December 25th 1996
Matilde beckons me over to a little side altar, “Ahhh, Mati it's the Virgin Mary!”
“Aiye! Davido, it is Eleggua!”, sadly she wags her head, raising her brow.
Ho boy! Of course! Like many Cubans, sometimes both black and white, Mati practices the Yoruban faith. Dating back to the days of the Spanish conquistadors. The slaves being converted by the cross and the sword secretly worshipped their Afrocuban deities; the Orishas, under the guise of the Catholica saints. A spirit for everything, each with a Biblical name. Lazarus? Or Eleggua. Mary? Or La Virgin de Caridad. Both became uniquely Cuban saints.
Tonight is the last night of the ancient bembe fiestas. Outside in the alley beside the church from a courtyard not far away, I hear the mad frenzied beat of the drums. Tolerated -there but not, echoing among the back alleys and rooftops -lost but not lost, an Afrocuban spirit drifting across the years. The drums, as always, beating out an ageless tattoo.
To Be Continued ......