Santeria: an Afro-Cuban religion. Looking at its history, worldview, myths and rituals and its influence on Latin Americans today

Essay by lanacoxxxCollege, UndergraduateA-, March 2009

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Santería, or "the way of the saints," is a religion that has its roots in the clash between African slaves and the Spanish slaveholders in Cuba. During the time of colonialism, Africans from the regions now known as Nigeria and Benin were sent to Cuba to be slaves under Spanish imperial rule. The Spanish baptized the Africans into Catholicism, and prevented the Africans from worshipping the gods of their native African culture. Thus, Santería became the religion of those oppressed in Cuba. The religion although often shrouded in mystery and stereotypes, is a very legitimate faith tradition. The history, worldview, myths, and rituals all play an important part in the faith, and it continues to influence Latin American communities today.

The religion of Santería began in Cuba. During this time, Africans from present-day Nigeria and Benin were sent to the Caribbean as slaves to work on sugar plantations. These Africans, known as the Yoruba people, arrived in Cuba to be enslaved under the Spanish.

The Africans were compelled to adjust their beliefs to the immediate challenges presented by colonial Cuba. The Spanish were Roman Catholic, and they instilled upon the Africans the belief that Jesus was the Son of God. Prior to be led away from their homeland, Africans were forced to pass under a Catholic priest, who baptized the African "heathens" in the name if Jesus. These Africans were being led to a life of slavery and felt no need to assimilate to Spanish Catholicism or their white culture. Instead, the Africans simply masked their gods with the appearance of Catholic saints. The Spanish were tricked into thinking that the Yoruba were praying to Catholic saints, instead of the African gods from their homeland. Thus, Santería became a religion of necessity for the Africans so that they could continue...