CONCHA ITALERA, healer
To Concha, the last part of the pilgrimage road, between Santiago de la Vega and El Rincon, seemed the most difficult. But with her strong willpower, with prayers to Babalu Aye and with Chagos encouragement and help, both of them arrived safely.
The road to the church was swarming with people, some walking in silence and praying, some getting their last steps on their knees, or with stones on their backs, others merely rejoicing to have arrived to their destination. Here one came to fulfil promises, to pray for wellbeing and for San Lazaros help, but most of the pilgrims were praying for the health of family, friends and loved ones. The ones who have already received the saints miracles had to do penitence as promised. Concha and Chago did no penitence, but they had come with offerings.
One effigy of the saint was placed outside the church, next to a spring with holy water streaming from a little cave offered its small stream, which the pilgrims used to take in little vials, and to wash there the parts of their bodies most aching. Concha washed her hands, her face and her head, knowing that she was more purified than others, due to the unexpected bath last night.
The statue had a white sheet in front of it, ready to receive the offerings. It got quickly covered in a golden cape of coins. Another statue, of the Saint Lazarus of Betania, was inside the church, receiving the same treatment.
Beggars with effigies of the saint sat on the floor just inside the church, waiting for the vigil mass to start, while hundreds more believers pushed their way toward an altar and handed candles, cigars and flowers to priests and deacons, who placed them near a statue of the saint.
Chago and Concha were with them to depose their offerings. They had, each, 17 candles. Now Concha took the leadership, as she had been here before and Chago had said it was his first time in El Rincon.
Suddenly, the church's bells began ringing. It was midnight.
"Viva San Lazaro!"
a priest shouted. "Viva!"
the crowd roared.
The crowd began to pray, then listening, in silence, heads bowed, to the mass. Conchas prayer list was rather long, to hold for the whole mass. She didnt notice the passing of the time.
After the vigil mass, the priests took out the statue of San Lazaro for the first procession, dancing in triumph on the streets of the town of Rincon, saluted by the locals who watched from their windows and by those who joined them enthusiastically. Torches were everywhere, transforming into day the long night of December.
Drums, guitars, fiddles and fifes appeared from nowhere in the hands of certain men, others started dancing in the procession accompanying the saint. By Chagos side, Concha Italera seemed to have rejuvenated and to have forgotten age and wounds, dancing frenetically and singing with the others, convinced that the African dances were the way to honour the saint. When their gazes met, she asked him silently to do the same.
[align=center] This post has been written by ELENA