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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Afro-Cuban deities are swirling all around you and you don't even realize it.

So I am sitting in the office of a potential client and a casually look at shelf above the cubicle and notice two little statues and a wine glass half filled with water.  Now it would be disingenuous of me to to say I didn't recognize Santeria when I saw it. While I was not entirely clear whether I was looking at Santa Barbara(Chango) or La Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre(Ochun), what was weird was that I found it completely normal to see these deities in their Catholic disguises. Just chalk it up to another day in Miami. 

As you live and work in Miami there are small signs of Santeria everywhere. Last night at the gas station in Coral Gables, I saw man dressed entirely in white linen. Young, handsome, Latino, stylish? No. Not stylish but a Santero in a new Lexus celebrating the summer solstice. How could I tell? Stylish guys can wear all white....but the white shoes will always give a Santero away. The rule my grandma said about white shoes: no matter what outfit you wear them with, even naked, all they'll remember are the white shoes. 

Do NOT Eat, it's for Ochun!
You can breezily live in Miami and not see the signs of Santeria everywhere: walk along almost any sea wall along Biscayne Bay and look into the shallows. Chances are you'll offerings to the saints in the form of plates, filled with coins, candles, and silverware. By Mercy Hospital it looks like the china set of the Andrea Doria washed ashore, along with the coins from the penny arcade. I've been tempted to refill my coffers with the money offered to the saint since the money is cast directly behind the Ermita De La Caridad del Cobre, 3609 S. Miami Ave. She is the patron saint of Cuba and another guise for Ochun: the Yoruba Lady of Love, Beauty, and Sexuality, and Spirit of Fresh Water.
These are not paperweights.
There are little rituals you may notice: a dead chicken with candles on a sidewalk in Coral Gables, a person sprinkling rum and blowing cigar smoke in a new accounting office on Brickell or an 8 foot statue of San Lazaro (Babaluaye) in the foyer of a McMansion in Doral.  In Miami you see these things, process them and move along.  Initially, when I took my son for a sleepover at house mentioned above, I mentioned to my husband, "how sweet, they have a statue of Joseph in the entryway. They must be good Catholics." I got a kick in the shin and the sleepover ended at 11PM. 

In any case, we Miamians are often accused of superficiality. That we are a city of "bad values" raising up material goods above those of the soul. That we are city of sinners and sexual libertines. That god wears Gucci here. But I can guarantee, in many corners of our homes, offices and public spaces the Yoruba gods are watching over us. They are Miamians and blessing us with beauty, sunshine, love and happiness.