This prim little white church is a required visit for literature buffs hot on the trail of scenes from the novel by Cirilo Villaverde (1812–94), Cecilia Valdés (o la Loma del Angel). The novel's bloody denouement takes place on the steps here during a marriage scene straight out of Racine. A plaque on a wall across from the church door lauds Villaverde's portrait of 19th-century Cuban life. Villaverde, in fact, made literary history with the stark social realism with which he portrayed the inhuman treatment of slaves in his novel. (One scene, for example, depicts plantation owners complaining bitterly about their foreman whipping slaves so early in the morning that the screaming and the crack of the lash disturbs their morning slumber.) The neo-Gothic church is, indeed, on La Loma del Angel (The Hillside of the Angel). With its pure, vertical lines, it's markedly different from La Habana Vieja's hulking Baroque structures. Originally erected in 1690 and rebuilt in 1866, Santo Angel del Custodio was the site of the baptisms of both José Martí and Félix Varela, the priest, patriot, and educator credited with having "first taught Cubans to think." Martí, Varela, and Villaverde were all key contributors to the cause of Cuban independence.
Calle Compostela 1, esq. de Calle Cuarteles, Havana, 10200, Cuba