This past December, while in Cuba, we decided rather spur of the moment to visit Santiago de las Vegas, a small town about 30 minutes from Havana. This coincided with the Pilgrimage to Rincon – the feast day of San Lazaro. Interestingly, the pilgrimage is not meant solely for Saint Lazarus of the Catholic Church but rather to the amalgamation of the beggar Lazarus from Luke 16:19-31 and the orisha, Babalú-Ayé of the Yoruba faith. The procession of people making this journey are a diverse mix of faithful Cubans. Once inside the church at Rincon (and previously the leprosarium for the area), you will see both the Lazarus of the Catholic faith and the “Saint” Lazarus that many Cuban’s will be paying their respects to.
Deciding to make the several mile walk from Santiago de las Vegas to the Rincon Church was easy, although preparing ahead of time is recommended as there were very few places to go to the washroom and to buy bottled water. Thankfully a nice family let me use their facilities on the way! As you approach the church, there are more and more vendors selling religious items, food and drink as well as music being played and performed. That said, this is not meant to draw in tourists. I soon realized we were the only three people with cameras other than a couple of local Cuban media photographers. It was quite a wonderful experience to be among a majority local population.