HAVANA TIMES, Jan 3 — Cuban babalaos (Santeria priests) announced their “Letter of the Year,” containing predictions for 2012 “for Cuba and the world.” Once again came an “osorbo” (a message of bad luck) portending difficulties and the work necessary to counteract their effects.
Most Cubans were awaiting these predictions. Babalawo priest Lazaro Cuesta, a spokesman for the organizing committee of the letter, said the practitioners of Santeria represent the majority of the island’s population.
Cuesta recalled that their predictions for 2011 were fulfilled all around the world in the manner they had foreseen and he assured that he would be satisfied if these forecasts were taken into account during the upcoming Communist Party Conference set for the end of this month.
Regarding the visit by Pope’s Bendicto XVI, scheduled for this year, he said they haven’t been invited by the Catholic Church; he compared this to 1998 when they were also marginalized when John Paul II came to Cuba.
A year to be watchful
The osorbo is marked by the ruling sign, the Baba Irete Meyi (the shadow of children with short lives) and the main deity Oya (the “Orisha” or saint of storms and cemeteries). This is accompanied by Oggun, the patron of blacksmiths and the military.
The believers announced many skin and digestive diseases, gynecological disorders, infertility, decreased fertility, increased infant mortality, epidemics, increasing numbers of deaths from old age, hernias, accidents and falls.
At the societal level they see signs of “social, political and economic transition and change,” but also predicted were wars and confrontations. In the environmental realm they expect more earthquakes and a dangerous increase in temperature.
What they propose are flexible solutions, improved hygiene in hospitals, attending to agriculture and the distribution of crops, being especially careful with children, organizing the economy, conserving the environment and adapting the laws to these times.
“Now we’re going to the house of my godfather (babalao) where we’ll conduct an erbo (a protection ceremony), and then we’ll be guided by this. Doing so greatly improved my life in 2011,” said Vilma Montesinos as she copied the Letter of the Year in a notebook.
But not only santeros came to the house. Also present was Anglican priest Omar Ramon de la Paz. He told BBC Mundo that “Afro-Cuban religions are part of our national essence,” adding that, “Their predictions are of an ancient wisdom that works with intuition rather than with the intellect. “
Lazaro Cuesta says that about 80 percent of Cubans are believers of African religions, despite this they were not invited to participate in the upcoming visit by the Pope. They believe that if an invitation was extended, it would be made to the Yoruba Society, the only Afro-Cuban religious body recognized by the government.
The Catholic Church’s relations with the Santeria dates back to the colonial times, when blacks paid for heretical worship of their gods with their lives. To avoid such persecution, the orishas were syncretized with the saints of the Catholic Church and worshiped secretly in churches.
Predictions for 2011
Some of the predictions from last year were confirmed, such as the “fall of heads of households,” which babalaos identified with the number of presidents ousted in North Africa and the death of Korean leader Kim Yong-il.
They had also announced major natural and environmental disasters such as those that occurred in the Philippines, Brazil, New Zealand, Spain, Chile, Thailand, Turkey and Colombia, in addition to the tsunami that caused the destruction of a nuclear plant in Japan.
As a curious note, after 26 years of being in Cuban hands, the 2012 Letter of the Year was presented by a Canadian babalao. The rule stipulates that this mission falls on the newest priest, and that priest (Michael) had just been ordained.