Just One Person from … Cuba

Fellow blogger ThatTravelLadyInHerShoes has created a challenge called Just One Person from Around the World to profile a person met during our travels. It’s a great concept. Many times, it’s the people that I meet that make my trip memorable.

Like the fellow I met on a countryside path in remote Cuba. A group of us had been traveling by horse buggy on the road to Chivirico. Someone spied horses watering on a river bank and had the idea to stop our cab and take pictures. Scrambling off the rocky road and climbing down into the ravine took longer than we thought and by the time we arrived, the caballos had left. All was not lost however. One of our guides struck up a conversation with a local passerby and he offered to take us to his village and show us around.

The gentlemen was very distinguished. With his proud bearing and olive green fatigues, I easily believed him to be a old revolutionary. In fact, when I said he looked like a young Fidel Castro he was quite pleased. So pleased that he invited us into his home.

Like other homes I’d visited in Cuba, his was a humble abode. The main building was reserved for sleeping quarters while an airy room at the back served as living, dining and work space. In this room were the tools and accoutrements of the village seamstress and beautician.

A collection on one table caught my eye. When I asked about it, both my guide and host hesitated to reply. The guide whispered something about santería and the host said something about los ninos. It’s time like these that I wished I’d remembered more of my school girl Spanish. I would have asked why he was apologizing to the boy in the photo, someone who I gathered hadn’t survived and for whom the altar was a memorial. He ended by saying that he didn’t practise that (santería) anymore.

Later, I showed the picture to one of my Cuban hosts. He thought that it looked like a primitive altar in the santería tradition. He explained that the religion was complex and integral to Cuba’s history. Indeed it’s not been an easy topic to research. So far, my best resource has been this article. Santería is an African diasporic religion, brought to Cuba by West African slaves and is a confluence of native beliefs and Christianity. The name “Santería” refers to the correspondence between Yoruba deities called orishas and Roman Catholic saints (santos). Contemporary practitioners refer to the tradition as “the religion of the orishas.”


I hope you enjoyed this snapshot of someone from another part of the world. I look forward to reading other people’s stories. Blogger CaddyLuck Leedy says that she’ll update her site on Wednesday with links to other Just One Person stories. I’m planning to check it out. Maybe you should too!

Photos taken in Cuba, 2018

23 Comments

  1. What an interesting encounter! I missed seeing this when you posted it a few days ago, so I’m really glad ‘ThatTravelLady’ posted the links to last week’s contributions 😀 I love your photos of this man and his home. I learned a little bit about Santería when we visited Trinidad in Cuba – we went to a sort of shrine where it is practiced and were told a little bit about it. But it seems to be a religion that is kept fairly secret from non-practitioners.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Santeria does seem shrouded in secrecy. For the longest while I didn’t write about this because I couldn’t find enough information about what it was. ‘ThatTravelLady’ gave an excuse to dig a bit deeper.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What a great challenge!
    I love how you seem to connect with random people during your travels. That’s the thing I love about North America dwellers. You’re generally so sociable and talkative. I’ve always loved this quality.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ohhh! I love your posts about Cuba…Bueno, I am Cuban 🙂
    I think the altar could have been set up to keep the children protected so they may not necessarily be dead. Maybe it was an offering to Eleguá? Eleguá is an orisha often represented as a child himself and identified in the Catholic religion with the Holy Child of Atocha (Santo Niño de Atocha). As for the guy’s claim that he didn’t practice Santeria anymore…hum…why the altar then? 🙂

    Like

    1. I know you’re Cuban Teresa, I was hoping you’d read this and give me some clues.
      Now that you mention it, eleguá does sound familiar. Either he mentioned it or one of my Cuban hosts did. I gather from the article that 80% of Cubans practise santeria in one form or the other. Also, am I right in thinking that there might be some remnants of secrecy surrounding it? Leftovers from when religion was illegal?

      I’m originally from Jamaica and I know that obeah was believed but kept underground. In the city ‘modern’ people viewed it as old style country superstition and my Roman Catholic sisters said it was devil’s work. Still, as a child, nothing scared me more than the stories of bogeymans and ghosts. I still remember them 🙂

      Like

  4. There is so much to learn about people, isn’t there? This must have been quite the adventure for you! How long did you stay in Cuba? Were you with a group? Did you stay in big cities or smaller villages? Thank you for adding to the challenge this week! I will have them all posted on Wednesday again, so everyone can read them! Hope you participate again! Cady

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Cady! We spent a little over a week in Cuba with a small (10 people) photography tour group. We stayed in a little village called Chivirico which is about an hour outside of Santiago de Cuba.
      I’m glad to participate in your One Person challenge. I’m sure to do it again!

      Liked by 2 people

        1. No and not recently 🙂 Up until a couple years ago, my hubby & I lived in Singapore. From there we would travel around South East Asia and do photography, mostly on our own. In general, we stay away from tour groups as we like having our own agenda. Cuba was an exception. If we ever go again, we’d do it solo. I look forward to the day that travel opens up again. I still have many places that I’d like to visit. In the meantime, I keep thumbing through my photo archives looking for new posts to tell 🙂

          Like

    1. What’s amazing to me is how open and friendly these folks were. This gentleman had no qualms or expectations in inviting us into his home. We were total strangers, and he was happy to show us his things and talk about himself throught the interpreter.
      I can’t imagine anyone doing this here. In fact, if I saw a horde of people walking down my street taking pictures, I’d probably call the police! No, not really. I wouldn’t call the police but I certainly wouldn’t invite them in 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Perhaps it was more of a novel experience for him – to see a bunch of tourists. I can’t imagine myself doing what he did either – but then it would never happen here. I think the more traditional and anti – materialistic one’s life, the more interesting it is to the western world.
        What I mean is that I can imagine doing this in Norway – and a Norwegian doing this even though it is a modern country. I just can’t imagine it in America, Canada, or Australia. There is not much to see that is different from the mainstream so it would just seem weird.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. I also think that smaller communities with less ‘modern day’ facilities (streaming music, videos, podcasts etc.) rely on each other for companionship, amusement and entertainment.

          At another Cuban house, we were invited in for an impromptu party in the back yard. Neighbors dropped by and a few brought their guitars and drums and started singing. Likely thre are households in Canada, US & Austrailia that do this, but somehow I think it’s not as common as it would have been years ago.

          Anyways, mine was fun trip because of chance encounters like this.

          Like

        2. I spent time with my cousins in Denmark and Sweden tracking down places in my dad’s stories and then taking tons of pictures of them. People did occasionally ask what we were doing wandering around on private property but it was mostly curiosity. Since my cousins spoke Swedish and Danish we had a lot of interesting conversations, and sometimes they phoned neighbours to come and talk to us! We also got emails from several of them…

          Liked by 1 person

          1. What a thoroughly memorable experience you had. Very special to see the properties and get a glimpse into the past. What you once were. The Danes are renowned for being somewhat aloof to strangers however my experiences were similar to yours. When you are interested in family they invite you in and are curious about you.

            Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s