Saturday, June 16, 2012
Saint Roque as Babalú-Ayé
All along the Way to Campostela there are allusions to San Lazaro. In many towns, including Cacabelos where we are right now, there was a special hostel dedicated to San Lazaro located at the edge of town so pilgrims with the plague or leprosy would not have to mix with others. Imagined as a lame man on crutches with two dogs traveling with him, San Lazaro is a classic icon of suffering, isolation, devotion, and dynamism.
Another similar figure is San Roque. Son of French nobles, Roque became a mendicant. On pilgrimage to Rome, he came down with the plague. With open wounds he walked to Campostela, attended by a faithful dog that licked his sores clean and brought him food to eat. He is always represented as a pilgrim with sores on his legs and a dog at his side. He caught people's imagination in the Middle Ages, and there are churches for him all along the Way.
Yesterday I was already thinking a post about San Roque, who in Cuba is often linked to Babalú-Ayé, the deity of infectious disease and healing. Today we walked into Cacabelos, passed the Plaza de San Lazaro, and visited the little chapel where this image of San Roque sits on the main altar.
When we went to the Plaza of San Lazaro for dinner, we saw an elderly homeless man picking through the dumpsters. As we left after dinner, he was still at it, so I offered him our leftovers--dinner for him and a small offering for us to show our gratitude for our well-being.