Our second day in Havana included a bus tour. Lunch the previous day on the walking tour had been so good that we didn’t want to miss the potential Paladar lunch, since it was included, so we got on the bus. We really did and saw a lot that day but the last thing was really memorable and I was curious about it, so this post is a quick bunch of pictures of various activities of our day, and then the details of Callejon de Hamel,
The Hamel Alley!
By the time we got to the Hamel Alley, it was late in the day.
We had already been on a driving tour of Havana.
to a market
a Paladara for lunch
the fuckin hot cemetery – because we walked… some didn’t get out of the bus 🙁
and Revolution Square
We were tired
The bus pulled over again
We got out and were lead around the corner to Hamel Alley where we were greeted by a mulatto man with a funny accent.
He invited us into his museum. More like a small cave or a basement, where there were various artifacts on display. I didn’t take any photos there. I remember that it was dark. The air was stagnant and hot, we didn’t stay in there very long. I am always trying to understand what is going on at these places we go to. But I was not getting this one at all. Who were these people? What was their cause? What am I supposed to learn from this? The questions just kept coming…..
The alley was full of hand painted murals – that conveyed a message that I could not read.
Something was about to happen – there were chairs set up around a portico that was attached to one of the buildings. People were starting to gather there and the mulatto man arrived and started to talk. I could barely understand him. I decided that I would run video, as I would appreciate this much more, at a later date when I was not hot and exhausted. The man introduced each of four ladies dressed in costume, telling of characteristics and emotions that correlated with the color of their costumes, something non physical that they each represented. In my opinion each represented one or more of our human God Powers. The ladies had come from somewhere beyond. What I didn’t know was that I was about to witness one of the most passionate dances I had ever seen! By a young lady that was full of a magical energy – almost surreal.
I had previously heard from a Methodist bigot on the ship that “The Afro-Cubans” purportedly ruined Cuban Catholicism. When I began compiling this post I was excited to learn that this place full of vibrant colors and pop art was the place where Santaría is practiced. The religion that originated in Africa and has been combined with Catholicism in Cuba. Officially called Santería Church of the Orishas, Orishas or Santerian Gods, are represented by sacred numbers and colors. Each is specifically associated with a Catholic Saint, and also something that I call a human God Power. The drumming and the chants are sacred, and I am sure you will enjoy my video!
Women representing the following four Orishas performed for us! Elegguá was my favorite!
Elegguá – in the Red and Black, is the patron of children, the energy of quick movement, a trickster, the one who represents the varieties of life. Elegguá is often perceived as an impish child who tests our integrity. Is your god power of integrity working?
Oshun – in Yellow represents Joy, Pleasure, Happiness and Prosperity. When she dances she seduces men…. She is a generous and loving mother, but she can also quickly turn bitter if she is wronged. How do you invoke your God Power of Joy, Happiness, Pleasure and Prosperity?
Yemaya – Dressed in Blue is the Goddess of the Sea. She represents maternity, fertility and is the mother of the world and everything therein. When she dances she imitates the motion of the waves… Haha, perhaps she is mattress dancing, creating a new life from within. Yemaya is just as much a loving mother orisha as she is a fierce warrior that kills anyone who threatens her children. She represents the mother of all living things.
Oya – in brown, dark red and 9 colors all together is the Goddess of the Wind, she is the force of change in nature, and in life. She is the feminist leader, the watcher of the doorway between life and death. She is a warrior and marketplace owner who keeps the gates of the cemetery. She scares away death and fights with machetes! How is your force of change? Weak or Strong?
In addition to the ones represented by the performers, there are 7 more Gods or Goddess’ that represent other human powers, like a sense of injustice or qualities of peacekeeping, masculinity or strength. You can read about them HERE. And consider if you could learn from any of these teachings. I even found a book entitled The Seven African Powers of Creation, the Orisha Home School Edition. The Philosophy of Physics, Chemistry, Astronomy and the Stories of Orisha. Hmmm – I could consider that all of these are intertwined, could you?
I didn’t know until returning home and writing this post that this area was a side street of Lazaro Street in Havana Centro, situated in the poor neighborhood, Cayo Hueso. I learned that afro-cubans are still oppressed as a culture, systematically excluded from positions in tourism-related jobs, where they could earn tips in hard currencies, and prevented from having management positions. As such they are relegated to poor housing. It seemed to me, to be a communal neighborhood.
I thought it was interesting that in general the Religion Santeria teaches that life is a balance of Blessings and Misfortunes.
If There is No Evil, There Can Be No Good, just like without Darkness there can be no Light, or without Black no White.
Did I just stumble on something right there?? Is this the idea that society is functioning on? We are Black and White, and of two extremes?
I think it is interesting to consider that when our belief system removes God Power from within our being, like the religion I was trained with – we become focused on an outside world – waiting for someone outside of ourselves to save us. When our belief system considers God Power to reside within – our focus is on our inner self – and truly, we can only save ourselves, no one can really do it for us. I am sure you will agree that we have much to learn from one another, across the cultures in the origins of religion.
I believe it is really TIME to start to compile and combine ideas that work and get rid of all the garbage that is out of date and no longer serves us.
I did also read some un-favorable things about Santaria – Things that re-affirmed something I know to be true – That Organized Religion does not equal Honesty & Truth – There are people misusing all religions!
Cuba is so strikingly different – it is a perfect place to look for contrast that will lead us to find a healthy balance.