Sunday, May 6, 2007


All you need to make candles is some string, a block of parafine, colors, and PVC tubing to be used as molds.
One's kitchen can become an alchemist den, and your candles will start materializing, and so will be your customers at your front door. Yes. I made candles many years ago, in Cuba.
Red, white, black, yellow, blue, green candles. With parfume or without.
They had secret lives, some of them, inside the candle one will place a plastic sleeve containing documents, or money, for people to smuggle them out of Cuba -yes, some people send their dollars out of Cuba!- or to be given to someone inside the island by a rather non threatening looking candle vendor.
There would be people who come looking for candles that were to burn in church, or in santeria ceremonies. Or which would burn by the hundreds in romantic encounters. Which makes me remember a man whom I helped build a jacuzzi of sorts -in mosaic tiles- fitted with a Russian washing machine motor and a refrigeration compressor. He came and bought 200 white candles to prepare a surprise for his wife on her birthday, around the newly built jacuzzi. I think that they are now enjoying a real jacuzzi with nice candles in the West Coast where they ended up living....
The most bizarre request was taped to my front door, in a form of a note written by somebody who wanted 50 black candles.
I didn't try to find out who the person was, and I made all the candles in one night.
The following day I found a five dollar bill wrapped in a newspaper page and a canvas bag where to put the candles. I filled the bag, pocketed the money, and waited for the mystery customer to show up. She came out of nowhere. She was like 80 years old, black and thin. The candles were to burn in a ceremony intended to break the pact between fidel castro and the devil, and they were to burn in the Colon cemetery, around one of the coffins which are routinely burnt after exhuming corpses in the necropolis.
I recanted, gave her back the money and I said that I would not do anything that involved desacrating human remains, even if it was to kill castro. She assured me that no human remains or animal sacrifices were involved in the ceremony, and asked me for 50 white candles which I had in stock. Noticing my reticence, she invited me to attend, and as you guessed, I did.
We arrived to the Cemetery by the San Antonio Chiquito street door, on the southern wall of the precint. She banged the iron gate with a spoon, in a very rhythmic way, and a wiry young black guy wearing a custodian uniform came and opened with no questions.
We walked through the necropolis in darkness to the northern side of it, and we met with some other people in the Tobias Gallery, a one hundred meter long old ossuary. I noticed that the only two white people were a woman in her sixties or seventies and myself. They were lighting matches constantly to introduce themselves, and the reflection on the orange flame on their chocolate and coffee skins was simply supernatural.
We walked back to a portion of the common camps towards the south of the cemetery, passing by both derelicted and magnificent monuments. Close to the old octagonal ossuary, we arrived to where another black man had been waiting for us with an old coffin with the most horrible stench of death, and told the old black woman to do her thing. She placed the one hundred candles, one black, one white, in a circle around the coffin, and then the man opened the coffin inside of which there was a crude figure in the likeness of fidel castro in military fatigues.
The candles were lit.
The black men and women starting muttering some sort of Yoruba invokation, and suddenly the man who had been waiting for us drenched the coffing with a bucketful of gas which got it immediately on fire, lit by the candles. The figure inside the coffin crackled and bent upright, as if sitting. It was really frightening, and I must have gone a couple of shades paler.
The coffin quickly was reduced to ashes, and so was the figure.
Whatever was left was pushed aside to a ditch, and left there.
We all left with no words exchanged.
Even today I dream of that episode, from time to time.
Like I dreamt of it last night. It didn't spoil my sleep, actually. I think that I have a grin in my face when I dream about it.
Because, one thing I learnt that night was that the ceremony didn't call for a quick reversal of the pact, because it was signed with the blood of an innocent and the blood of another innocent human being had to be offered which of course they didn't do.
It just tells y'all at what level Cuba has descended. Sadly, many people think that the future of Cuba depends on a pact with the Devil to be fulfilled and subsequently extinguished.
White candles, black candles. They really don't have a place in the future of Cuba, but they have a place in the supernatural struggle of good against evil in that island. We are the battlefield between God and Devil, good and evil, us Cubans. The fight is fought inside our souls, and we need to win. We have no other choice. We need to want to win no place or chance for defeat here, and good will thriumph over evil, forever.
Then and only then we will see Cuba rise from its ruins and ashes, as the Phoenix of Freedom from the bottom of the Caribbean Sea.