The Man with God in His Mouth

In tiny Miraflores Viejo, in Cuba's cane country, the religion of choice is vodou, and the high priest is Eugenio Sensio

"What is vodou?" Sensio asks the group rhetorically, gesturing with both arms outstretched. "Here they don't understand what it is. It means that everyone is equal. I live with everyone here, and no one knows me." Juan rests an arm on Sensio's bony shoulder, as if to urge him and everyone else to lighten up. "I just know one thing, Juan," Sensio continues, oblivious to the cue. "One thing. That I'm here among my people, and no one understands me." He takes a deep drag from a cigarette and exhales, baring his bottom teeth. "But the day they do understand me, many people in high places are going to fall. Everyone is going to seek out my way of doing things."

His mood has not improved by dinnertime. The longest night of the year, December 21, has begun. The air is dank and the mosquitoes are hungry. Sensio's sisters and son are jammed into the living room of a house next door, singing old songs in the Creole they barely know. Sensio sits at his table shaking his head and drinking alcolito mixed with homemade orangeade. Chavela and Leonel serve him pork livers, rice, and tostones, but he takes only a few bites. He remembers the people who ignored and slighted him at the party earlier, and how he's been discounted all his life for being black, being Haitian, being unschooled, and from the country.

"Luche mucha. I've struggled. But people know me because of the things I've done for them," he asserts. "In Cuba a lot of holy men make a living being holy men. I can't." He looks up at the rough wood ceiling beams. His shoulders jerk, and he hits his chest, then holds out his hands as though grasping the air. "They travel around the world and get rich. I prefer to stay in Cubita bella. I'm talking about Camino Largo. He's easy to understand, but subtle. The more danger there is, the stronger he gets. He can't be inflated, he can't be equated. The gods are screaming."

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As the gods cry out from the mouth of Camino Largo, Leonel reaches across the table in front of his boss to grab an open pack of Populars, sifts one out, and lights it. "Go and rest," Leonel urges.

"Sometimes I say I can't go on anymore -- how long can I go on?" Sensio hoists himself up from the table and moves haltingly to the front doorway. The moon is a sliver in the cloudless sky, glowing with whorls of stars. "I'm not going to rest because this is my night to remember everything. To remember who I was in my life.

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