Purple is For Penance

The Feast Day of San Lazaro

Every December 17th faithful followers from all over Cuba will make a pilgrimage to the city of Rincón for the Feast Day of San Lazaro. The most revered saint in Cuba; San Lazaro is intrinsically connected to the African derived religion known as Yoruba. In the Yoruba vernacular, San Lazaro is called Babalú Ayé and is strongly associated with infectious disease and healing. Believers will make the trek to the church, formerly a leprosarium, to pay off miracles granted or for protection from evil spirits. Many will do it hoping that Babalú Ayé will heal a sick family member. Dressed in burlap and wearing the color purple, they walk miles, some with bare feet, others on bloodied knees, still others on their backs, dragging huge stones or chains believing that suffering is necessary for redemption and answered prayer.