Elegua: a Religious Symbol of Cuban Santeria (Video)

Video by Elio Delgado Valdes

HAVANA TIMES – The Cuatro Caminos market holds many stories ever since it was founded back in 1920. There, one of the country’s oldest relics was found, a stone in the shape of Elegua (an Oricha who personifies how unpredictable chance is, and arbitrarily lays out and closes paths for us).

It became a distorted secret, in stories that were set in a different time, but they always respected that the building’s foundation held the ancestral stone with Elegua’s face on it, laying beneath the market’s concrete structure.

Toques a Elegua, as it is popularly known or Afro-Cuban Bata Drumming in tribute to Elegua, the Holy Infant of Atocha, began with the female band Rumba Morena.

It was believed to rest at “Cuatro Caminos”, a block on the crossroads between Monte and Cristina streets (Ave. Mexico today) and Matadero and Arroyo streets (Ave. Manglar). This meeting point of four streets and four street corners is fitting as the Afro-Cuban religion sees it as a good place for cleansing, a place you shouldn’t go to so as to not pick up any negative energy that is left there. When passing through, you should leave three small packages: one with roasted corn, another with smoked fish and another one with smoked hutia.

The newly initiated (iyawo) need to walk around Cuatro Caminos market on the seventh day of the trono (sitting in front of Igbodun’s throne), which is the last initiation ceremony and the first time they leave home. They do this so they never go without food, according to oral tradition.

Like many religious beliefs and the myths they hold, nobody knows who created this stone, or when it was buried exactly. However, we do know that it couldn’t be put on display which was the original plan, because when it was being transported to the place it is believed to rest, it fell and broke. Some people say that it was made to never be seen, just to be worshipped and paid tribute.

Many knew about the stone, but nobody had ever seen it because it has always buried. Nobody knows what happened to it or if anyone has it, there are new legends today. We hope that one day we will find it and be able to find the artist who can restore it and tell us its history on video. Today, you can see the only drum that could be found in this brief time.


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