“I like your good vibrations,” she said confidently. And by she, I mean Victoria, a well-known santera from our town.
A santera is a woman who practices Santeria, “a pantheistic Afro-Cuban religion developed from the beliefs and customs of the Yoruba people and incorporating some elements of the Catholic religion,” according to Wikipedia
“Well, I like your good vibration too, Victoria,” I said, hoping my reputation as a slow learner would not impede our connection.
“Are you a Leo?” She then asked. “I always get along with Leos.”
I said nothing.
“Yeah, you’re a Leo,” she reinforced again.
I then replied, though not with words, but with the nod of my head. From then on, we were friends.
A Leo and a Virgo.
A pastor and a santera.
I am not saying that I now read the horoscope or practice Santeria. But I am saying that what I used to dismiss as a false-religion-silly-spirituality-that-will-send-that-lady-to-hell-forever is valuable to my friend. It matters to her. It has been good and bad for her, just like Christianity has been good and bad for me.
“What I used to dismiss as a false religion is valuable. It matters to my friend. It’s been good and bad for her, just like Christianity has been good and bad for me.”
—Carlos A. Rodriguez
Of course, we disagree on a few things. And if I am honest, I still have a desire for Victoria to fully encounter the Jesus that encounters me still. A part of me wishes she would unshackle herself from all the heavy parts of her religion that have cost her relationships and brought shame to her life.
But then I realize: I am Victoria.
I carry a bunch of baggage in my faith that has cost me relationships and brought me shame. I am also valuable and precious and worthy of love.
Maybe that is why Jesus wanted Victoria and I to be friends. Because interconnectedness is freedom. And in that freedom, God brings a santera and a Christ-follower together to truly discover the God in us all.
Now, three times a week, we bring food to Victoria. It is part of The Social Kitchen program at The Happy Givers in Puerto Rico, a non-profit that encompasses an eco-system of social work, feeding programs, home rebuilding, and community farming — at an open table for all.
“Interconnectedness is freedom. And in that freedom, God brings a santera and a Christ-follower together to truly discover the God in us all.”
—Carlos A. Rodriguez
The name Victoria means “victory” en español, and she has definitely been part of God’s victory in my heart, destroying the idols of separation and breaking the walls of hostility that kept my heart rock solid and unavailable to love.
May your Victoria come along — good vibrations and all.
Reflect With Us
Who is your “Victoria?” What would you do differently if you met your “Victoria” today? Share your reflection with us.
Carlos A. Rodriguez is a passionate speaker who leads the Happy Non-Profit and The Happy Givers. He is the author of Simply Sonship, Drop The Stones, and the upcoming Flip The Tables. He loves spending time with his wife, Catherine, and their three children. Carlos also is a Puerto Rican — living in Puerto Rico —and he can’t wait to host you there!
We Conspire is a series from the Center for Action and Contemplation featuring wisdom and stories from the emerging Christian contemplative movement. Sign up for the monthly email series and receive a free invitation to practice each month.