A Huge Open-air Can­vas

WALLS, DOORS AND AL­LEY­WAYS TELL STO­RIES THAT TRANS­FORM THIS 500 YEARS OLD CITY INTO A GREAT LAB­O­RA­TORY FOR VIS­UAL ARTS

Excelencias from the Caribbean & the Americas - - Habana 500 / Havana 500 - BY IN­GRID GONZÁLEZ FA­JARDO PHO­TOS ABEL RO­JAS BARALLOBRE

Each city has its own essence, smell, its ac­cu­rate def­i­ni­tion of joy. Be­ing named one of the seven New Won­der Cities of the Mod­ern World has been the per­fect nod to show all the beau­ties that make you fall in love with Havana, which trans­forms it into a huge lab­o­ra­tory for vis­ual arts. Paint­ing such di­verse, pho­to­genic rou­tine makes us unique and au­then­tic.

No one try­ing to ex­plore this cap­i­tal city would miss open-air places, which por­trait through­out col­ors or shades of grey Havana's present life. Walls, doors, and al­ley­ways tell sto­ries that may well be la­beled as in­tan­gi­ble her­itage of the na­tion, as they have built our char­ac­ter.

If we could as­so­ciate places with col­ors, the Calle­jon de Hamel (Hamel Al­ley) would be a daz­zling yel­low. Lo­cated on

Rein­vig­o­rat­ing a street that had fallen into obliv­ion and trans­form­ing it into a huge liv­ing Art Gallery, where the com­mu­nity is part of the cul­tural project it­self

Aram­buru and Hospi­tal Streets, Cen­tro Ha­bana mu­nic­i­pal­ity, this is the first mu­ral art in the form of wall paint­ings de­voted to Afro-cuban cul­ture, a kind of sanc­tu­ary to those proud of their roots. The col­ors dec­o­rat­ing its walls de­pict a unique sym­bol of the cul­tural and re­li­gious syncretism of Cuba. Paint­ings repli­cate Gods and Or­ishas, spir­i­tual sym­bols, an­i­mals, po­ems or leg­ends writ­ten about them on sub­jects such as love, dig­nity, and life.

Rein­vig­o­rat­ing a street that had fallen into obliv­ion and trans­form­ing it into a huge liv­ing Art Gallery, where the com­mu­nity is part of the cul­tural project it­self, is to Sal­vador Gon­za­lez Escalona's credit. The Hamel Al­ley never rests as it is —all day long— full of life, mu­sic, dance, and ex­hi­bi­tions.

Mean­while, the red color beats to the rhythm of the walls of Fabrica de Arte (FAC), full of en­ergy and risks. There —11th Street, Vedado neigh­bor­hood, Havana— a ware­house stands, which is now “alive; a space full of cre­ative and ex­per­i­men­tal free­dom” thanks to the ef­forts of its founder, mu­si­cian X Al­fonso. So much so that Times mag­a­zine re­cently in­cluded once again FAC among the world's top-100 best places.

The beau­ti­ful mu­ral sur­round­ing FAC se­duces passers-by en­joy­ing the po­etic con­ver­gence of its vis­ual land­scapes. Thanks to the project Se per­muta, co­or­di­nated by Brazil­ian artist Maria Ed­uarda Belem and Cuban David Al­fonso Suarez, liv­ing in Re­cife, artists from Per­nam­buco and Cuba ex­changed es­thet­ics in 2018 and left their legacy in the walls of this colos­sal project. Today, it stands un­dam­aged, pre­served, as a re­minder of how cru­cial al­liances are.

And as the ev­er­green of hope, it is the time of San Isidro de Arte, ini­tia­tive led by ac­tor Jorge Peru­gor­ria and his Ga­le­ria Taller Gor­ria (GTG), which has opened its doors to the best con­tem­po­rary artists of Cuba and has pro­moted mem­bers of the com­mu­nity, in­spired by this unique graf­fiti move­ment en­cour­aged by Peru­gor­ria fam­ily. In­ter­na­tional renowned artists like New Yorker Stephen Pal­ladino —he has worked with Lady Gaga and his gang­sters' por­traits are world­wide known—, Mex­i­can Paola Delfin, Brazil­ian Ma­teus Bailon, Bel­gian Cara­toes, and Amer­i­can Ab­strk have reached this cor­ner in the Old Havana.

Def­i­nitely, the white color with such light of in­no­cence and pu­rity de­fines the faces of chil­dren in houses and build­ings façades. In 31st Av­enue, cor­ner of 42th Street; 19th Street, cor­ner of 70th Street; or 51st Street be­tween 120th and 122nd Streets, the child­like looks of kids re­mind us of ev­ery child's huge hu­man­ity. They look like large scale pen­cil draw­ings, with fine lines, but vivid ex­pres­sions, enough to amaze the most dis­tracted passer-by.

And thus, each mu­ral, graf­fiti, and all vis­ual art em­bel­lish­ing our daily sym­phony trea­sures its own shades. But blue is Havana's most rep­re­sen­ta­tive color as its sea, sky, ir­rev­er­ence, hug, and har­mony are con­stantly light­ing up and ev­ery­thing proves Havana is a Won­der City.

Muros, pare­des, puer­tas y calle­jones cuen­tan his­to­rias. / Walls, doors and al­ley­ways tell sto­ries.

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