Proyecto de integración, intervención transformación sociocultural
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Traditions & Activities:
The Matanzas Art Museum was opened on May 19, 1998, with the help and influence of world-renowned Cuban artist Lorenzo Padilla. Prior to 1998, the building had many owners that utilized the space for a vast array of purposes. Now that it serves as the city’s official art museum, it has temporarily displayed about forty collections of art. One of the most notable collections of art to be housed in the museum is the African Culture Collection. This collection was donated to the museum by Padilla and includes more than three hundred pieces of African Art from more than thirteen African countries. This collection is one of the largest collections of African culture to date. The Matanzas Art Museum is located on Contreras No. 28007 en Matanzas.
Yoelkis Torres is the current community organizer of the Afro-Atenas project. The project’s home base of operations is located in Matanzas directly across the street from “The Callejon De Las Tradicciones.” The Afro-Atenas project gained inspiration for its name through the well-known connotation of Matanzas, the cultural epicenter of Cuba, similar to the way Athens was the cultural center for ancient Greece. The Afro-Atenas project is a community organization that strives to educate, integrate, transform, and intervene in sociocultural aspects of the everyday life of Cubans.
Yoelkis explained that the community activists that work with the Afro-Atenas project are provincial coordinators specific to the city of Matanzas. He said that they all have different roles with the project, but, in general, they are here to empower Matanzas specifically and Cuba overall with both financial and cultural assistance. In 2009, the Afro-Atenas project started with the original goal to reunite and uplift those who were discriminated against, more specifically Cubans that practiced African religious rituals. Since 2009, the project has stuck to this goal of reuniting and uplifting those who are discriminated against by doing meaningful research that involves history and culture. In 2013 and the years immediately following, the center began winning awards based on its research presentations that focused on heritage and culture. Today, the project is not limited to the Cuban religions of African but rather on anything that involves human rights.
The Santería religion is comprised of gods and goddesses also known as Orishas. Orishas were seen as protectors, and, in most of the cases, these gods were real people who died and, after death, were considered divine. Santería was born out of the act of colonizers forcing enslaved people to stop the practice of native religions such as the “Regla de Ocha” and, simultaneously, forcing them to start practicing the Catholic faith. After the enslaved peoples were forced to do this, the followers of the Santería faith had to come up with creative ways to worship and keep these sacred practices alive. One of the most prominent ways to do this was to identify a saint from the Catholic faith and match it up with the Orisha god that had similar traits. For example, Oshun was matched with Saint Juan Batista (John the Baptist) due to the fact that they both, according to tradition, “take care of the mind of the believer.” Other evasive techniques that enslaved people used to keep their religious practices alive include but were not limited to; hiding religious artifacts that represent Orishas such as the Eleguá - a deity that represents life and death, worshiping in Cabidilos or buildings where slaves met according to their ethnicity or nationality, communicating through interpretive dance, drumming, chants and more.