Salvador González Escalona
Salvador González Escalona (b. Camaguey, Cuba, 1948) is a world-renowned, self-taught muralist, painter, sculptor and interpreter of Cuban popular culture. Since the early 1990s his work has been exhibited in the Seychelles Islands, Norway, Denmark, Italy, Spain, Venezuela, Mexico and Puerto Rico; and in the continental United States in New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Albuquerque, New Brunswick (New Jersey), Palmerton (Pennsylvania) and Johnson (Vermont).
Salvador – as he is affectionately known in the Cuban art world – is best known for his work of public art encompassing an array of mixed media in the Callejón de Hamel, located in the working-class Havana neighborhood of Cayo Hueso, where beginning in 1990 – two years prior to the historic lifting of restrictions on public expressions of popular religiosity - he created a living temple to the Orishas of Yoruba tradition. His work can be described as a mix of surrealism, cubism and abstract art, and immerses every home, each corner of the winding street in poetry, muralism, sculpture, motion and spirituality, scaling four-plus stories of the surrounding apartment buildings. Popular local history and religious traditions are echoed in his creation, from the toques de tambores (drumbeats) and rumbas that are the soul of the neighborhood, to Abakuá initiation rituals, manifestations of spiritism, and the everyday practice of Santería and Palo Monte. The colors, sounds, and living consecrated instruments of ancient Yoruba ritual, combined with the hybrid cultural identities of popular Afro-Cuban society, inspire Salvador’ multidimensional creation of poetic conviviality, as well as his intentional staging of popular memory, pedagogy, performance and play.
Salvador’s pioneering organization of community activism and popular empowerment has since been replicated in other areas of Cuba’s capital city, in process of a profound urban transformation of popular neighborhoods known in Cuban legislation as the “Workshops of Integral Transformation,” which have accompanied the emergence grass-roots civic participation and cultural creativity on an unprecedented scale.