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A Cuban Legend: photos

Mural: Callejon de Hamel

Salvador Gonzalez

San Francisco Chronicle review, 10/01

Pauline Fraser review, Morning Star, London, 9/01


Bette Wanderman

Bette Wanderman is a filmmaker who has produced "A Cuban Legend," on a subject dear to our collective heart: the muralist Salvador Gonzalez and Callejon de Hamel, his most extensive mural work. We have several photo galleries covering this little street in Havana.

Bette Wanderman confides this story. "A famous Babalao in Havana, who had lived in Nigeria for 8 years, told me that the Oni de Ife, who is the spiritual leader of the Yorba in Nigeria, told him that 4 people in the West would be influential in spreading the word of the ancient Yorba religion. The Oni instructed the Babalao that over a period of several years he would meet these people and that when he did he would know them and that he should give them each a special coin acknowledging their destiny." Bette went on to say "The Babalao told me this story as he placed one of the coins in my hand . I closed my fingers around the coin and tucked it into my pocket. The coin remained with me for one year before I grasped the significance of the fate I was handed by the Babalao. It was only then that I truly knew the story I wanted to tell and how to tell it. I found a great deal of inspiration in making the film comes from metaphysical forces."

The line up of 14 songs in the soundtrack feature the Cuban musical greats such as Congero Tata Guines, Pianist Frank Emilio, Rumberos Clave y Guaguanco and the female Rumberas Rumba Morena, and vocalist Maria Ochoa

In the late Spring of 2002 the film will be openning in theatres nationally wherever there is an independent screen and an audience of theatre goers who love Cuban art, music and cultural rituals.

For further information please go to This web site will be totally constructed 12/15/01

San Francisco Chronicle review

Edward Guthermann of The San Francisco Chronicle wrote the following review when the film played at The Mill Valley Film Festival in October.

"Dazzling colors, crackling Havana street life, the sexual beat of the Rumba and the centuries-old rituals of Yorban culture are the backdrop for this lively portrait of Salvador Gonzalez Escalona, a prince in his Cayo Hueso neighborhood in Havana. There, he has created a huge mural out of Callejon de Hamel, a once dangerous alley. In his studio, poised over a canvas, he says, 'What I paint flows from energy I receive from astral forces.' Salvador is such a forceful and charismatic presence, it is hard not to believe him."

The film played at The Mill Valley Film Festival, the Latin American Film Festival In London, Raindance in London, Aijijic in Mexico and will be shown at the Habana Film Festival in December, 2001.

Pauline Fraser review, Morning Star, London 9/01

Pauline Fraser reviews three recent documentary films by women directors, which are currently being shown at the London Latin-American Film Festival which runs until September 20th at the Metro Cinema, Rupert Street. The festival then goes on tour nationwide. For details, phone 0207 437 0757. 

Another film at the festival which deserves wider screening in Britain is A CUBAN LEGEND, directed by Bette Wanderman, which examines the contribution to Cuban culture of Salvador Gonzalez Escalona. Essentially a muralist, Salvador has decorated the walls of his community, Hamels Alley in Caya Hueso, Central Havana, with enormous murals depicting aspects of Santeria, Cubas syncretic afro-Cuban religion. He also hosts performances of Cuban rumba, painting the dancers bodies, and incorporates discarded objects, rubbish, into the sets. Salvador is filmed both in the Caya Hueso community he has called home for the last 28 years, and in the USA, where he has received several commissions. A staggering time-lapse sequence builds up an enormous butterfly which he painted over four days and which now decorates a wall in a deprived Hispanic community in Philadelphia. We see the ultimate irony of Salvador painting a Pastors for Peace bus en route to take £1 million worth of aid to Cuba across the Mexican border. From his roots in Central Havana, we see Salvador reaching out to embrace all Caribbean and American people of African heritage, while celebrating the equality and oneness of all members of the human race. Unfortunately A Cuban Legend competes for our readers viewing with Bronx Stories. It will be shown at the Metro Cinema, Rupert Street, at 1pm on Sunday September 16th (phone 0207 734 1506 for bookings). 

Videos can be obtained by emailing


Callejon de Hamel photos: Gallery I & II

Salvador interviewed by Pedro Pérez Sarduy 12/97


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