In the Plaza del Carmen

Visitors arrive, take photos and ask about the place. Impressed with what they see, they decide to buy a souvenir to carry with them the memory of a city with paths as a broken plate. In the Plaza del Carmen of Camaguey they find a different peace that returns them to the Villa de Santa Maria del Puerto del Príncipe, the fourth founded by the Spaniards in Cuba.

When Unesco declared Cultural Heritage of Humanity to the urban center of Camaguey, on July 7, 2008, this site became one of the main symbols of the city. The legacy of miscegenation that settled there in the nineteenth century, together with the grace of boulders and cobblestones, made the place one of the most picturesque and representative of the city.

Also the history of the parishioners, of transit towards the church, unique with structure of two towers in the town and that gives name to the place. The symmetrical facade of the building shows at the same time baroque elements combined with the sobriety of the neoclassical style.

But what is most striking to the passer-by is the life-size sculptural ensemble that has been setting the scene since 2005. It is composed of 7 pieces molded in clay, although the bronze covered the sculptural works. Its creative, Martha Jimenez, wanted to show us her Camaguey.

At the beginning of the century, the writer Roberto Mendez suggested the idea of ??the sculptures to the prestigious artist. Under the auspices of the Office of the Historian of the City of Camaguey, whose headquarters are located next to the old ecclesiastical building, the project became a reality.

They also do, the Barrow man, the Bridegrooms and the Gossipers, others like works of the set that takes that touch of life. With the Gossipers, but in small format, Martha Jimenez won a Unesco Prize at the International Craft Fair, FIART.

"The original idea was to make the sample about 3 meters. The work launched my career to popularity especially abroad. Today dozens of people frequent the place every month and ask me in amazement. I recently did an exhibition in Turkey of larger dimensions, but the success of those in the Plaza del Carmen are without comparison", said the creative in an interview.

The public's desire to know the sculptural set, based on crushed marmoline, served as a pretext for that in 2008, the artist opened her workshop. In it she shows with her hallmark the work with the ceramics, the engraving and the serigraphies, in addition to the sculptures in terracota ceramic.

"We integrate projects especially focused on children to discover the magic of creation and to know the importance of art in human sensitivity. When people arrive in awe, I feel enormous pride. Today the Plaza del Carmen has a marked social impact", said Martha.

Beyond art:

Academics and historians say that by the mid-nineteenth century the most important source of drinking water in Puerto Principe was in the Plaza del Carmen. This was the final destination of hundreds of devotees marching towards the Pozo de Gracia.

Today it is not precisely religious developments that promote the prosperity of the area. The opening of the private sector in Cuba motivated Lisbell Tena Ballagas to start one of the city's busiest gastronomic businesses. El Paso restaurant opened its doors three years ago and today its levels of acceptance are on the agenda of important tour operators.

"The Plaza del Carmen we found the ideal place. We think about their cultural potentialities. Here we show the culinary traditions of the region with typical dishes", says Tena.

Endowed with important architectural values, the place that occupies El Paso experienced a restoration faithful to the style of the building, dating from the nineteenth century. The patrimonial character stand out among its main attractions.

"For us it is essential to preserve the architecture of the property beyond the gastronomic offer. Historical interest is always latent. The Office of the Historian takes into account a series of regulations that we must respect", says the entrepreneur from Camaguey.

The Plaza del Carmen combines past and present, enjoyment and rest. The traveler could even rest in a hostel if he so desired. Everything there shines in the purest style of the region of shepherds and hats, as defined the city Nicolas Guillen, the National Poet of Cuba.

With more than five centuries of life and designed to mislead the enemies who besieged it, Camaguey keeps in its heart the Plaza del Carmen. History and culture make the site one of the best preserved colonial settlements on the island.


Author: Rachel Garcia
Source: On Cuba Magazine