The African in All Cubans

Rosa Martinez

Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES — In Cuba there’s a popular expression that goes: “He/she who doesn’t have Congolese, has Carabali,” which is a way of saying that black blood runs through all our veins here on the island, no matter how white one’s skin color might be or how thin their features.

An example of this is the degree to which Cubans visit Afro-Cuban santeros (priests of the Santeria religion).

These sessions can concern anything from a family member who’s sick with an ailment that modern science can determine, to ensuring that one’s child passes an exam or defends their thesis.

Then too, a visit can help with getting rid of a boss who often bothers you or it can assist in leaving the country. The point is that there are thousands of reasons to visit an occultist.

I have a friend was determined in believing that someone had cast a spell on her. According to her, her daughter gets sick for no reason.

When the mother least expects it, she has to leave work to see to the child, who when she doesn’t have a cold, has diarrhea, or when she doesn’t have a rash, has something else. This little girl always has something.

My friend also says that she’s always short of money (it seems she doesn’t realize that she’s in the same boat as 90 percent of us here), saying that it drips through her hands like water, which she says isn’t normal.

On top of all that, her partner left her, though from what she says they never had any serious problems – at least nothing outside the regular flare-ups in any relationship.

“This can’t be normal! I’ve been hexed! I’m telling you, somebody has put a curse on me! I’m going to a santero to get this mess taken off, but I need you to come with me,” she said.

“Okay,” I replied, “I don’t think that’s going to solve your problems, but if you want to go – hey.”

We went to the home of a tall black guy — cute, by the way — who, from what he told us, was of Haitian background.

The man spoke in circles, in a strange language. By the time we left we knew it wasn’t any language or anything, it’s the dead who speak gibberish like that.

Nonetheless, by the time my friend ended up leaving, she was convinced that this Haitian knew as much about witchcraft as we did about Japanese.

Image what he told her: “Money is tight in your house.” I had to laugh – just looking at my friend’s face was enough to tell you that she has more problems than a math book. The santero was telling her nothing new.

“You and your husband are having problems,” he continued. I laughed again; the “husband” wasn’t a husband as such, her female companion.

Finally, he said, “I see you going on a long trip…” With that one I didn’t have time to laugh; my friend stopped him short and said:

“I don’t know where this journey is coming from. I don’t have a chance of going on a foreign aid mission, I don’t have relatives abroad, and I don’t even have a good friend abroad. The only ‘long journey’ waiting for me is the one waiting on everybody: death. Or are you gonna tell me that I’m going to die and that’s it? That’s about all I need.”

Exasperated, she left there without paying the 7.70 MN (about 30 cents USD) for the session.