Category Archives: San Lazaro

Babalu-Aye

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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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:

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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”).

SOMOS UN SOLO PUEBLO O NO?

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

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