San Lazaro

December 17th commemorates the unfortunate beheading of San Lazaro at the dawn of Christianity, the patron saint of suffering, including lepers and other horrible ailments. The purple clad saint who is always accompanied by his faithful hound has become a saint of note in Cuba and has found an important niche in the tapestry of Santeria, the Afro Yoruba Christian melange religion that is an integral part of life on the island.
Altars are erected in front of homes and along the streets for a week before the actual day. On the 17th penitents make their way out of the city to the Rincon, a large church, to drag stones or walk on their knees in the fervent hope that their pleas will fall on gentle Saint ears and relief will come their way.
I was fortunate to be invited to a beautiful old home in Central Havana to party the evening away in typical Cuban fashion, music, rum and cigars with the spangly altar taking priority in the living room.
At midnight with candles in hand we each made our way up to the altar and leaving sceptism and modern thinking at the door sent up a prayer for a moment.
Healing of hearts, souls, world leaders on ego crack and fear could do worse than one night in Cuba with drums in the background, a Cohiba drifting fragrant smoke and smiles in a Purple Haze.
Prince would have felt right at home.
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The streets of Cuba fill with celebrants of Saint Lazaro

 

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Cuban woman smokes a cigar during celebrations for San Lazaro

 

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A Cuban youth lights a candle

 

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Cubanas smile together

 

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Getting ready for a feast

 

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A Cubano offers cigar smoke

 

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A young Cubana with her family

 

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Gabriella celebrates San Lazaro with a Cuban friend

 

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A small street altar for San Lazaro