It’s my last full day in Cuba. Gwanz and I are preparing to head to Callejon de Hamel to view the show that’s performed every Sunday and to follow through with our previous plans: finding a “babalawo” for a reading. It was a short ride to Callejon de Hamel, but a sweet one. We are approached by a guy that leads us into a bar, suggests a drink that is mostly watered down, but delicious, and suggests that we purchase a CD/DVD of the performances that he has recorded in the square. We respectfully decline and instead, ask him to lead us to a babalawo. This was the beginning of the end, or perhaps when we declined purchasing his disc was the beginning of the end. I’m not absolutely sure — but we definitely didn’t heed to any of the warnings that the universe threw at us.
It was a short walk to hell. Steep steps to the second floor. We sat on the couch and waited for the Babalawo to wake up from his slumber after working a night shift. It takes him a few minutes to gather himself and then he comes into the living room in a PINK dashiki printed outfit. Off top I knew I was about to get scammed, but decided to go through the motions, contribute a quick twenty to the hustle, and be on my way. But the universe had jokes.
We get our readings — which to me seemed generic in certain areas and could apply to anyone at any given time. I’m thinking it’s all over and but we’re informed we have to do a cleansing. I’m thinking a prayer and then we’re out.. which is partly how it began, but then things went took a sharp, precise ass left. Left because a cleansing involves the Babalawo consuming alcohol — vodka — and then spitting it into the air. And then all around you as you spin in a circle.
You know how when you were little and you’re supposed to have your eyes closed while the preacher is praying, but you want to keep them open and look around at everybody for whatever reason? That was me. And I completely LOST. IT. when Gwanz received her cleaning and she let out a little shriek. I just KNEW this man did not just spit on her back.. and well, then I knew when he moved my long, golden tresses to the side and sprayed his misty saliva on my back.
By then I was done. I was convinced that I needed a cleansing for my cleansing.
Anyway, the last thing — because this is a long ass process — was to complete the ritual by dropping off whatever in front of a church and in the water and giving an offering. Now, we weren’t sure how much to give so I pulled out 5 pesos and called it a day. Well, apparently this was not gon fly with Mr. Babalawo and while we were headed down the street, we were summoned back to the house, told to sit down, and we were scolded. SCOLDED. Then we were told that we had to pay $100+ EACH. EACH! This supposedly included the sacrifice of the animal and a bunch of other stuff I didn’t grasp because I was trying to figure out how I was going to escape because I. WAS. NOT. PAYING. $100.
We offered $50 and was on our way. I was COMPLETELY over it by now and if I wasn’t skeptic before about this whole process, I was totally convinced that we had been had when the church wouldn’t accept our “offering.” The cherry on top? The translator asks for his fee for translating. *blank stare*
Now, let me say this: I totally respect this culture and the religion and it’s practices. However, I don’t believe this was authentic. But our time with the Babalawo of Callejon de Hamel makes for a helluva story.