December 17th.

How was it marked on your calendar?

If you woke up and forgot to dust off your statue and light a yellow candle in honor of the healer of physical and spiritual pain, you were still in time to honor him at la Santa Procesion at Rincon de San Lazaro in the heart of the self-proclaimed “Ciudad Que Progresa” – Hialeah, Florida. Their website describes Rincon de San Lazaro as a “Iglesia Catolica y Apostolica”. The Archdiocese of Miami does not recognize them as such.


Hundreds, if not thousands, of devotees gathered last night to festively celebrate the feast day of San Lazaro – Babalu-Aye to those who worship him via Santeria, an Afro-Cuban faith with roots in the Yoruba region of Nigeria. Purple and/or burlap wear is the dress code for the night (although it wasn’t as common last night as in years past).


Devotees give themselves up to ecstasy and pain, whether it be on foot, on their knees, or dragging themselves along on the ground. I didn’t see anyone dragging themselves last night, but did see it last year. It’s incredible to see how strong religious faith is.


Someone left her 5411 Reeboks (these aren’t really 5411 Freestyles for all you sneaker junkies out there) neatly placed in the middle of East 4th Ave and decided to go at it barefoot.




The crowd, along with its offerings of purple and yellow flowers, as well as jars and bags of shiny pennies, eagerly awaits to enter the church.

I wonder what happens with all those pennies once it’s all said and done?


The “priest” awaits the throng gathered along the side of San Lazaro. The Santa Procesion brings San Lazaro atop a pedestal down E 4th Ave.

The moment everyone’s been waiting for:




One of the leaders of the procession can be heard shouting, “Viva San Lazaro!”. The crowd answers back, “Viva!”.

Although I have no empirical data to support the following comment, I think it’s safe to say that 99.95% of the devotees in attendance were of Cuban heritage (95% of  which aren’t more than +/- 5 years removed from the island). I did bump into a former co-worker who is Nicaraguan and was proudly sporting a white t-shirt with a silkscreened image of San Lazaro in purple – I was green with envy.

When I (almost ignorantly) asked what he was doing there, he kindly replied “I used to live down the street from here. I’ve been coming to this [event] with my family for the past 11 years.”

Damn. He’s got me beat by 7 years.

I am not a santero (although I can play one on TV). Nor am I a San Lazaro devotee (although, I did wear a small charm – not the San Lazaro cutout, but a small round charm with San Lazaro in it – as a child as part of a promise made by mother back when I was a young boy. Hey, anyone down with dogs is down with me). I simply attend this celebration in homage to my Cuban heritage (sigh). Overhearing conversations keeps me informed as to what’s happening in the “community”.

Too often, the exile Cubans of the 60’s (my parents era) and even “Marielitos” from the 80’s distance themselves from those who arrived in the 90’s (“Los Balseros”) and the recent arrivals (“Los Lancha Rapidas”).


Adrian Salgado is a Realtor Associate with DASH – A Real Estate Company and can be reached at 305-491-7179 or



Filed under San Lazaro

14 responses to “Babalu-Aye

  1. LoreL

    La Cuidad que progressa de veras que esta progresando. A veces tenemos ciertas criancias que siguen con nosotros cuando crecemos. Aunque no creamos en el proceso, seguimos con la tradicion. Como dice Gloria… “Que Sigua la Tradicion”… Y yo cuando era niña iba todos los años al Marine Stadium con mi abuela para esperar la llegada de La Caridad del Cobre.

  2. Religious events are not my cup of tea; however I am deeply saddened that I missed this event yet another year. I have been intrigued to venture out for years, but always seem to miss the date. How could I forget, Abuelo always related the number 17(Charada China) to San Lazaro. Maybe next year.

  3. Pipita

    It was very cold yesterday – did not have a purple or yellow sweater to wear … go figure. I had plans to wear it and could not. Tradition – this is what our parents have instilled in us and we will continue to pass along.

    Here is a short story for you, not to long ago when Raisa was about 16 yrs old – a message came to my mother from a well known family member in Cuba that she (Raisa) should wear a charm of San Lazaro around her neck. Raisa would have an injury and this would protect her. None the less the woman got on a horse without a saddle and broke her elbow. It could have been worse. So we stand behind the belief and the tradition. Today I still save my pennies and give them to my mom – sometimes I take them to Winn Dixie and cash them in too …. never the less … Viva San Lazaro !!

  4. Adrian Salgado

    “Not long ago when Raisa was 16 years old”? I don’t mean to throw Raisa out there, but…

    Nevertheless, that’s a great story about the thin line between faith and superstition.

    Or is there a line at all?

  5. Adrian Salgado


    It isn’t about religion. It’s about everything else that surrounds it.

    See you next year!

  6. Raisa

    Oye… que interesante me han cojido para el relajo de San Lazaro and by the way it was not to long ago LOL…. I had forgotten about that.

    I do remember when I was a little girl not to long ago grandmother Violeta and dad putting the purple cape on the San Lazaro and the cigar and all the other things with that when with it and sat and waited for midnight ….. it was an excuse to stay up for me.

    Someone said they are traditions, but boy they instilled them in us. I know when its time for La Caridad, Santa Barbara and San Lazaro.


  7. Monica

    Papo…wear that charm…you don’t want to bring bad luck upon yourself by breaking mom’s promise to the man with the dogs! I must wear my Caridad del Cobre charm (when I was a child, she also made a promise that I’d wear it forever and once in a while, she reminds me of how ungracious I am by not honoring her pledge to la Virgencita). By the way, can you invite me next year? I’d love to instill these cultural (not so much the religious aspect of it) events in Nina…she’d have a blast. Silvia, your story cracked me up and Raisa, I was nodding when i read your last paragraph. I too remember when each of the Saints are commemorated and almost feel guilty about not wearing clothes of the particular commemorative color on their honored day. Is that tradition or guilt? Oh and can you believe Manolete was the only one to wear purple yesterday?

  8. Juan

    Not being of Cuban descent, I must admit I have always been curious about “Los Santos”.

    I believe the first time I heard about them was in a “salsa” song – something about Chango, Obatala..I think…(forgive my mispelling -if any)-many years ago, while still living in Los Angeles.

    In any event, ever since then I fell in love with the music and the dance…

    Que vivan los Santos..que viva el Son !!!

  9. Adrian Salgado


    I’m sure your Cuban girlfriend can shed some light on los santos – as well as the music and the dance.

    If you haven’t checked him out yet, try some Polo Montanez. His vocals aren’t great, but the music and the background vocals are. I’m sure you’d enjoy.

  10. Rosemarie

    Thou San Lazaros Day is Dec 17th I am wondering if I now can make a plea and pray to him for a request. I am so new to this even thou and it seems that now my spirit is yarning to learn more. If any one can please advise me on how to ask san lazaros for a request I would so appreciate it. I know that his colors are brown/purple and to light a candle it is yellow but again I want to make sure that I do not offend in anyway.

  11. Rosemarie // February 27, 2008 at 3:57 pm

    Thou San Lazaros Day is Dec 17th I am wondering if I now can make a plea and pray to him for a request. I am so new to this even thou and it seems that now my spirit is yarning to learn more. If any one can please advise me on how to ask san lazaros for a request I would so appreciate it. I know that his colors are brown/purple and to light a candle it is yellow but again I want to make sure that I do not offend in anyway.

  12. Since this is a real estate blog may I ask a question related to Santeria AND real estate?

    When the population of Santeria practitioners increases in a particular neighborhood do the property values rise or fall?

    I was looking to invest in a rowhouse in a Wilmington neighborhood. But I found out it is next door to a Santeria priest. I am unfamiliar with Santeria. Should I be concerned?

    Thanks in advance for you time,

  13. Interesting that there are no responses to my question. The more research I do, the more I find that this is a taboo subject. No one wants to talk about it here in Wilmington, Delaware. I think it’s a valid question.

  14. what does San lazaro need to have around him beside water and vino seco can you tell me more information please.

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