El Callejón de Hamel, a funky alleyway located near the University of Havana, is a visual marvel full of large colourful murals; unique shrines and sculptures; and innovative recycled-art installations. Created by artist Salvador Gonzalez Escalona in the early 1990s, this Afro-Cubano centre is the place to go on Sunday afternoons to experience rumba dancing and Santeria rituals. The best time to go is late morning/early afternoon (11am to 3pm ish) if you want to witness the calling of the Orishas (Santeria Deities).
The Santeria religion is a fusion of contrasting Roman Catholic and Yoruba beliefs. The Yoruba religion was brought from West Africa with the men and women who were captured as slaves and brought to the New World by the Spanish. Santeria integrates Yoruba practices: trances, sacred drumming and natural healing remedies with Catholic traditions like Baptism and Saint worship.
Santeria has endured a long reputation of being associated with evil witchcraft or Black Magic. In Colonial times in particular, many practitioners were persecuted and those who fought to keep the African heritage and traditions alive had to do so in secrecy to avoid often deadly consequences.
The alleyway, just 200 meters long, is an extension of Calle Animas in the Cayo Hueso neighbourhood. It was named after Fernando Belleau Hamel- a former resident and French/German expat (with US citizenship) who was known for his generosity to his workers and neighbours.
Has anyone else been here? What were your impressions? If you know of any other artsy alleyways that are worth a visit, please share!