Cuba's Santeria Leaders Predict War, Government Collapse, Marital Infidelity in New Year
By Anita Snow
Associated Press Writer
To the sound of African chants and drumbeats, practitioners of the Afro-Cuban
Santeria religion honored a long-dead high priest Friday after their leaders predicted
war, government collapse, the death of high-ranking personalities and marital
infidelity for the world in the coming year.
Known as the "Letra del Año" — Letter of the Year — the world predictions
in the first days of January are watched closely by many Cubans, even those who
are not Santeria followers.
The group making the predictions Friday is the largest of at least three
groups that issue a Letter of the Year each January.
More than 800 Santeria priests, known as babalawos, put the predictions
during a Dec. 31 meeting in Havana held by the Miguel Febles Padron Letter of the
Year Organizing Committee, named after a late priest.
The Santeria leaders said that the ruling divinity for 2003 will be Eleggua,
the god of
destiny, which is associated with St. Anthony of Roman Catholicism.
Accompanying Eleggua over the next 12 months will be Ochun, the powerful
goddess of love and rivers that is associated with Cuba's patron saint, the Virgin of
Charity of Cobre. But "a sacrifice is capable of changing the future," said Santeria
priest Victor Betancourt, referring to the sacrifices of goats and other animals he
and other babalawos regularly practice to please the Santeria divinities.
Among the slogans for the year that raised some eyebrows was: "The king
his crown before dying."
Betancourt insisted the slogan did not refer to 76-year-old President Fidel
now 44 years in power. "This letter is for all of humanity," he added.
Among the Santeria priests' other predictions for 2003 were grave neurological
psychiatric illnesses, infectious disease, liver ailments, as well as food poisoning
and other sicknesses caused by improperly prepared food.
The babalawos said along with the collapse of a government somewhere in
world, the people of some nations will be enslaved because of war, commercial
accords will be broken, corruption will increase, economic markets will have
troubles and irregular weather patterns will continue.
Santeria is a syncretic mix of Roman Catholicism brought to Cuba by the
Spaniards and Yoruba spiritual traditions carried here by African slaves.