Is it any wonder Cubans are a superstitious lot? When a Cuban baby is born an “azabache” is either pinned to her clothes or placed around her neck on a chain. An azabache is a red or black coral charm usually in the shape of a fist. It is used to ward off the evil eye in case a spirit becomes jealous when a baby is admired too effusively. The azabache is only placed on beautiful babies, and since all Cubans think their baby is beautiful, all Cuban babies (well, many of them anyway) start off life under the protection of an azabache.
As Cubans go through life, superstitions are with them every step of the way. From infancy to adolescence to adulthood and even into the Great Beyond, this nebulous concept of superstition is always lingering on the edges of the Cuban consciousness.
Here are some superstitions that only Cubans will understand.
Don’t Go in the Water After Eating
This superstition is something just about all Cubans can identify with. Every Cuban has an uncle or family friend who self-appoints, or is inexplicably selected, as arbiter of when a relative can go in the water -at the beach or in a pool – after eating.
No one knows exactly what a patatù is, but no one wants to find out.
Did you have a hot dog? The arbiter will furrow his brow in serious consideration for some time and then declare, “wait at least 45 minutes.” Was it a heavy meal? “That’s a two hour wait,” the arbiter declares sagely. Cubans ignore this rule at their own risk because they know if they do, they run the risk of suffering a “patatù.” No one knows exactly what a patatù is, but no one wants to find out.
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Wash Your Floors With Hot Water…or Is It Cold Water?
If you want to start an argument among Cubans, bring up the water issue. Some say it is very bad luck to clean your house with hot water. Others insist you must use hot water to clean your floors, but only on New Year’s Day, to wash away the bad juju from the prior year. Still others claim only cold water washing brings true luck. Either way, at least they have clean houses.
Do a Cleansing or “Limpieza”
Things not quite going your way? Encountered a spot of bad luck, also referred to has having a barefoot Chinese man behind you? Then you need a cleansing to remove the evil spirits. Head over to a religious articles store, also called botánica, and have the attendant pass special plants over your body along with a particular spray. Things will begin to look up soon.
Note: this is for hard core believers in Santeria, a syncretic religion that grew out of African beliefs and traditions with a heavy dose of Christianity thrown in. It is practiced widely in Cuba.
Place a Statue of Saint Anthony in an Upside-Down Position and Get Ready for Love
Looking to meet a nice boyfriend/girlfriend? Make sure to place an upside-down statue of Saint Anthony somewhere in your house. Keep it in the upside-down position until you meet that special someone. Then, set him upright in gratitude. If attracting your beloved objective seems impossible, put a statue of Saint Judas, the Saint of the Impossible somewhere in our home and your hopes will be realized.
Don’t Go Out at Night With Wet Hair
Many Cuban superstitions are health related. Going outside with wet hair is a major one. The dangers of going out with wet hair is that you may “catch an air.” This “air” may cause a cold which can turn into pneumonia and kill you. It is unclear if you can go out with wet hair during the day.
This “air” can also be caught by sitting in a draft, in very cold air conditioning, next to a window or anywhere where air circulates.
Put a Glass of Water in a Corner of Your House
A glass of water will absorb bad vibes.
Don’t Put Your Pocketbook or Purse on the Floor
Another big superstition has to do with money. Putting your pocketbook on the floor will cause you to lose money. An itchy hand, however, means you will soon get money.
When You Open a Bottle of Liquor, Spill a Little Bit on the Floor
This practice allows the saints to share a bit of the liquor and they will reciprocate with good fortune. I suspect this superstition was invented by some liquor marketing team to increase sales.
Interesting how these superstitions have endured over the years, passed down through the generations. They have a way of insinuating themselves just below the surface of one’s sophisticated, modern-day persona. I don’t believe in any of these, but I would never put my purse on the floor because, why take a chance.