Probably named for a West African Yoruba deity, this seafarers' and fishermen's enclave retains a rough vitality. Originally a camp for black slaves—especially of the Ibibio, Bantu, and Yoruba tribes—Regla's Afro-Cuban roots are strong.
The waterfront Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Regla, the first stop as you leave the ferry, was built in 1810. It's famous as the home of La Virgen de Regla (The Black Virgin of Regla), a black Madonna who cradles a white infant. Identified with Yemayá, the Yoruban orisha of the sea, the Virgin is the patron saint of motherhood and of sailors. On September 8 both Catholic and Santería celebrations honor her. There's a procession through the streets to the wailing of dirge music. The faithful also fill the church—dressed in their finest and wearing something blue, the color of the sea and of Yemayá—waiting their turn to touch the virgin or their favorite icons and crucifixes in side chapels. At the water's edge, women standing ankle-deep
in the harbor's oily waters sing or pray to Yemayá, sometimes tossing in a coin or launching offerings of flowers, oranges, or melons. A branch of the Museo Municipal de Regla, just to the right of the church, has a display of Afro-Cuban orishas. There's also a shrine to Yemayá in the entryway of a private house, two doors up at No. 15.
There are several points of interest on or just off Calle Martí, among them the Plaza Antonio Maceo, with its monument to La Maternidad (Motherhood), another Yemayá reference. The statue of Antonio Maceo, the great general of Cuba's War of Independence, stands at the far end of the square.
On Calle Martí is the Plaza del Ayuntamiento, Regla's central square. Here you might find an impromptu street party breaking out, with a beer wagon selling 5¢ glasses of draft. Note the floral and fluted columns on the facade of the former theater on the corner at No. 410. Around the square are monuments to heroes of the struggle for independence: Comandante Miguel Coyula (1876–1948), José Martí, and Eduardo Facciolo.
The Museo Municipal de Regla offers insight into Regla's history. During the Revolution, this area was a rebel stronghold known as La Sierra Chiquita (The Little Sierra; as opposed to the Sierra Maestra where Fidel and his forces operated). Close to but outside of and largely separate from Havana, Regla was a convenient place for clandestine activity. Photographs of the Regla heroes and heroines (such as Lidia Doce) who were tortured and murdered by the Batista regime line the walls. Also on display is a copy of the first edition of Eduardo Facciolo's La Voz del Pueblo Cubana, dated June 13, 1852. Calle Martí 158, Havana. 7/897–6989. 2 cuc. Mon. and Wed.–Sat. 9:30–6, Sun. 9–1.
Behind the Maceo statue in the Plaza Antonio Maceo is the Taller Antonio Canet. This studio and gallery offers an interesting look at the work of Cuba's master printmaker and graphic designer, particularly his woodcut and linocut engravings for an edition of Cirilo Villaverde's major 19th-century novel Cecilia Valdés. The building in which the gallery is set is also called the Eduardo Facciolo House. Known as "the first martyr of Cuban journalism," Facciolo was executed at the age of 23 (in 1852) by the Spanish for publishing an article in La Voz del Pueblo Cubano (The Voice of the Cuban People) criticizing the imperial power for brutal policies in Cuba. Calle de Facciolo 167, esquina de Calle Maceo, Havana. 7/897–6989. Donations requested. Mon.–Sat. 9–5.