On afternoon I decided it was time to explore a different part of Havana that I had yet to see, Centro Habana or Central Havana. I’d see enough of beautiful Old Havana and thought it was time to see the real Havana that has been untouched. Central Havana is the most densely populated part of town and unlike Old Havana, nothing has been restored. I hailed a coco-taxi (a three-wheeled scooter) right from my hotel in Vedado and enjoyed a fun ride down the Malecón to my first destination in Central Havana, a special place called El Callejón de Hamel or in english, Hamel’s Alley. I was in for quite a wonderful surprise!
I paid my fare which was much cheaper than a traditional taxi and wondered why I hadn’t tried a coco taxi earlier. It certainly was a fun way to see Havana! The neighborhood was dramatically different from the other parts of Havana I’d seen. Much more rustic, rundown with buildings in various states of disrepair. Yet it also felt more Cuban. More like the real thing.
In Central Havana, homes and buildings are not being restored like they are in Old Havana and nearby my hotel in Vedado. Instead, buildings are decaying, weathered and falling apart. Sidewalks are filled with huge gaps and the streets could use a good repaving. Yet, the people are all the same. Smiling. Resolute. Frustrated. Resigned. Just like other nicer parts of Havana, Cubans sit outside on doorsteps chatting with neighbors and playing the guitar.
I had heard that Hamel’s Alley (El Callejón de Hamel) was a treasure for photographers. Tucked away between two streets Calle Aramburu and Calle Hospital on Hamel this two block area is a phenomenal Afro-Cuban community art project. Created in 1990 by self-taught Afro-Cuban painter and sculptor, Salvador Gonzales Escalona, Hamel’s Ally is an impressive example of how a simple idea can transform a rundown place into a creative explosion of color, culture and art.
The moment I stepped out of the coco cab and set foot into this magical place, I was entranced. Entire four-story buildings are painted in a burst of color and designs reaching all the way to the sky. Whimsical sculptures are made out of recycled antiques into works of art. Inspiring quotes and saying are painted into the walls.
As soon as I walked through the gate I was met by a licensed guide who for a few dollars gave me a tour of the place, pointing out the best works of art. For some reason, I had the entire place to myself, a rarity per my guide. If it had been a Sunday afternoon, Hamel’s Alley would have been jammed packed with locals and tourists alike listening to live Rumba music and dancing.
Besides the murals, there are interesting sculptures made out of antiques and other recycled objects such as bathtubs, typewriters and even old cars. Nothing goes to waste in Hamel’s Alley. There is also a learning area for children in the community to take their try at creating art.
I couldn’t get enough of this place but felt it was time to move on with my exploring of Centro Habana. I only had another hour until I had to go on our next people to people visit. We were having cocktails at our hotel with Cuban university students.
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OMG! amazing..your photography, the colors, the way you capture Cuba and the tubs in the wall..Thanks for sharing and bringing me a taste of Cuba:)
Thanks so much! I’m so glad you enjoyed the post!
And your insightful posts have made me learn more about Cuba than I ever have..High School never offered me this knowledge!
Thank you! I learned a ton on this trip. It was amazing! 🙂
I am gobsmacked…wow…I love that they have an area for children to learn creativity
Yes it was such a cool place and I was all by myself when I saw it. Not a single other tourist around.
Your photos tell so much about Cuba!
Thanks Amy! I think I’m finally getting better at actually taking photos now when I travel as I think about what I want to share with my readers and how the pictures will help to tell a story. I appreciate your comments! 🙂
Fun way to get around.
Nice. Thanks for sharing. The first thing I noticed were all those old classic cars. But what a scene! That’s really cool, heads and shoulders about “our” building “art” of street gangs.
Reblogged this on Just Go Places.
Lovely! Great pics. Now I want to go too….
Thank you so much!
This is the real Cuba, and the one that is not shown very much by other photographers (that I’ve seen). Great photos, Nicole!
Thanks Angeline! So glad you enjoyed the post. It was such a fun excursion I made!
This place looks amazing 🙂
Gosh, Nicole, these photos are STUNNING! I adore street art!
Sorry to have been away all week. We’ve had friends visiting from the US and have had to do hostess thing. I’ve hardly had time to turn on my computer. Hope you are well.
Hugs from Ecuador,
Sounds like you’ve had a great week Kathy! I also am amazed and honored how you tweeted to freshly pressed about this post! 🙂 Can’t wait to see it live on the FP page!
Whoa! What an amazing place. I don’t know which piece of art is my favorite…the bathtubs, the recycled sculptures, the quotes painted on the walls, the murals that reach to the sky??? I think I could spend a week there and never see everything. Now, I really have to go to Cuba. I’m off to Ecuador tomorrow. I can’t wait to visit my blogging friends…like Kathy above, and Lisa, and Nancy and John and Mary. I may not be able to respond to your posts, but I’ll keep them safely tucked in my emails until I return. 🙂
I bet you would go crazy there! Wow, I can hardly wait for you to meet all these amazing blogging friends!!!! I will be waiting to read the posts and see the pictures. What a great opportunity! I finally met Kat from Travel. Eat. Garden. last week. She lives in Duluth and was in Minneapolis on business. It was so fun to meet her in person!
Not unlike Mexico, color seems to be a huge part of their lives in Cuba. Given the limited supplies available to them, you can see there are some very talented artists in Cuba. Thanks for sharing Nicole. 🙂
Yes indeed LuAnn! Color is very important and it is amazing how this entire two block area has been painted so wonderfully and with limited supplies.
I love all the use of color….absolutely beautiful!
Thank you! It is an amazing place indeed. Cuba is really mind boggling!
What beautiful street Art!
amazing photography of a place almost forgotten by time… beautiful
Thank you! Cuba is truly a fascinating place!
Reblogged this on yubali.com.
Awesome *_* edwardcrabbs.wordpress.com
Mexico’s awesome. They seem to have culture there that corporate medium-sized towns and big cities in America just don’t have. I used to be super patriotic but now that the Old South, West, and North are largely dissappearing, I don’t feel very patriotic anymore.
I have to really see these parts of Mexico someday.
WOW WOW WOW! Brilliant captures! Love the colors and the subject matter. I’ve neer been to Cuba but these photos make me wish that I had been
Thank you so much!!!!
Reblogged this on Liturgical Credo.
It’s really interesting to see how the locals turned unused tools and equipment into works of art. Give some colors and they create a beautiful scene that is Hamel’s Alley.
This made me so excited for my study tour to Cuba in a week! Fantastic photos!
You will LOVE Cuba! It is amazing!
What a unique experience! I think Cubans have just given us an idea on how to revivify old, gray parts of Manila… (I live there) 🙂
Thanks! I would love to visit Manila someday!
Reblogged this on mylsquiat.
Your touring of Central Havana gives me the same of sense of walking through “the hood” in New York. Like it’s the real New York. The playgrounds, the elevated train stations, broken concrete and desolate streets with high poverty and low income. The places tourists and people who live in neighborhoods with restored buildings avoid. The fruits of socio-economic imbalance and broken democracy. The real America.
There’s beauty in those places too.
Yes so true!
Great comment! I haven’t had the chance to explore all of NYC but I bet it would be fascinating.
Wonderful post Nicole. The colors are amazing and your photos – Wow! You’ve really captured the flavor of the place. It’s such a great slice of life – one I’m sure many tourists miss. Thanks for stepping off the beaten path, and congrats on being Freshly Pressed again! 🙂 All the best, Terri
Thanks so much!!!
Reblogged this on masudncl.
Thanks for the photos. What a beautiful place! I hope I get to see it in person someday.
Thanks! Glad you enjoyed!
ur blog is fantastic…!!
i juss started writing..need ur views as it will boost my writing zeal..:)
i hope u will pay a visit 🙂
Thank you so much! I appreciate it!
Wow! What a treat, it is so amazing what creativity comes out of people when they have limited resources, sometimes less produces more. Thank you for sharing
Yes indeed. That is what is so amazing about Cuba. 🙂
Oh, just fantastic documentation of the Callejon!!! I have been there – went on a day when there was some riotous musical happening, so crazy and memorable. But I think the art was a bit different then – chances are it is evolving all the time… Such a fun, colourful post – looking forward to more! 🙂
Sounds like a fun experience! I was the only one there at the time so had it all to myself. I bet it would be pretty cool with live music!
When you get to something for real, instead of the ‘vision’ put out by the USA propaganda machine, it often comes as a great surprise. Thanks for opening a few ‘blinkered’ eyes.
Very true but the Cuban propaganda machine blows the American one away! It is just crazy!!!!
Reblogged this on The Higher Firewall and commented:
Realise the magic of color in real time with this exciting journey!
Thanks for the reblog!
It has been my privilege! After all, my inspirations are acquired from the blogs that are intricate to the human behavior and nature according to the changing times of space.
Beautiful photos and great insight, Nicole. Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!
Have you read anything about Yoani Sanchez regarding Cuba? She’s a dissident blogger from Havana. I’m reading her book now, Havana Real, and it’s really eye-opening. Highly recommend it.
Reblogged this on Aware of Awareness.
What an amazing find. Great photos. Now I know for sure I’m going to make Cuba one of my next trips.
Thanks! Yes Cuba is unbelievable!
wow wonderful post!
Reblogged this on victormiguelvelasquez.
Reblogged this on sreychetrasmart9.
Very nice! I have never seen this before. I enjoyed trip very much. It reminds me a little of La Calle Brisas in San Francisco – at least in the 1980s – when I visited. Safe journey!
Glad you enjoyed the post! 🙂
Reblogged this on Notes From The Devil Dollhaus and commented:
These are a beautiful series of photos of street art in Central Havana. <3
Thanks for the reblog!
You’re welcome! My family came from Cuba before the revolution, so I enjoyed seeing it.
Wow, that is fascinating!
Reblogged this on akmelln and commented:
Thanks for the reblog!
Reblogged this on CocaColaBurgers.
Stunning photos, I’ve forwarded your brilliant post to my daughter, who is desperate to travel to Cuba…
Thanks so much! Cuba is amazing!!!!
Wow! The feel of the place is wonderfully captured, your photos gorgeous. I’ve long been intrigued by Cuba and have never visited. It’s on my list of places to travel to. Thank you for this post, it’s the hidden treasures that make a destination so memorable.
Thank you so much! You would love Cuba!!!
Reblogged this on haslp001.
So glad you enjoyed! 🙂
Looks like it`s my next destinationQue suerte la tuya1
Reblogged this on Apps Lotus's Blog.
Wow! Beautiful photos. I have always wanted to go to Havana…
Thanks so much! So glad you enjoyed! 🙂
Reblogged this on Save A Woman – Save The World!.
Thanks for the reblog!
Reblogged this on booksandmore81 and commented:
Wer Reiseberichte und -inpressionen mag, kann sein Fernweh mit diesem Artikel auf Trab halten
Thanks so much for the reblog! I appreciate it! 🙂
you’re very welcome 🙂 it’s a really good article and I would love to see this one day, too
If been to that place, it’s really amazing, how creative the people are! Loved Cuba. People are so friendly there!and nature is wonderfuI, I think the world has a wrong view on Cuba. I hope things will be better for them soon. Nice pictures of Hamel. We have a travel blog called freeasbirds.com, feel free to take a look. Greetings, Lobke
Thanks for stopping by. Yes I agree that the Cuban people are lovely and I really loved it there. I just felt guilty about a lot of the situation that people have there but they are so warm and friendly despite the food shortages and difficult life. I will check your blog out! Thanks!
I totally understand.. but you shouldn’t feel guilty..thing that happened are in the past. It’s a good thing you reflect upon that and try to make people see Cuba in a different way. I know Americans are not very keen on Cuba and the whole history that ché would be a mass murderer. The thing is that the Cubans don’t see it like that. Every time we post something about Cuba, we get silly reactions from people that seem to be stuck in their vision about this country but don’t think about what has happened there. So I think it’s great that you do. So don’t feel guilty about it. Writing about it in such a positive way can change a lot! i can only say.. keep on spreading the word, you might have a bigger impact on it then you would imagine. greetings Lobke
Thanks so much for the thoughtful comment! I really truly appreciate it! 🙂 Take care…
Reblogged this on bawosheena.
Thanks for the reblog!
Oh my goodness, these photos are STUNNING!!!!! I’ve looked through them four times now and they’re getting better with each viewing if you can believe it! Havana has been on my list of places I’d love to visit since a friend went a few years ago, but you’ve just bumped it up a few spots!! Thanks for sharing 🙂
Thank you so much! I am so glad you enjoyed the post! I have many more on Cuba that I’ve written already so be sure to check them out. I hope you go there soon! 🙂 It is a wonderful place.
Love the pictures
Reblogged this on zikkyamah.
Cuba and your photos look amazing!
Thanks! Cuba is really a fascinating place!
the colours and the scope of the place are enchanting
Thanks! This is just one of many amazing things to see in Havana. It is such a picturesque place!
Amazing photos! Visiting Cuba has been on my bucket-list for quite a time now, and this post makes me want to go even more.
Thanks! You would love Cuba. It truly is a fascinating place.
Fabulous images. Really want to go now !
Thanks! So glad you enjoyed!
This was exquisite. Thank you for sharing your experiences and being so generous with your time and perspective.
Thanks so much! I am so glad you enjoyed the post! 🙂
Oh my gosh this place looks amazing!!! I desperately want to go there. Through the photos the feeling of this place seems so vibrant and alive, what an amazing and unique place!
Thanks so much for stopping by. Cuba is one of the most fascinating places I’ve ever been. It truly is something unique and magical.
nice captures and story! One day Havana will be on my travel list as well! 🙂
Thanks so much! Havana is a remarkable place. Frozen in time with so much history.
A bright post to read on a rainy day. I love that you are drawing attention to Cuba’s neighborhoods.
Thanks so much! I’m really glad you enjoyed the post and all the colors of Cuba!
Beautiful photos. Sounds and looks like a wonderful adventure. Cheers, Stacey thegiftoftravel.wordpress.com
Thanks Stacey! Thanks also for leaving your blog. I will go check it out! 🙂
Really enjoyed these! I love street art anywhere, but this is especially good. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks so much! So glad you enjoyed the post and the art!
Fantastic post. Bought back so many wonderful memories for me. We went on a Sunday and it was heaving with people and music. Did you get to see the art at Casa Fuster? I blogged some of the hundreds of photos I took at this place here. It’s worth a look http://sixpixx.wordpress.com/2014/02/20/2013-cuba-havana-casa-fuster/
Wonderful! Yes I did go see the work of Fuster too and did write a post on it. It was amazing! Ok, will have to check out your blog! Thanks for sharing!
Reblogged this on Breadstachio Studios.
Thanks for the reblog!
I think that your pictures are pretty cool! 🙂
Thank you very much!
Oh wow, what a lovely street art and colourful city!! I would love to go someday!
Thanks for the comment! It is quite amazing! 🙂
Love all your photos, what a magical place! I can just feel the rebellion in those murals and sculptures. Oh am
Nod talking about reusing your old stuff – us Americans can really learn from these Cuban artists – it seems that nothing goes to waste.
Thank you so much! 🙂 Yes the Cubans are amazingly creative at using every single thing they have. Wish we were more like that instead of being such a throw away society!
Reblogged this on The World at my fingertips...
Thanks for the reblog! 🙂
Hey! I’m trying to connect like minded bloggers via a Facebook group. I have create one which is called United Blogging Network. Hopefully it can provide a source that bloggers can provide mutual support for each other! Hope to see you there soon.
Is it a Facebook page or a group that you must be invited to?
Reblogged this on Homie Williams..
Thanks for the reblog! 🙂
No problem! I’ve been dying to travel for awhile now. Havana is now on my list.
You would love Cuba. It is amazing!
Beautiful! Wonderful to be able to explore the island through your eyes.
So glad you enjoyed the post! 🙂
I love all things Cuba!
Watch my blog! #ragazzotristementetriste