Thursday, January 04, 2007

Letra del Año

El Nuevo Herald
Posted on Wed, Jan. 03, 2007

Cuba's Santería priests predict 'funereal' future
Two Havana groups of Santería priests issued their predictions for 2007, eagerly awaited by the many Cubans who practice the mixture of African and Catholic religions.
El Nuevo Herald

In separate and virtually competing new-year predictions, two groups of Cuban Santería priests are predicting a ''funereal'' future but also an ''ideal'' moment for an economic recovery.

The island's babalawos have long been split into several groups, with one group relatively loyal to the government. But their annual predictions nevertheless are anxiously awaited by the many Cubans who practice the mixture of African and Catholic religions.

This year, the predictions were awaited with special interest because of Fidel Castro's still-unknown ailment, which has kept him out of the public eye since July 26 and sparked speculation that he's seriously ill.

On Monday, the Yoruba priests who make up the relatively independent Commission for the Year's Letter announced that 2007 would be marked by wars and ''military interventions'' although the island will see an economic improvement based on the discovery of oil and mineral deposits.

While they refused to speak specifically about Castro's health, babalawo Lázaro Cuesta, who read the year's prediction, made comments that seemed to be directed at the Cuban leader's ailment.

''The panorama that presents itself to us is a little funereal,'' he said. ``When one doesn't leave his place at its proper time, one runs the risk that unpredictable things happen.''

Castro surrendered power for the first time in 47 years after undergoing intestinal surgery in late July. A Spanish surgeon who visited him two weeks ago said Castro was recovering from ''complications'' following ``very grave surgery.''

The 80-year-old Castro turned over most of his power temporarily to his younger brother Raúl, who is believed by many Cuba-watchers to be more willing than his brother to open the island's economy to more market forces.

''I was powerfully impressed that they [the babalawos] were so categoric on this,'' said María I. Faguaga Iglesias, a Havana anthropologist who took part in the process of developing the commission's predictions.

Although the Cuban babalawos usually avoid making statements with political implications, this year they raised eyebrows when they called for more care and attention to the island's youth ``because today's youth will be called to rule from a house to a country in the not-too-distant future.''

The babalawos' comments coincided with recent statements by Raúl Castro that the generation that fought in and led the Castro revolution is reaching the end of its time ``and we must give way to new generations.''

Meanwhile, the Cuban Council of Senior Ifá Priests, considered to be more loyal to the government, said its predictions ``speak of legal problems and their repercussions, which could bring as a concequence an increase in corruption and crime.''

A third group of babalawos in Miami, which will make its own predictions public today, said the true forecast falls somewhere between the two Havana groups. ''If we take a piece of each letter to make up one real letter, if out of all this mess we take a little bit of each, this year, simply put, the letter is predicting something bad,'' said Miami babalawo José Montoya.

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