Published On: Fri, Mar 13th, 2020

Visit the colorful and artistic side of Havana, Cuba

Havana is the capital city of Cuba and is known for its 16th-century Spanish colonial architecture in the historic core of the city. Among the best-known buildings are the Castillo de la Real Fuerza, an old fort and now a maritime museum. The baroque Catedral de San Cristóbal and the Plaza Vieja (Old Square) in the city are also great examples.

To many, Havana in Cuba is famous for its iconic cigars, and rightfully so. However, Havana also has many colorful and artistic sights to see and explore. Here are two of the top artistic destinations to visit.

Callejon de Hamel colored street in Havana Image: callejondehamel.jpg by Kirua/Wikimedia Commons

  • Callejon de Hamel

Callejon de Hamel is a narrow alley in the city, filled with colorful street art and murals. It also features many sculptures crafted from found objects, such as pinwheels, bathtubs and hand pumps.

This is the work of Salvador Gonzáles Escalona, a self-taught Cuban artist, who began brightening up the alley outside his home in 1990. The artist has been producing inventive artworks for more than 20 years in Cuba, as well as further afield. His art has also been celebrated in Italy, Norway, Venezuela and the US.

The alley stretches for around two blocks and is a wonderland of paintings, mosaics and unique sculptures. These include a bench, crafted from old bathtubs and a throne that is said to give visitors good luck when seated there.

Since the alley became popular with tourists, it has become a backdrop for local musicians and rumba dancers to entertain locals and visitors alike. It is also home to a local children’s art program.

Best of all, while the surrounding Cayo Hueso neighborhood used to have a dangerous reputation, since Salvador beautified the alley with his art, the area has a better reputation. It is now considered safe to explore.

  • John Lennon Statue

John Lennon statue in Havana, Cuba Sculptor: José Villa Soberón photo/ ZorphDark at English Wikipedia

One of the other exciting places to explore in Havana relates to a cultural music icon, but not of Cuban birth. The icon is none other than John Lennon of Beatles fame.

During the 1960s and 1970s, the music of John Lennon and the Beatles was banned in Communist Cuba. His music was deemed to be “ideological diversionism” and a decadent American influence by Cuban authorities.

However, young Cubans got a sense of what they were missing and smuggled tapes of the Beatles’ music, listening to it quietly behind closed doors.

Things changed 20 years after the death of John Lennon, when Fidel Castro decided Lennon should be celebrated as a hero. This led to Castro unveiling a new bronze statue of the musician in what is now named John Lennon Park. The statue was crafted by Cuban sculptor José Villa Soberón.

Lennon’s statue was unveiled and filmed while making a documentary about Lennon, created on Castro’s request. There was also a Lennon tribute concert held here in 2000. Castro said at the time that he, too, was a dreamer, who had later seen his dreams become reality. Cuba now considers the Beatle both a victim and a rebel, after he was also harassed by the US government.

Now John Lennon is immortalized in the square, perfectly placed for a selfie to share with your friends on Instagram!

Author: Anne Sewell


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