Old Lazarus

Saint Lazarus

At the entrance to the house is a life-size sculpture of a man with a beard and crutches. Everyone crosses themselves before him. Also of wood, there are two carved dogs as his side: skinny submissive strays. The image of Saint Lazarus plays a special role when the festivities for his day approach. He is one of the most venerated saints in our country and generates widespread displays of popular devotion. His sanctuary, in the town of El Rincón, is busy every December 17th with pilgrims, promise payers, flower sellers and police. All around him gather the hurting, the neediest, those who have tried everything to no avail… those abandoned by luck, science, or love.

When I approach El Rincón I feel this energy that comes from pain and faith. The leprosy asylum with its sad stories, the illegal settlements that have grown up on both sides of the railway line and the whiff of the always burning candles. It is not a place for smiles. At times I’ve accompanied some friend bringing an offering promised for a favor that has been fulfilled. Other times, I’ve gone with that curiosity provoked in all of us that we can neither understand nor explain. On at least two occasions I’ve arrived under the roof of the temple at midnight on the 16th and have experienced moments difficult to forget. Someone is crying, screaming, and many are praying, the heat is tremendous and everyone is sweating, it smells of open sores and poverty. There isn’t room for one more soul in the Church.

Today I left the house and very near by they have placed a purple cape and an image of old Lazarus. An old man who passed in front of him leaned over to whisper something in his ear. He had a rough beard and his clothes were from the time of the Soviet subsidy, when the ration market offered manufactured products. Looking from his parched face to that of the saint I noticed a similarity. Both were in the last stages of their lives with only the clothes on their backs and few reasons to laugh. The two of them so close, but one on the altar and the other in the street. One surrounded by promises to keep, the other knowing that all those they had made him are already broken.


39 thoughts on “Old Lazarus


    HAVANA TIMES: Cuban VP Marino Murillo Reappears – December 20, 2013

    One of Marino’s daughters, Glenda Murillo Diaz, took advantage of a conference in Mexico in August 2012, in order to travel to the United States border and request asylum under the Cuban Adjusment Act.


  2. That’s funny, because that’s exactly how the Castro brothers operate. Except I’ll bet the brothers Castro aren’t driving broken down old 1950’s era cars!!


    Yoani writes on Twitter: “Reapears Marino Murillo vicepresident of the Ministry’s Council, after whispers of being demoted or of desertion”

    Good example of how the ani-cuban propaganda operates: they start spreading “whispers” first. Then they deep digger into the whispers, or deny them alltogether when it becomes obvious they were a lie.

    And US taxpayer foots the bill of those “whisper makers”. Now they will reward themselves with imported cars to whisper even more.

  4. See you all later. I am taking a vacation from Castro’s pig farm.

    I now know what they mean by the “internet idiocracy”.

    The brain-dead hate-filled “friends of Cuba” who have nothing better to do than throw rocks, virtual and real, at little old ladies coming out of church carrying gladiolas.

    The “friends of Cuba” who tell Cubans to shut up and accept their complete lack of freedom and 15 dollar a month salaries.

    With friends like that, no Cuban need worry about enemies.

    Hank, Humberto, Trevor, Sandokan, etc, keep on posting. It’s been a pleasure reading and learning from all the comments here over the past few years.

    Most of all, thanks to Yoani.

    The courage of Cuba’s dissidents is truly inspiring.

  5. When I wrote “friend of Cuba” I meant “friend of Castro” of course.

    If there is one thing that Nick and Marabu and all the other “friends of Cuba” show over and over again, it is that they hate the Cuban people.

  6. Trevor,

    I’m afraid “Marabu” is in for a lot of disagreement with Raul in the coming years.

    But North Korea is still a paradise.

  7. Some “independent thinker” posted “Wars are waged by the rich, their weapon is the blood of the poor”

    For some reason, that “independent thinker” does not apply that “thinking” to most of the wars in the world, including Castro’s war in Angola.

    You know, the one where the Cuban side used poison gas and slaughtered lepers, their families and aid workers, according to signed testimony by aid workers.

    Oh yes, I know, gassing civilians is OK when you’re a Cuban or friend of Cuba, like Syria.

    Very independent thinking going on by our resident Hitler Youth.

  8. Tax citizens in a “socialist paradise”? Are you daft, man? In a socialist paradise, such as Cuba, everything that one could need is provided, cradle to grave. LOL.


    I am now reading that cuban goverment will now allow private import of cars:

    Why? You’ve made a mistake, Mr. President Raul.

    The time to allow private car imports would be when the worker’s income would allow to buy one. Today, Cubans make about $5000 a year, an income which does not allow to buy a car. Only “dissidents”, prostitutes, smugglers and black market operator will benefit from the new law.

    A better idea would be to find a way to better tax Cubans who return form a foreingn trip and to use the money for the impovement of public transportation.

  10. I’m certainly no fan of Dick Cheney, or George Bush, but if you think that just about every government on earth, especially Cuba, does not spy on both its own citizens, as well as spy on other countries, then you have the mental capacity of a 5 year old.


    We ask UNICEF to demand from the Cuban government respect for children’s rights, that it stops exploiting children for political purposes, and that it does not use them again in acts of repression against the Cuban opposition.

    On December 9th, 10th and 11th, 2013, Cuban authorities laid siege to the home of peaceful activist Antonio G. Rodiles, leader of the civic group Estado de SATS, to prevent a meeting celebrating Human Rights Day.

    Access to Rodiles’s house was cut by the political police (State Security) beginning at sundown on December 9th, and all those who tried to reach it were detained. Dozens of elementary and secondary education (high school) students were pulled from their classrooms and transported to the area on December 10th and 11th to take part in an improvised “cultural activity” designed to sabotage the human rights commemoration with loud music from their speakers.

    The Cuban government had planned these acts of political mobilization in anticipation. During the month of November, fast action groups were created under the leadership of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (surveillance and control institutions on every block) and the collaboration of other official institution. The campaign began precisely on December 9th, and will continue until December 22nd.

    On December 11th, Rodiles, and other activists who ventured outside the home were violently arrested in front of the minors that were on the streets. Rodiles was arrested under the false accusation, launched by official accounts of the regime on different social networks, that he had assaulted a minor. No such incident ever happened. However, in a video filmed by Estado de SATS, a police woman can be seen pushing a boy who falls to the ground (minute 3:08). Later on, high school students formed a celebratory conga line in front of Rodiles’s house.

    As it is usual in these cases, the minors’ parents were not notified in advance of the activities in which their children were forced to take part.

    We ask UNICEF to demand from the Cuban government respect for children’s rights, that it stops exploiting children for political purposes, and that it does not use them again in acts of repression against the Cuban opposition.



  12. Marabu,
    Interesting article that poses an interesting question.
    I wonder if Dick(head) Cheney cares about who is a traitor and who isn’t.
    I think he cares about being very, very rich that’s all.
    And if his riches stem partly from the deaths of patriots then does he care?
    Wars are waged by the rich, their weapon is the blood of the poor.

  13. Hank
    Your latest remark is hilarious.
    Thats the best you can come up with??
    Actually on second thoughts maybe its not so hilarious.
    Maybe it’s just a little bit of a shame.
    You just cannot seem to come up with an opinion of your own.
    Maybe someone will get you an opinion for Christmas.
    Then you won’t have to use the opinions of other people.
    Lets wait and see what Santy Claus brings huh???

  14. Where are the defectors from Cuba’s intelligence agency? Why, in Miami, of course. I know, that was really hard to figure out!

  15. Some Cubans ask the question whether Snowden was a traitor?

    I am asking why there are no Snowdens in Cuba?
    Where are the defectors from cuban intelligence agencies?
    A guy with Snowden’s profile and skills might make 100K in the USA. He makes probably 12K in Cuba, a double ot tripple of average cuban worker.

    And a smart guy knows to check the weather forecast to jump the raft. And, if cought by the Coast Guard, he wouldn’t be returned.

    The US weakness is cuban strength: the patriotic attidude.

  16. So, obviously, Marabu reads the “enemies of Cuba” comments, in order to comment on them. Way to ignore, Marabu, LOL.

  17. Hi Nick,

    I envy you: they are runnig circles around you!

    But seriously: ignoring the enemies of Cuba resembles much the “advertising blindness”. I don’t know what advertising banner was on the page I have seen just five minutes ago and I also do not notice what the “neutral observers” may have written.

  18. Thank you, Neutral Observer.

    Nick is so outclassed by you that he doesn’t know what to say. You run circles around the guy.

  19. Sorry Marabu, I’ve read enough of Castro’s propaganda for the week.

    When will ALBA allow Cuban doctors to travel freely? How come a Cuban doctor cannot travel even to Venezuela without Castro’s permission and armed guards surrounding him?

    When will ALBA or Castro provide free medical care for Cubans?

    The Cuban medical system is almost completely private. That means you get the service you pay for.

    Despite paying more than 95% in taxes, a poor Cuban does not get 1% the medical service of a tourist or rich Cuban.

    It’s actually closer to 0% than 1%.

    In fact, there’s less medical care for the poor now than there was under Batista.

    Castro outlawed charity.

    Why did all the “socialists” outlaw charity?

    So many questions, so few intelligent answers.

  20. ALBA moves ahead

    Probably the most important development in the current meeting of ALBA and Petrocaribe is the creation of the University of Health Sciences for the peoples of ALBA, with headquarters in Venezuela.

    Access to health services is a basic human right in the sense of the revolutionary peoples of the Americas. Not necessairly in the sense of the empire’s propaganda machine:


  21. Hank,

    Because of your post, I read the Havana Times article and agree with your comments.

    I do not think the author really believed what he wrote, but understanding why would be beyond most readers of the Havana Times.

    There are people who only visit Apollo conspiracy web sites, or “inside job 9/11” web sites, or “holocaust is a hoax” web sites, and then troll the web telling us to open our minds.

    Did the Hitler Youth have open minds?

    That is who we are debating here.

  22. HUMBY!
    Are you suggesting that the superior religions are the monotheistic ones ??
    On what grounds exactly ???
    Do you know something we don’t ????

  23. Hank is, as can only be expected, nicely slotting himself into the category of those who prefer their devoid of context, polarised, good v. bad, simplistic take on the subject.
    No big surprises there then Hank.

    You got two of them Hank…
    One either side of your nose…
    Try opening them…
    Its amazing how big the world gets when you open your eyes (and untie the apron strings)…

    Get out and live a little Hank..
    C’mon you owe it to yourself.

  24. Dear Ms Sanchez:

    Someone on Facebook forwarded this Huffington Post review of yours to me.


    I don’t know much about Cuba or Fidel Castro. But I know a lot about Stalin and the Soviet Union during his time.

    I have not read Padura’s book. So I’m responding not to the book but to what you write in your review.

    You write:

    “No one can remain calm after reading of the horrors of a Soviet Union we were made to venerate as children. The intrigues, purges, assassinations, forced exiles, even though read in the third person, would rob anyone of their sleep. And if, on top of this, we watched our parents believe that the Kremlin was the guidebook for the world proletariat, and knew that the president of our country, until recently, kept a photo of Stalin in his own office, then the insomnia becomes more persistent.

    Of all the books published on this Island, I dare say that none have been as devastating to the pillars of the system as this one.

    I have spent many years, and the last 9 years pretty much full-time, researching the Stalin period and the “horrors” and “crimes” that are widely accepted as historical facts. What I have found is this: They are all, without exception, false.

    I have made a special point of researching fact-claims about “crimes” of Stalin, and of the USSR during his time. Not a one of them is backed up by evidence.

    This tidal wave of lies did not begin with Leon Trotsky. But Trotsky added a lot of his own falsehoods, and his writings became well-known.

    Nikita Khrushchev and his supporters began the great avalanche of lies about the USSR. These stopped when Khrushchev was ousted in October 1964, but Mikhail Gorbachev picked them up again and added yet more falsehoods about the Stalin years.

    I have given a lot of talks about the Stalin years in the USSR. In all of them, at some point, I say (paraphrasing Weird Al Yankovich):

    “Everything you think you know about the history of the Soviet Union during Stalin’s time — is wrong.”

    Trotsky himself was involved in underground terrorist groups inside the USSR in the 1930s. His people were allied with those who murdered Sergei Kirov, head of the Communist Party in Leningrad, in 1934.

    There’s a lot of evidence that Trotsky was indeed conspiring with Germany and Japan against the Soviet Union.

    If you are going to evaluate whether Trotsky should have been assassinated or not, you need to take these matters into account.

    * * * * *

    Finally: you should not take history from a novel. Novelists can write whatever they want to write. I assume that Mr Padura has done this. Do not take it as fact.

    You can read all of my research (much of it done with my Moscow colleague Vladimir Bobrov) on my Home Page:


    You can’t read my books there. But they are easily obtainable, should you be interested.

    * * * * *

    Bottom line: I began yeas ago, quite ready to find that Stalin was the monster that Khrushchev, then Gorbachev, and now all the anticommunists and Trotskyist said, and still say, that he was.

    My research has shown: This is all false. None of it is true.

    I have yet to find one single “crime” by Stalin Yes! That’s how bad it is.

    I think you should know this.


    Grover Furr
    Montclair State University
    Montclair NJ 07043

    Join, Silence, Kill: Stalinism Alive in Cuba
    I could barely sleep last night. A book left me tossing and turning, staring at …
    Ver mais

  25. The Havana Times article Nick has posted as some sort of emblem of objectivity is one of the worst examples I’ve seen in a long time of stream-of-consciousness drivel.

    This is classic Nick, full of the kind of non sequiturs, inaccurate generalizations, and pure gibberish that he laps up. I’m surprised it did not contain any reference to the infamous CIA-sponsored swine flu attack on Cuban pigs of which we’ve heard tell.

    In short, it’s a piece of unadulterated guano.

  26. Hi Humbero,

    Interesting you say that “santeria” is monotheistic. I didn’t know that.
    Monotheistic religions (muslim today, christian in the past) are worse then garbage. They have caused more suffering that Hitler, Mussolini, Hirohito, Franco and Pinochet together.

    I was hoping, that “santeria” was politheistic but you have destroyed my hopes :-(
    Down with santeria then.


    YOUTUBE: I LOVE LUCY – Badass Babalu

    BABALU- AYE: In Lucumí Santería with its origins in Cuba, Babalú-Ayé is among the most popular orishas.[15] Syncretized by some with Saint Lazarus, and regarded as particularly miraculous, Babalú-Ayé is publicly honored with a pilgrimage on December 17, when tens of thousands of devoteess gather at the Church and Leprosorium of Saint Lazarus in El Rincón, in the outskirts of Santiago de Las Vegas, Havana Province. Arará communities in Cuba and its Diaspora honor the deity as Asojano and claim superior knowledge of his rituals.[16] Both traditions use sack cloth in rituals to evoke his humility. The deity also appears in the Afro-Cuban religious tradition Palo Mayombe as Pata en Llaga or Kobayende. Called Omolu, “the son of the lord,” or Obaluaiyé in Brazilian Candomblé,[17] the orisha’s face is thought to be so scarred by disease and so terrifying that he appears covered with a raffia masquerade that covers his whole body. He also manifests in other Brazilian traditions like Umbanda and Macumba. In the religious system of Orisha worship, Babalú-Ayé is the praise name of the spirit of the Earth and strongly associated with infectious disease, and healing. He is an Orisha, representing the deity Olorun on Earth. The name Babalú-Ayé translates as “Father, lord of the Earth” [1] and points to the authority this orisha exercises on all things earthly, including the body, wealth, and physical possessions. In West Africa, he was strongly associated with epidemics of smallpox, but in the contemporary Americas, he is more commonly thought of as the patron of leprosy, influenza, and AIDS.[2] Although strongly associated with illness and disease, Babalú-Ayé is also the deity that cures these ailments. Both feared and loved, Babalú-Ayé is sometimes referred to as the “Wrath of the supreme god” because he punishes people for their transgressions.[3] People hold Babalú-Ayé in great respect and avoid calling his actual name, because they do not wish to invoke epidemics.[4] His worship is widely associated with the Earth itself, and his shrines are often separated from commonly travelled areas. His ritual tools include a ritual broom for purification,[5] a covered terra-cotta vessel, and abundant cowry shells.[6] Usually considered hobbled by disease, he universally takes grains as offerings

    A misconception about Santería is that it’s a polytheistic religion, or one that worships many gods. This isn’t strictly true. There is one supreme God in the Lucumí pantheon, who like the Holy Trinity of the Catholic Church, has three representations and three names: Olodumare, Olofi, and Olorun. Olodumare is the Supreme Being, the Father, the Creator of all things in the universe. Olorun is another manifestation of God, visible to us as the Sun.


    WORLD PRISON POPULATION LIST 10th edition – Core Publications

    CUBA Prison population total (no. in penal institutions incl. pre-trial detainees): 57,337 inmates – 2012
    CUBA Prison population rate (per 100,000 of national population) : 510
    SOURCE: El diario oficiel Granma

    INTRODUCTION: This tenth edition of the World Prison Population List gives details of the number of prisoners held in 222 independent countries and dependent territories. It shows the differences in the level of imprisonment across the world and makes possible an estimate of the world prison population total. The information is the latest available at the beginning of October 2013.
    The International Centre for Prison Studies assists governments and other relevant agencies to develop appropriate policies on prisons and the use of imprisonment. ICPS has an academic partnership with the University of Essex. The Centre makes the results of its academic research and projects widely available to groups and individuals, both nationally and internationally. These include policy makers, practitioners and administrators, the media and the general public. Such dissemination will help to increase an understanding of the purpose of prison and what can be expected of it. It carries out work on a project or consultancy basis for international agencies, governmental and non-governmental organisations.


  29. Socialist Worker

    As to your question “Should the government invest in building churches or schools?” the cuban Revolution has answered this one half a century ago.

    And as far as rent hikes are concerned, yes, there were some before the Revolution. Today, due to the lapse of time, not many Cubans know what it is.

  30. I have to say that Nick’s attempts to smear Cuba’s dissidents each time they are abused and assaulted by Castro’s Gestapo says it all.

    He loves the freedom of speech he enjoys to post Castro’s conspiracy theories on Yoani’s blog…

    but would prefer to see Cubans injured and killed rather than enjoy any of his freedoms.

    During human rights day, hundreds of Cubans were arrested, beaten, stoned, tear gassed, evicted from their homes, some seriously injured…

    for the crime of talking about human rights with friends in the privacy of their own homes.

    That’s all the context you need to understand Castro and his supporters.

    The type of people who volunteered for guard duty at Auschwitz.

  31. Socialist wonker, maybe you should learn to read before you practice your debating.

    Millions of Cubans have experienced Castro’s illegal evictions first hand and can tell you all about it.

    You can read all about it on the internet.

  32. The trouble is that Nick’s context is the delusional context of a fascist lunatic.

    I prefer the context of reality, not the twisted fantasies of “swine flu” Nick, who accepts every word of Castro as the truth.

  33. You can travel throughout the third world and find ‘illegal’ settlements. What is important is how the government responds to the builders and inhabitants. In most of the colonial world there is no effort to stop or interfere with them unless a land owner or the government wants to do something else with the land. Then the needs of the inhabitants for shelter come last and those of the property owners and their government come first. They become illegal. I have yet to read or see an involuntary eviction with Cuban police tossing the tenants belongings into the street.

    In the US few people will risk building illegal structures near or in big cities because the building inspectors will demand a permit be issued before any activity can start. Those who continue risk some kind of police and court sanctions and if that isn’t enough the building inspectors can require an occupancy permit before you can use or rent the property.

    So in the US their are few illegal buildings. Instead their are ‘illegal’ users those unable to pay exorbitant rents and the landowners who are foreclosed upon. You can end up in a situation where you have been paying your rent but the building owners have not been paying the mortgage. This can put you in a situation where foreclosure laws allow the mortgage owner to evict you despite your timely rental payments.

    As to the size of the Church. Should the government invest in building churches or schools? Should government provide a place of last resort occupied and run by professional religious fakers? Those abandoned by luck, science and love? So by returning to the luck of casino and the false love of the prostitute is now a way forward? At least the scientist and engineer will admit they can not solve every problem unlike the sky pilots with their prayers for miracles.

    Why do I write here? Because it gives me a chance to argue my views and practice my debating.

  34. If anyone is interested in broadening their outlook with a view of Cuban ‘dissidence’ put in the context of Cuba/U.S. history, they may find this perceptive article to be of interest.

    For those who prefer their devoid of context, polarised, good v. bad, simplistic take on the subject then this article will definitely not be for them:


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