Photography of Roy Thoman

Cruising to Havana: Callejon de Hamel Art and Rumba Dancing

Our bus ride took us across town to the Callejon de Hamel, basically an ally named Hamel. The Hamel is a small two block long alleyway in the Afro-Cuban neighborhood. The ally is covered with the colorful, eclectic art of Salvador Gonzales. The buildings are covered in colorful murals. There are sculptures most people would probably call junk art. Salvador used old pipes, car parts, bike parts, bathtubs, and other assorted scraps of metal to make his sculptures. His use of bathtubs is particularly interesting. Some of them he cut in half and made benches from them. Others he put on pedestals or embedded in the walls. Salvador is self taught, he started with a few pieces in the ally near his home. He was encouraged by other residents and visitors to continue. He now has murals and art work all over the world. There is a small gallery of his art in the ally. These items are for sale, and I wasn’t allowed to take any pictures of them. You can walk up and down the small alleyway several times and see something new each time.

After learning about Salvador and seeing the artwork in the ally, we were taken to a small brightly colored room, decorated with more sculptures. There were chairs all along the walls, we all found a seat. Our resident Hamel Ally expert, who had told us all about the ally, started telling us about Cuban Rumba dancing. Rumba means party and this dance is certainly a party! It was created by freed slaves living in Cuba. It is a mixture of their African and Spanish heritages. The music, also called Rumba, is played with three different size conga drums. The beat is loud and lively. The dance is wild and exuberant. Some dances are showing off dance moves and skill. Other dances with a man and a woman, have sexual overtones. The man will make advances toward the woman and the woman will resist. This is not the Rumba that Robbie and I learned in ballroom dance class! They passed the hat at the end, a tip was well deserved. I wasn’t expecting the dance show and we didn’t have a lot of Cuban money left. I wish I would have been able to give a little more.

The Hamel was awesome! I did read about it when I was researching doing things on our own in Havana. It’s a little out of the way and I wasn’t sure if we would be able to get there or not. Even if we had been able get there, we would have missed the Rumba dancing. The dancing that we saw was done especially for our tour. The public dancing in the ally is only done on Sundays. It’s little things like this that can make doing a shore excursion worthwhile.

 

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5 responses

  1. Such wonderful vibrant colours.

    Liked by 1 person

    August 24, 2019 at 9:13 am

    • Havana is a very colorful city. I do like B&W photos but I don’t think I could bring myself to convert any of the Havana photos.

      Liked by 1 person

      August 24, 2019 at 8:38 pm

  2. What a lovely collection of colourful scenes. The murals are so quirky and vibrant. Love the rumba dancers and particularly that capture of the swirling yellow skirt.

    Liked by 1 person

    August 25, 2019 at 12:22 pm

  3. Thank you, Liz
    This was a unique area of Havana for sure. The yellow dress did catch my eye as well. That room was fairly dark, I needed to keep the shutter speed up to keep things sharp. But for her, I did slow it down some to show the motion of the yellow dress.

    Like

    August 25, 2019 at 12:41 pm

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