Cuba's Santeria priests warn of pandemics, offer hope of better times

  • World
  • Monday, 03 Jan 2022

HAVANA (Reuters) - Priests from Cuba’s Afro-Cuban Santeria religion called on their followers to guard against infection in the New Year while raising hopes of better times as it would be watched over by a benevolent deity.

In their annual prophesy the priests, known as babalawos, announced that 2022 would be under the divinity of one of Santeria’s most compassionate deities, Obatala, the creator of human beings.

"Yes, it means a better year," one babalawo texted his followers, according to a Reuters witness who was asked not to use his name.

The ritual-filled religion, which fuses Catholicism with ancient African beliefs brought to Cuba by slaves, is practiced by millions of Cubans, many of whom eagerly await guidance from its annual forecast.

“Maintain the highest possible hygiene in our homes and public places in general to avoid new epidemic outbreaks, in addition to the existing ones,” babalawo Lazaro Cuesta said, upon reading the letter, adding that people should seek unity in the home and on the street to avoid violence.

Another leader of the organization that fashioned the letter that guides followers behavior, Victor Betancourt, warned that disease would increase due to negligence worldwide and so the letter was for everyone everywhere.

Cubans have suffered food, medicine and other shortages due to an economic crisis caused by the pandemic, U.S. sanctions and the Communist-run government’s missteps. That led to unprecedented unrest in July and a crackdown on protesters that has left hundreds behind bars.

Homegrown vaccines successfully brought under control a surge brought on by the Delta variant of COVID-19 over the summer. Reported cases currently stand at around 450 per day, down more than 90% from the peak of the pandemic, according to the government.

More than 85% of the population is vaccinated and are currently receiving a booster shot in hopes of keeping at bay the Omicron variant.

(Writing by Marc Frank; reporting by Reuters TV; Editing by Mark Porter)

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