Category: Cuba, 2013

African Gods and Horses in Homes

April 30

I opt to skip the early morning walk, so head off, after breakfast at the hotel, around 9 AM. First stop is a dance performance, at Palenque de los Congos Reales, an African/Cuban dance with dancers representing various African gods, then some rumba dances. Performance is good, if a bit repetitive of others we’ve seen. Some of us are called up to dance with the group and even a few minutes of not particularly strenuous dancing gives one a healthy appreciation for the energy and stamina demands on the dancers.




We head to the home and temple, Templo Yemalla, of a Santaria priest, named Israel Gomez. We see a shrine erected to the sea god, who,is the god of this temple. Julio explains how the Santaria religion links African gods with saints of the Catholic Church. Israel blesses and purifies Nevada, who he picks out without having been told that she is the leader. He allows us to take photos of him, and we walk around a bit before leaving. Israel became a priest as the result of his discovery of an African artifact buried in the house grounds, which was taken as a sign of his future role. There is no plan for succession, and when I ask Julio whether Israel is married, he says that there is no prohibition on that, but, between us, he thinks that many Santaria priests are gay.



We walk to Julio’s home, photographing on the way. His home is large and attractive, and he runs three rooms as a B&B. We sit for some time, talking, and at one point, Julio marches his 3-year old horse, Apache, into the house and says that the horse is a stallion, “like me.” We look at some of Julio’s photographs, which are okay, but not exceptional. We walk a couple blocks to a restaurant, Cubita, where we have a large lunch.


We bus to an arts academy, where we are shown around by the principal. It’s a large school, but has only 32 students in the 4-year program. Last year over 150 applied, but only six were accepted. They must do exams (produce work) in five disciplines to be considered for admission. We see some drawings and paintings by some third year students that are quite extraordinarily good. The school has been in existence at this high school level for 25 years and many of its graduates are successful artists, including a sculptor who lives in NY, having married an American and whose work is displayed in New York.


It’s quite hot in the sun today, so we are happy to return to our rooms for a couple hours to rest, before setting forth again at 6:15. Again, I decide to separate from the group in walking around town and, again, I’m pleased with the connections I’m able to make, one on one. I’m including quite a few photos from my walk.









As planned, our group meets at a restaurant recently established in his home by a friend of Laura’s, Malibran Palador. Food is terrific and plentiful. A good, young group of men plays and sings local music and, for the last number, entices four or five members of our group to participate on various percussion instruments, which is great fun to watch.

Walk to the bus. Very early start tomorrow. Here are a few street scenes from the walk to the bus.



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