Showcasing the art and ritual of the African and African-diaspora religions

Statue of San Lázaro

Catalog Number: B009


29.3 x 16


11.5 x 6.3


Religion and Denomination: Santería (Cuba, Yoruba)
Ethnographic Origin: Caribbean
Materials: Beads
Date of Manufacture: 06/2011
Usage: N/A
Detailed Description of Significance:

The use of Roman Catholic iconography is not unusual in Santería/Ochá. This particular artifact uses Saint Lazarus to depict the Santería/Ochá oricha Babalú Ayé, who is associated with disease and sickness. Most Cuban and Cuban-inspired santeros regard “San Lázaro” and “Babalú Ayé” are alternative names for the same being. 

In the Bible, Saint Lazarus appears in a Jesus’ parable about the rich man and the beggar outside of his gate. In the parable, there was a very wealthy man who lived in a grand home and Lazarus was the beggar who waited outside of his home asking for food from the rich man’s table. Lazarus was covered in sores that the dogs in the streets licked. In the end, both Lazarus and the rich man died, but Lazarus was rewarded and pampered in the after life while the rich man was made to suffer. Depictions of Saint Lazarus include a statue of an elderly man on crutches surrounded by dogs. The dogs in the statue speak to the fact that dogs licked the sores of Lazarus while the crutches denote that Lazarus was ill or lame.

The use of this particular saint as a representation of Babalú Ayé makes sense because this oricha is considered lord of disease and illness. The cape that was added to the statue of Saint Lazarus shows how practitioners of Santería/Ochá make Roman Catholic ideas and/or traditions work for their religion. The cape is made of burlap, which is a rough material that mimics the feel of diseased skin. The cowry shells on the cape represent the orichas (cowry shells are frequently used in other objects consecrated to of the orichas such as on pañuelos or other altar cloths, and vessel altars. In Santería/Ochá, Babalú Ayé is frequently represented by both crutches and dogs.