CUBA – BABALÙ AYÉ, 12-2016
The cult of Saint Lazarus (also known as “Milagroso San Lázaro”, the miraculous) is one of the most important traditions in Cuba, where every year on December 17th thousand of pilgrims flock to the Sanctuary dedicated to the saint, in a place named El Rincon, close to Havana. When on 17th December 2014 came the announcement of the renewal of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States, for Cubans was not a coincidence, but it was a miracle, as it occurred on an auspicious day for them. It was St Lazarus day. At the stroke of Midnight beetween 16th and 17th many believers perform acts of devotion in the holy sanctuary: some people, inspired and encouraged by the crowd, crawl forward on their knees, others drag heavy stones tied to their ankles. For some people the pilgrimage itself is the act of devotion, because it lasts weeks and many miles, during which they collect money, cigars, candles and bottles of rum, they will offer to the saint to keep that “promesa”, a promise that they made at the beginning of the journey. Francisco with his girlfriend for example, for seven years is been keeping that promise that made to Babalu Aye (name by which the Cuban Santeria identifies St Lazzarus), by turning on his backs and using his legs to propel himself untill the sanctuary on the night beetween 16th and 17th. He hopes that the Saint, thanks to this demonstration of devotion, will help him to reach his family who lives in Miami.
Santeria, the “Regla de Ochas”, is the most widespread religion in Cuba. Inside of this religion coexist the Christian religion (introduced by the Spanish people at the time of the colonialism) and the religion of the slaves of the Yoruba tribe. Santeria is a religion full of life just as the people of this island. It accompanies the daily life of the population in all its aspects, also the cultural ones: the dance, the sound of drums, prayers and, above all, the desire and the dream of a world that is still embracing its complicated story, but now ready for a new chapter.