A decade has passed since San Ignacio Street––located between San Francisco and San Juan Baustista in the Afro Cuban neighborhood of Pueblo Nuevo in the western province of Matanzas, Cuba––went from serving as a garbage dump to a space where life, culture and tradition converge.
One day the neighborhood’s residents, under the leadership of the Yoelkis Torres Tápanes, came together to change their environment and since that moment the transformation has overtaken the physical space.
Along what has been named the Callejón de las Tradiciones you will find AfroAtenAs: the Afro-Athenian Sociocultural Integration, Intervention, and Transformation Project, a place that supports local inhabitants by changing the way they think about community activity.
“Its name ‘AfroAtenas’ comes from the word Afro, primarily because Matanzas is considered ‘the Ilé-Ifé, the Lucumí Rome of Cuba,’ an area where, according to the great Cuban ethnologist Lydia Cabrera, the oldest and most important santeros are preserving ancient religious traditions that are “the purest legacy of Africa;” and Atenas, is because this project is located in the city of Matanzas, the Atenas (or Athens) of Cuba,” Yoelkis Torres said.
The Callejón de las Tradiciones has become an inclusive community cultural space for the entire city based on the principle of defending local identity, Torres added.
The support of the Provincial Directorate of Culture, the Matanzas Committee of the Slave Route, the House of Africa, the Provincial Center of Houses of Culture, the Embassy of Canada and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation has been fundamental.
Since Aug. 11, 2011, the AfroAtenas has maintained the same objective of helping local residents contribute to their community through work and participation in human, social and economic cultural development projects. “Part of what distinguishes us is our work to eliminate social inequities, and to promote non-violence and non-discrimination—these are part of the concepts of our foundation.”
AfroAtenas also stands out for its generation of new local and diverse jobs for all people; capacity building and the strengthening of stigmatized groups such as LGBTTTIQ + citizens or people with other capacities.
“In this endeavor, we turned the Callejón into the first community tourism product in Matanzas. This is a social, cultural and urban advancement that generates income that can be reverted back to the city itself,” Torres pointed out.
The protection and supportive care for groups in vulnerable states, especially during the current COVID-19 situation, has also marked the actions of the AfroAtenas project.
“More than 50 vulnerable people benefit from food, supplies and other necessary resources that protect families [because of AfroAtenas],” Torres noted.