March 30, 2012

Centro Habana, Cuba. February, 2012

Meet my new friend Hanoi. (Yes, como el Vietnam, as he clarified for me.) I was introduced to him one evening, and when he asked if I was interested in folk art, we were off and running. What a golden opportunity. He guided me through after-dark neighborhoods I never would have entered on my own, showing me murals and shrines in some pretty dicey places. Like this one in Central Havana’s Callejón de Hamel, fine by daylight, much less so at night. Hanoi is a babalao, a diviner, a priest of the highest rank in Santería (itself a heady blend of bits of Roman Catholicism and African Yoruba religions, somewhat akin to Haiti’s voodoo.) So he not only showed me some insider’s hotspots, he also provided me with ample protection both physical and spiritual. We wound up at Coppelia, Havana’s fabled ice cream emporium, where we each had two small cones of rizado chocolate (mixed vanilla and chocolate.) Heaven.

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