Hablando de lo que pica el gallo…formando un arroz con mango.
Saca los tambores, wave down the flower vendors, fuma el tabaco y deja el cabo, y póngale unas velitas y un poco de dinero al viejo San Lazaro para que alcance la suerte.
Para el que no sabe, which is probably a few of you first generation Americans (with Cuban parts) on the eve of December 16, we marked la víspera de San Lazaro, the Saint of the poor and of the sick in Afro-Cuban religion. His Orisha name is Babalu Aye, a phrase I’ve heard far too many times as my hips sway and body turns to the rhythm of Salsa music. He is el santo que cura, the miracle worker, and although not recognized by the Roman Catholic Church, he is idolized by Cubans, many even making the pilgrimage to el Santuario de San Lazaro en El Rincon in Cuba to present him with their offerings and promises. El Rincon de San Lazaro church in Hialeah says he’s “el de las muletas y los peros, el que cura los enfermos.” Clever Cubans, very witty and clever. I’m almost sure my youngest brother, Danny was baptized there as a child, and because San Lazaro isn’t recognized by the Roman Catholic Church, when he was to do his First Communion, he needed to be baptized again. I’m not too sure if that was the exact case, but I never understood what difference it made if in all religions, we’re all children of a greater power. But I won’t touch that subject. Back to el viejo.
San Lazaro, being my dad’s saint, has always been a prominent figure at home in some way growing up. My dad keeps a small figurine of the thin, old man in crutches with the two dogs at his side, bruised and beaten. As night fell on December 16th, my dad and I were sharing a conversation and un pastelito in a gas station on LeJeune when the clerk answered a personal call on her cell phone and began her gossiping. Not that it takes much technique to listen in on a phone call between two Cubans, seeing as we speak so loudly, but we heard her mention Lazarito, and I remembered that the 17th marked el dia de San Lazaro. My dad realizing it was his víspera said “Ay, hay que comprarle flores al San Lazaro.” The woman, off her phone already, replied, “A esta hora? No creo que vayas a encontrar flores morada.” My dad reassured her that in Kendall it was possible seeing as the more Afro-Cuban religiously inclined didn’t live out West and our chances were more likely. In fact, the minute we got off the highway on the way home, a young man was still out selling flowers, in his hands some roses with a hint of purple. I remembered and waved the flower man down, my dad later lighting a candle and setting the flowers down at midnight in honor of his santo.
Whether praying to him, offering him gifts or making promises works or not, I’m not sure. But it never ceases to amaze me how many people gather together on the eve before the day of any santo, be it San Lazaro o Chango, (whose day was at the beginning of this month, on the 4th) or La Virgencita and celebrate their beliefs in such a festive manner. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel I can claim any of these santos my own one day, but the afro-cuban in me may have made a permanent mark on me when I decided I’d dance to Albita’s Babalu (Aye) in my Quinces.
Here’s to celebrating health, wealth, and life whether you light una velita or diecisiete for San Lazaro.