Learning about the Santeria is essential to understanding the Cuban culture. There is a special place in Central Havana you cannot miss if you want to see and feel the real thing when it comes to SanteriaIt is a narrow two-block long alley between Aramburu and Hospital streets, that has become a shrine to Afro-Cuban religions through the art created by Salvador González.
The neighborhood where Hamel’s Alley is located very different from the other parts of Havana tourists often see. Much more rustic, rundown with buildings in various states of disrepair.
The alley is a treasure for photographers. This two block area is a phenomenal Afro-Cuban community art project, and an example of how a simple idea can transform a rundown place into a creative explosion of color, culture and art.
Entire four-story buildings are painted in a burst of color and designs reaching all the way to the sky. Whimsical sculptures are made out of recycled antiques into works of art. Inspiring quotes and saying are painted into the walls.
If you visit the place in a Sunday afternoon it will be probably filled with locals and tourists alike listening to live Rumba music and dancing.
A small Santeria store inside Hamel’s Alley offers special herbs, beads and deities based on the Santeria religion. But there is no religious proselytism there; the project only tries to divulge some of the symbols of cultures and religions of African origin, such as Santeria, Palo de Monte and the Abakua society, through theatrical stagings.
“The project emerged in 1990, on April 21, 1990, to be exact, when Salvador decided to paint his first mural in a public space in front of his house. In 1989, he had already painted a mural in Old Havana’s Casa de Africa.
Besides the murals, there are interesting sculptures made out of antiques and other recycled objects such as bathtubs, typewriters and even old cars. Nothing goes to waste in Hamel’s Alley.