Residence: Miami, FL
Date of Performance/Collection: 3/14/16
Primary Language: Spanish
Original Text: “Si pierdes algo, amarra un trapo negro a la pata de una silla para que San Dima te ayude a encontrarlo.”
Transliteration: “If you lose something, tie a cloth black to the foot of a chair so that San Dima can help you to find it.”
Translation: “If you lose something, tie a black cloth to the leg of a chair so that San Dima can help you find it.”
The source says that Cubans have many different superstitions for finding lost items, but this is the one she’s heard of the most. She said San Dima is the patron saint of finding lost things. When I tried searching more about Saint Dima, though, I was unable to find anyone by that name. I also asked what the significance of the black cloth and the chair were. Apparently, it’s a black cloth because the item is lost somewhere it can’t be found, somewhere “dark” to the finder. She didn’t know exactly why it’s tied to the leg of a chair, but she speculated it had something to do with being close to the floor and how lost things are usually on the floor.
This belief sounds like it stems from Santeria, a Latin American religion that combines witchcraft with Christian beliefs. The original practitioners of Santeria were African slaves that had been taken to islands like Cuba and whatnot by the Spanish. In order to protect themselves from being punished for practicing their native rituals, the slaves exchanged the names of African deities for Christian saints. As such, many of the deities’ abilities were carried over to the saints. It’s possible that San Dima received their power for finding things from whatever African deity their name was used to replace. While Santeros aren’t the only ones who practice this belief, it seems very likely that that’s where it stemmed from.