HAVANA – Enrique “Enriquito” Hernandez Armenteros, Cuba’s oldest Santeria priest, died on Thursday in Havana’s Guanabacoa district. He was 99.
He was a practitioner of four of the Afro-Cuban faiths, known collectively as Santeria, that represent a fusion of Catholicism with beliefs brought to the Caribbean by African slaves.
Enriquito always said that he owed his knowledge of the African deities to his grandmother, a former slave.
His home, which doubled as a place of worship, was filled with representations of Yoruba “orishas,” who are paired in Santeria thought with Christian saints, such as Babalu Aye (St. Lazarus), Chango (St. Barbara), and three identified with the Virgin Mary: Ochun, Obbatala, and Yemaya.
For decades, believers from across Cuba and beyond the island came to Enriquito in search of guidance.
The “babalawo” also stood as godfather to more than 2,000 people.
In 2001, the Cuban government authorized the Sons of St. Lazarus, a group Enriquito founded in 1957, to stage an annual procession honoring the saint through the streets of Guanabacoa.