I came across this larger-than-life San Lazaro (AKA the biblical Lazarus, AKA the other biblical Lazarus, AKA Babalu Aye) while wandering in and out of botanicas in the Lower East Side east of Essex St. I had just been gleefully harangued at the Santa Lucia Religious in the Essex St. Market for asking what a certain Native American statue “meant” (“Nothing here has any meaning before you buy it. It’s like that steak over there….” [to be continued]), when I saw from across the street through the front door of the 99¢ Store & Botanica at 166 Rivington St. the tall crippled figure in the shadows pictured above.
I must admit, the more I frequent botanicas the more I appreciate the seemingly unpretentious and non-precious relationship santeros have to their spirituality. Ironically, the clutter and dust of many hierbería come as a breath of fresh air after spending so much time in and around the pristine shoeless wonder that is the western yoga studio.
I have to ask, however, can there not be such a thing as matter-of-fact mysticism for the pale face? Must we constantly make mansions of every mud hut?