire, cigars, coal smoke, dancing, rum and a large public of Cubans and foreigners. Tito La Escuela, a young musician, took advantage of the opportunity to hawk his reggaeton disk, made in an underground studio.
Salvador, who was content with substantiating the success of his almost 20-year-old project, told us, “This it is an outstanding cultural achievement that defends the values of African-based culture and celebrates love.”
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