San Lazaro (‘el viejo’), also called Babalu Aye, is the most venerated saint in Cuba, an amalgam of a Christian saint and a Yoruba god worshiped for centuries by Afrocubans. Every year on San Lazaro’s Day (17 December), thousands of devotees from all over Cuba make a pilgrimage to the Santuario del Rincon, in Santiago de la Vega. A number of them are sick people and beggars, and they go to the little village 30 kilometers from Havana for different reasons, offering differing expressions of their religious feeling. They make the journey on their knees, crawling, or barefoot, pulling large stones or heavy chains tied to their bodies – for days or weeks on end. Along the way devotees collect money, which they hand over to the Santuario del Rincon on arrival. The money goes to help the San Lazaro Leprosy hospital, which is located in the sanctuary itself.
All images © Pep Bonet