My Padrino: A Tribute
Olorisha Oní Yemojá Kathryn Forestal, Yomí Yomí
Orun a n’ile, Aiye l’oja – Heaven is home. Earth is the marketplace.
On August 3, 2007, the Lukumi spiritual Ifa leader, Omo Odun, Roberto Boluffer, Ogunda Leni, made his transition. He was an octogenarian, who was born in Santa Clara, Cuba. During that time, he achieved countless spiritual accomplishments. Oluwo Boluffer was one of the first to make Ifa in the U.S., brought the Ifa system to Puerto Rico and established cultural recognition. Ogunda Leni initiated over eighty Ifa ceremonies, established several spiritual houses in Puerto Rico, the U.S. and was establishing a new branch in Venezuela. Roberto Boluffer implemented government recognition for Ifa priests to be allowed to practice and receive consultations within the penal institutions of Puerto Rico. There are a multitude of testimonies on websites praising his greatness and honoring him. These are my personal memories of Padrino Bobby, and an account of how he enriched my life.
In the early 1990’s, I first traveled to Puerto Rico. My godmother was born in Puerto Rico, but she was living in Chicago. On many occasions, she spoke of how prominent her padrino was in the Ifa and Santeria community. Like most of us, we think our godparents are the best, so I listened to her praises with a grain of salt. Fortunately, I discovered that her praises were to be true. My friend and I were vacationing in P.R., and I wanted to meet him and pay my respects. We rented a car and drove up to Tintillo Hills. As we entered the area, a security guard announced us and then passed us through the gate; impressed were we two tourists. When the electric gates opened to his house, it felt like we were entering a movie star’s house. Our eyes first gazed to the right; he had a collection of exotic animals; peacocks, monkeys and deer, and to the left, his orisa house where he did all his Ifa and orisa ceremonies. Directly in front of his family house, a statue of St. Francis Assisi stood in a fountain. At this point, my heart started to beat rapidly, as I was nervous and apprehensive to meet such a distinguished figure. How would I greet this spiritual royalty?
As we waited quietly outside of his office, there was a group of people also waiting for a consultation. After thirty minutes, the door flew open, and I heard rapid steps. There stood a man in a white T-shirt, blue jeans, white cowboy boots and huge steel rimmed glasses; he was shorter than I imagined; however, he towered in stature. He ordered his godson to bring him certain spiritual items. Responding quickly, his godson did not hesitate to grant his requests, for there stood a leader, a king, like his spiritual father, Chango.
Coyly, wearing a red dress, I introduced myself. Padrino teased,” You’re wearing red like an apple, and you look good enough to eat.” He asked me to wait a little longer and then brought me in for a consultation. Within minutes, he read my life situation, my problems and their solutions. I envisioned him to be an aloof elder. Instead, he was a commanding figure who welcomed me and charged me nothing, except a hamburger. He asked me to buy him one when he visited Chicago. Unfortunately, I never had the honor to pay my debt. Not only was he ruggedly handsome, but hip; a characteristic that I didn’t expect from a spiritual elder. From that point, he became my Padrino Bobby, and I became his godchild and devotee.
Over the subsequent years, I would return to Puerto Rico and visit him. Without exception, I learned something every time we had a discussion; he was the Wikipedia of Ifa. Padrino Bobby was passionate about Ifa, and he studied voraciously. His interpretation of the Odus and their relationship to modern times was uncanny. He studied, calculated and identified the interrelated systems of Science and Math with Ifa. Teaching about Ifa was truly a joy for him and lecturing to enthusiastic students was his reward. Ogunda Leni was a scholar with celestial credentials who continued to seek knowledge and share it.
Five years after our initial meeting, I made Ocha in Puerto Rico. Padrino Bobby brought five of his godsons, to assist with my matanza. So much was happening in the Room that I’ve forgotten a large part of the ceremony, except his entrance. When he entered, the santeras became silent. He briskly entered the Room, like the commander and chief, and assigned various duties to each godson. They performed my matanza with reverence, precision and organization. He proceeded to recite the ritual prayers and perform his duties like a master, with Orunmila and Ogun guiding his hands. Upon completion, he exited with his thunderbolt Chango energy, like a king with his knights marching behind him. How blessed I was to have his ashe consecrate my initiation.
What I cherished most about him was his generous nature and kind heart. Although I lived a long distance from him, never once did he refuse to help me. Padrino Bobby demonstrated his love for me, in many ways. Once while making a return visit, I had requested a consultation. That weekend, he was doing four Ifa ceremonies. When I arrived at his house, he was in the middle of the ceremonies. He came out of the Room and saw me waiting for him. Padrino announced to everyone that he was taking a break, so to give me a reading. Ogunda Leni had an embracing quality; he made people feel loved and special.
Recently, a wise Awo who had lost his godfather last year reminded me that we now have someone who can speak for us in heaven; who will transcend time and space and be with us anytime. One of the definition’s of a king is, “A principal man or preeminent male figure in a specific sphere; an outstanding and independent man with complete power.” Padrino Bobby Boluffer was a king, who ruled with the staff of Orunmila and bestowed spiritual riches throughout the world. We should not mourn; for he is returning home, to rule in another kingdom. In his memory, let us unite and love one another, as the moving sea between the shores of our souls.