San Lazaro is Cuba’s Healer


(photo by Irina Echarry)

HAVANA TIMES, Dec. 14.- Pain is equal to faith, or vice versa. Bleeding knees, bare feet burning on the asphalt, people with crutches, flowers. Children spurred on the faith of the adults. Mothers desperate in pain.

It seems like each December 17, hope takes over a place called El Rincon (located to the west of Havana in the town of Santiago de las Vegas). Hundreds, thousands of people, come here; some sick, others to light candles to San Lazaro, the healer.

The pilgrimage begins the day before. Difficult promises are kept, many sleep at the sanctuary. They walk kilometers, some with bare feet, others on their knees, others dragging huge stones as if they were bearing an immense punishment. The majority do it to help a sick family member, out of gratitude.

Religious Procession-San Lazaro-09.jpg
(photo by Irina Echarry)

This saint has the reputation of a healer, of improving the body and soul of his believers. Faith in him is so deep rooted that some call him “Father” or “Old Lazaro”, as if he were someone very close.

San Lazaro is associated with dogs; so on these days it’s normal to see people giving food to animals, taking care of them, while some take them to the sanctuary with them. In paintings and sculptures, San Lazaro is represented as a poor old man on crutches, with dogs licking his wounds.

What’s curious is that it’s not enough to light candles and pray, or to be good to dogs. To meet ones obligations with old Lazaro you have to suffer. Nobody says it has to be so, but it is shown in the promises that people made. They are all painful.

These people are not afraid of pain; they demonstrate it even in their faith. They arrive at the sanctuary suffering, with faces marked by pain; but later they smile because they have done their duty with the “old guy you don’t play with.”

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