Meet the artist!

Street Art of Camguey, Cuba!

Camaguey will enchant and seduce you! It is a UNESCO world heritage site and one of the seven founding cities of colonial Cuba. It is also home to some great artists. Works of art are everywhere! Camaguey oozes art! Paintings and reliefs are worked into the walls, and art is embraced by young and old in the many parks and street corner installations.

One artist you will not fail to encounter is Martha Jimenez Perez (b 1948)

Outside her studio, in plaza del Carmen, a number of life size human figures cast in bronze depict life as seen through her eyes. Her open studio is a delightful gallery of both 3 dimensional and 2 dimensional works, spanning many years.


Her life size figures in the plaza are what catch your attention and everyone enjoy the interactive quality of these pieces. Situated in front of the Church of Carmen, where she grew up, her sculptures have become the more popular attraction! Her model for the man sitting reading a newspaper often arrives in person to sits beside his bronze double and of course loves to be photographed adding a 4th dimensional twist to the pose! The group of three gossiping ladies are perhaps a little more discrete, but the empty chairs in this group invite you to join the circle and pass on the local news!!!

Camaguey is famous for its huge water jars and another figure on the street is the old man who delivers water in jars. Sadly he is dead now but his bronze self reminds everyone of their history!

Much of Martha’s work revolves around the role of women in Cuban society and in the world at large. Martha has been honoured by leading Cuban art critics and has received prestigious awards for her work.

The plazas main focus is the twin towered church of Carmen built in 1823 – 1825, and the convent of the Ursulin order adjoining. Post revolution and the banning of religion, all these historic buildings fell into disrepair and ruin. This building and church has recently been restored thanks to the UNESCO award!

You can imagine what a delightful place it is to stop and pose for photos!

The best way to tour this historic city is by bici taxi who will take you to all the historic sites. The winding streets make finding your way around somewhat difficult and your driver will be able to tell you proudly about his home town!

Luckily for us Camaguey received a UNESCO world heritage site status and the historic centre has been improved and maintained to preserve its colonial and pirate past!

Why not book your tour “Mi Cubita” and enjoy Camaguey for yourself
http://encompasstours.com/tours/cuba/mi-cubita-cuba14-days/
For a shorter tour try our “A Cuban Snapshot” and enjoy Havana, Vinales and Trinidad!
http://encompasstours.com/tours/cuba/a-cuban-snapshot-7-days/

Sacred Ceiba & Guije!

Did you know that in Cuba the “Guije” live in the Ceiba trees??

The Ceiba tree is one of the family Malvaceae of which there are 10 known species. Its appearance makes it easy to spot; thick straight trunk with spikes on it, forming buttress roots and an umbrella like canopy of leaf and flower cover. The flower which appears before the leaves, develops into seed pods which split to release large quantities of soft, fibrous Kapok, used to fill mattresses, pillows etc. These trees can grow to great heights and live many years, but the wood is only of use for dugout canoes, as it is light and buoyant. For this reason the Ceiba is often the only tree left standing when the forest has been cut down for building materials! The flowers are pollinated by fruit eating bats at dusk or during the night and in Cuba the Ceiba tree is home to the Guije!

Travelling around the island you will encounter many enormous Ceiba trees in the plazas and elsewhere. Around the base of these trees offerings will be placed by devotees practicing the “Santaria” religion dominant in Cuba. Offerings of various types of food, animal blood, flowers or over ripe plantain for example, are placed on the ground around the tree trunk and in return the Ceiba or Chango or Santa Barbara will reciprocate a favour or some kind of help!

The Ceiba represents energy and life, abundance and force, and the force it represents is the strength of Chango or his catholic counterpart, Santa Brabara.

Chango or Sanata Barbara are represented by the colour red; thus the blood offerings!

So would you want a Ceiba in your garden?? NO you would not!

Forget the beautiful flowers and the vast quantities of kapok you might benefit from, the Ceiba tree is also home to the Guije, and you really don’t want to set eyes on him!!!

 

“What type of creature is a Guije?” I hear you ask! “He is not mentioned in my Guide Book”! well…  He is black as coal, and very short in height. His head is big with long straggly plaits. His eyes are enormous and shiny and bright and he only comes out at night!!!  He has two arms and two legs like you and me, and he’s always close to the Ceiba tree. You might catch a glance of him in the corner of your eye looking out from beside the tree trunk, but in an instant he is gone!  Now you have seen him you better take care you better beware!!! He is up to no good and he is always hungry!!!

His favourite food is “Funche” which is made from sweet potato combined with flour into a type of a soup to which alcohol can be added or offered separately!!!

No one wants to see the Guije and no one wants a Ceiba in their garden! If they do have one then they put plates of Funche for the Guije to keep him calm and hope he stays happily in his tree home!

There is so much to enjoy in Cuba why not book onto a tour this year?

“A Cuban Snapshot” takes in Havana, Vinales and Trinidad 7 days
http://encompasstours.com/tours/cuba/a-cuban-snapshot-7-days/

“Mi Cubita” extends the tour to the delightful Pirate city of Camaguey!
http://encompasstours.com/tours/cuba/mi-cubita-cuba14-days/

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Padre Olallo. First Cuban Beatification

One more miracle and he will become a new Saint and Cuba’s first!

 

Becoming a Saint is no easy matter and can take centuries to achieve.

Padre Olallo is well on his way to this exalted position. He was beatified in Cuba by the Pope in 2008 after a life of saintly deeds and unwavering faith and the occurrence of a miracle attributed to him.

Jose Olallo Valdez dedicated his life to the care of the sick and the poor of Camaguey for whom he was always a saint!

He was born in 1820 in Havana, to parents he never knew. Luckily for him he was born in and cared for at “Casa Cuna”  a type of  orphanage/ hospital for expectant mothers/ and school. He was baptised and educated till the age of 13 or 14 when he entered the order of Hospitalaria de San Juan del Dios (Saint John of God) in Havana.

A cholera epidemic was his reason for moving to Camaguey in 1835 where he remained till his death in 1889.

In Camaguey he started his work as a helper in the hospital, nursing the sick and injured, but eventually progressed to being the best doctor in the hospital and was made the superior of the community from 1856. In 54 years of dedication to his calling, he was only absent from the hospital one night and that was for reasons beyond his control and against his will.

He lived a life of self sacrifice with a strong spirit!

During ten years of civil war 1868 to 1878 the hospital was declare a military hospital but he continued to treat all who were in need without prejudice; regardless of political or religious belief, regardless of colour or wealth.  Spanish suppression of religious orders made no dent in his dedication and commitment to his order or his faith and when the last brother died in 1876 he continued his mission single handed, never wavering and with devotion.

His personal attributes of modesty, devotion, generosity, and bravery in dedicating himself to his faith and his calling shone out. For the people of Camaguey he was a saint, and after his death his fame spread. The long process of recognition and proof of his worthiness for sainthood were initiated.

The first posthumous miracle attributed to Padre Olallo was the cure of a 3 year old girl Daniela Cabrera Ramos. This child was dying of cancer with little time left to live. Her community, family and friends all prayed to Padre Olallo for a miracle and the following day the child began to recover to full health which has continued and she is now living a normal life.

Religions have had various periods of difficulty in Cuba, but since 1992 religious freedom was granted to the people, and organised religion has begun to grow in popularity. This year March 2012 the Popel visited for 2 days which received much media coverage and political speculation world wide.

The statue of Padre Olallo can be seen in Camaguey in the church where he dedicated his life.

Our “Mi Cubita” 14 day tour visits Camaguey which is a UNESCO world heritage site.
http://encompasstours.com/tours/mi-cubita-cuba14-days/

For a shorter holiday try “A Cuban Snapshot” 7 days tour
http://encompasstours.com/tours/a-cuban-snapshot-7-days/