Every year on December 17th, thousands of worshippers from all over Cuba make the pilgrimage to the small church in Rincón, 17 km from Havana. Santeria and Catholic believes have blended in this holiday as people honour Babalú Ayé, the deity with healing power, also known as San Lázaro or Lazarus. Many pilgrims who come to Rincón are sick. People crawl or walk on their knees, some of them are carrying a cross or a block of concrete. Believers in Saint Lazarus ask for health and prosperity.
Some moments of this massive pilgrimage can be chilling, as people bleed from walking on their knees and sometimes faint from exhaustion. But this ceremony also reveals a lot about the island's culture and folklore. For Catholics, Lazarus is the patron of the poor and sick. He is often described as a homeless beggar surrounded by dogs. But in the Cuban African religion known as Santería or Oricha, Babalú-Ayé is a powerful deity, who is feared and beloved. He is responsible for bringing epidemics and stopping them. In Cuba he is one of the most popular saints.