Late last week as I sat with the ancestors, I had a very clear image of María Isabel Reyes—Asonsimeneco. When I met her in 2004 with David Brown, she was all heart. Never a star, María Isabel was content to live in her small house and offer coffee to those who visited. Just as in life, she appeared warm, grounded, unambitious and just grateful for the attention.
Until her passing a couple years back, she was the senior Asojano priestess at the Cabildo Arará Sabalú Nonjó in Matanzas. Born on April 16, 1944, she was initiated on July 6, 1954 at age ten. Amelia Mora—Chiarré was her oyugbona, and Dolores “Lola” Vinajera—Juniko had Asojano made and served as her godmother. Lola had been made by Flora Heredia, who had made Towosi (the Arará Yewá). María Isabel waited 36 years to initiate her first priest, and that was Pedro Abreu—Asonyanye on February 20, 1992. In time she gave other Asojanos and even made a young man from Miami.
While a legitimate defender of the Sabalú idea that only those who have made Asojano can give or make the fodun, María Isabel said she respected Babalú-Ayé Lucumí.(Thanks to David H. Brown for the photo.)