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San Lázaro (O Yo Soy La Ruta) (work of art)

Artwork Info

José Bedia
115 x 61 1/2 inches (292.1 x 156.2 centimeters)


Purchased with funds from the bequest of W. R. Valentiner, by exchange

Object Number

Key Ideas

  • In Afro-Cuban religions, San Lázaro is the god of sickness and healing. He is often depicted with crutches and diseased skin. 
  • José Bedia uses iconography (images and symbols) to represent San Lázaro. These include a black silhouette dotted with white stars, a pair of crutches, San Lázaro’s various names, and a church.
  • Bedia’s artwork is inspired by his religion. It is a combination of Kongo, Native American, and Catholic beliefs. Many of his works feature sacred figures from the Palo Monte religion. 

Learn More

José Bedia’s art reflects his Cuban heritage and celebrates the cultures of Indigenous peoples in Latin America, Africa, and North America. Bedia explores the themes of identity and exile in his artwork, with a focus on his Palo Monte religion. Palo Monte is an Afro-Cuban religion with strong links to Native American beliefs. The practice of Palo Monte began in Cuba. It blends Catholicism, Kongo, and Native American religions and their gods, orishas, and saints. San Lázaro is a combination of the Catholic Saint Lazarus and the Orisha Babalu Aye (baba-loo eye-ay)

This painting features the different Palo names that represent San Lázaro. He is depicted as a dark figure on crutches. His body is covered in stars that represent his diseased skin, and his guide dogs are licking his wounds. San Lázaro is regarded as a humble saint of health and healing who soothes the sick, especially immigrants and people living in poverty. He is also known as the “god of crossroads” who guides people in making difficult decisions. San Lázaro’s comforting words appear in the middle of this painting, in Spanish: “Yo soy la ruta, el camino por donde vas.” The English translation of this phrase is “I am the way, the path to get you there.”

Additional Resources

Resources for Teachers: 


Resources for Students:

  • Watch a video to hear NCMA curator Linda Dougherty discuss San Lazaro and the artist’s connection to this spiritual guide.
  • Watch a video about Babalu Aye/Saint Lazarus, his offerings, and feast day.
  • Watch a video interview with José Bedia. 


  • A painting of a male figure on crutches, surrounded by dogs and Spanish text. The male figure is painted solid black and covered with a pattern of small stars, set against a rust-colored background.

    San Lázaro (O Yo Soy La Ruta)