Saint Lazarus Under Police Surveillance

A young man pushes an effigy of Saint Lazarus through the streets of Old Havana dragging a stone chained to his foot to pay a “promise.” (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 17 December 2021 — Like every December 17, the island’s believers honored Saint Lazarus on Friday, syncretized with Babalú Ayé in Afro-Cuban religions, at the El Rincón sanctuary, in the province of Havana.

Patron of the sick and the poor, his following has been increasing in recent times. This year of extreme crisis, of course, the number of destitute for the saint to protect has grown. All Cubans are vulnerable in Cuba today.

And as a mirror of the repression suffered by the island’s citizens since the protests of July 11, the temple where Saint Lazarus is honored has been heavily guarded since the day before by police and military personnel.

The atmosphere is not one of many celebrations. Unlike other years, there are no festivals in the houses or the traditional allegorical costumes with which the saint is celebrated. “For December 4, Santa Bárbara’s day, not even the drums sounded,” says a neighbor from Old Havana who, unlike other times, did not make a pilgrimage to El Rincón due to lack of transportation.

“As I don’t travel in the saint’s car,” a young man says humorously, as he pushes an effigy of Saint Lazarus down the street while dragging a stone tied to his foot, hunting for some alms in foreign currency in the streets more frequented by tourists to help him pay his “promise.”


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