Probably named for a West African Yoruba deity, this seafarers' and fishermen's enclave retains a rough vitality. Originally a camp for black slaves—especially of the Ibibio, Bantu, and Yoruba tribes—Regla's Afro-Cuban roots are strong.
The waterfront Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Regla, the first stop as you leave the ferry, was built in 1810. It's famous as the home of La Virgen de Regla (The Black Virgin of Regla), a black Madonna who cradles a white infant. Identified with Yemayá, the Yoruban orisha of the sea, the Virgin is the patron saint of motherhood and of sailors. On September 8 both Catholic and Santería celebrations honor her. There's a procession through the streets to the wailing of dirge music. The faithful also fill the church—dressed in their finest and wearing something blue, the color of the sea and of Yemayá—waiting their turn to touch the virgin or their favorite icons and crucifixes in side chapels. At the water's edge, women standing ankle-deep
in the harbor's oily waters sing or pray to Yemayá, sometimes tossing in a coin or launching offerings of flowers, oranges, or melons. A branch of the Museo Municipal de Regla, just to the right of the church, has a display of Afro-Cuban orishas. There's also a shrine to Yemayá in the entryway of a private house, two doors up at No. 15.