HAVANA TIMES — A conversation I had recently left me with a gnawing doubt.
My sister told me that her six-year-old grandson reproached her mother for practicing the Yoruba religion. “Those saints you talk about are not saints. Children go missing because of them in December.”
“What do you mean children go missing?” I asked. “They’re sacrificed,” was the answer. “What do you mean children are sacrificed?” I insisted, increasingly shocked. “Here, in Cuba?” “Yes, for the 4th of December.”
I couldn’t – and still can’t – believe what I was hearing. I continued to ask everyone I assumed would know something about the issue, and I obtained similar claims: “Children are sacrificed to Chango.” “Why children?” “Because it’s the blood of innocents.” “But, have any cases been revealed, or are these just rumors?”
The replies merely made reference to a concrete incident: a man inside a bus (no one recalled the bus number or route, though the people who had told this person the story had mentioned it) was carrying a large sack. Inside it, something was moving about suspiciously. Someone mentioned this to the driver, concerned, and he decided to stop at a control point and ask a police officer to search inside the passenger’s sack.
When the police officer opened the sack, he found a child with his lips sown shut inside it. According to the legend, the fateful date was nearing.
What was most disquieting for me was that, though this story was absolutely new to me, everyone I spoke with had already heard it. How is it I’d never hear anything of the sort before?
If, as the people I spoke with claim, this is a well-known secret, why is there no talk of the subject? Not informing people of these sorts of things is one of the ills of socialism, as we saw with the notirous case of the “Butcher of Rostov.” But, if there are any documented cases of such barbaric acts, how is it that not even the alternative media make any mention of it? How is it that no one has seriously looked into the matter?
“Because everyone’s afraid,” was the answer. I recall that, when I wrote a post criticizing the foulness and cruelty of the animal sacrifices made in our city under this religion, I was told I was very courageous.
Incredibly, people are afraid to incur the wrath of the gods, just as in pre-Colombian times, when it was believed that blood (the blood of others, of course) was a divine gift that could secure us the blessing of omnipotent beings that steer and even control our destiny. The sane question would be: what sort of happiness could warrant such a horrible practice, or the silence surrounding it, or even the creation of such a morbid myth?
I believe any creed is worthy of respect, but the right to life must be fully respected everywhere in the world, and kidnapping and murdering children is an extremely serious offense.
As I have no other source of information available, I turned to Wikipedia. There, I found the following:
Chango is one of the most popular gods of the Yoruba pantheon. Considered the Orisha of thunder, lightning, justice, virility, dance and fire, owner of the Bata, Wemileres, Ilu Bata or Bembes drums (for dance and music), he represents the necessity and joy of living, the intensity of life, masculine beauty, passion, intelligence and wealth.
In his day, he was a king, warrior and sorcerer who accidentally destroyed his home, killing his wife and children, before becoming an Orisha. Offerings to Chango include amala, made out of corn flour, milk and ochre, green plantains, oti, red wine, toasted corn, barley, birdseed and other ingredients. Rams, roosters, quails, turtles, chickens, doves, etc, are sacrificed to him.
I don’t know whether “etc.” is Wikipedia’s contribution or whether it reflects a fact. The article adds that the festivities in honor of Chango are held on December 30, but the people who have some knowledge on the subject (confessing that, as regards my particular query, they would rather not ask too many questions) insist that the offerings are made in December, a month in which the innocent are at risk in Cuba.