Lighting the Way to a Brighter Miami with Cuban Candles
By Lisa W. Hopper
City of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez (Rep.) wants to tackle Miami’s unemployment problem as one of his first important initiatives since taking office, seeking, in part, to wow those who felt that his only mayoral qualification is that he’s “daddy’s little boy”—daddy being Cuban-born Xavier Suarez, corrupt former Miami Mayor from 1985 to 1993 and 1997 to 1998, nicknamed “Mayor Loco.”
In a press conference held earlier this week, Francis Suarez announced his plans to have 10,000 trabajo candles sent from Cuba utilizing Agencia66 Envios a Cuba, a Miami-based shipping business owned by his sister.
Trabajo Candles On the Way
Employment spell candles, or trabajo candles, as they are called in Miami’s Hispanic community, are 9-inch votive candles found in a shop called a botanica, which literally means “herbs.” This name because the shops not only carry candles, but also other items—herbs, anointing oils, bath salts, incense, animal skulls, bones, and perfumes—associated with a brand of spirituality bordering on the superstitious, brought to the Americas from Africa along with the New World’s other great affliction, slavery. These pseudo-religions are called Santeria in the Latin community and voodoo in the Haitian neighborhoods, and their high priests, operating out of churches or botanicas, are colorful characters offering incantations, readings, and special concoctions. The candles ordered by Mayor Suarez are green, a color associated with luck and money; the glass exterior has a silkscreened print of “San Jose”—Joseph, the patron saint of workers.
Haitian botanicas offer work candles called travay vodou chandelle.
For the less adventurous, trabajo candles may be found in one of Miami’s 28 locations for Navarro Pharmacy, only just recently purchased by CVS Pharmacy. Based in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, CVS headquarters Public Relations Manager Janice Watson says, “We tried to remove the magic candles from our Navarro shelves in an attempt to move Miami from the ignorant Dark Ages to the present, but the locals were having none of that. Priests from Santera Local #452 Hialeah went ballistic--they left coconuts and dead chickens in front of our stores until we promised to put the candles back on the shelves. We did.” Almost fired for mishandling this incident, Ms. Watson admitted to lighting a job candle and placing a white flower in a glass of water in order to save her six-figure salary position with CVS.
… they left coconuts and dead chickens in front of our stores…
Yoboluja Castro-Pena, Santera, and purveyor of the Saguesera Botanica and Pet Shop located in Little Havana, explained, “You canna make Babalu angry. Babalu is powerful god. If you give to Babalu—maybe a flan o bocadito, Babalu will give to you. Also San Jose will answer your petitions if you pack in a lunchbox lonchero a sanwish de queso.”
Help for the Unemployed
There are 2,668,200 nonfarm employees in the South Florida tri-county area; however, Miami’s current unemployment rate hovers around 4.5%, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. A spokesperson for Mayor Suarez’s Cuban Interests Office, Ricalada Espinoso, said, “These aren’t just any candles. These candles are specially-prepared by real Cuban santeras. They contain tobacco, a valueless Cuban peso, and like 5 tubs of lard.”
Funding for the candles is provided by the City of Miami Children’s Lunch Program. Once the candles arrive in Miami, there will be an Official Lighting Ceremony hosted by Mayor Suarez. Jobless persons arriving at either the Unemployment Office or Palacio de los Jugos will be handed a frita and a candle. “This will resolve Miami’s unemployment problem,” says Mayor Suarez.
Lisa W. Hopper is a freelance journalist, which means she doesn’t have a real job; however, by burning a trabajo candle she was able to snag this guest staff writer position with The Plantain on a probationary trial basis. Her priest and great friend told her, “Mwen pral limyè yon travay vodou chandelle pou ou. Moun sa yo ki bataards bon mache yo pa pral peye ou yon bagay.”
“I remember when the candle shop burned down. Everyone stood around singing ‘Happy Birthday.’”—Steven Wright