Sunday, February 2, 2014

What I Know about Santería

What do I know about Santería? Not much, except that it is extension of a West African Yoruba religion, and that African slaves in places like Cuba and Brazil (Candomble) had to take this religion underground, i.e., camouflage it under Catholocism because it was forbidden by their white slave masters. To be caught in openly practicing this Yoruba relation would result in dire consequences. The slaves used the names of Catholic saints in place of Yoruba deities. I had a conversation with a Nigerian gentleman who been to Cuba and feels that the Afro-Cuban is more African than the Africans themselves because the Yoruba language being spoken is the old school Yoruba of the 16th century, not the Yoruba that is spoken in West Africa today mainly by Nigerians. In addition, unlike many Afro-Cubans, many Africans embraced Western religions due to colonialism and the efforts of European and American missionaries.

Being of African heritage myself, a salsa music lover and dancer, and an admirer of Afro-Cuban culture, I thought Santería might be a worthwhile spiritual practice to explore, let alone reunite me with my African roots. After all, I was searching for a true spiritual connection at that time. That's when the touchiness of Santería really began to rear its ugly head, especially among some of my so-called friends who were directly or indirectly involved, and appeared reluctant to introduce me when I openly expressed my enthusiasm. 

To me, their reluctance and defensiveness was a red flag. There is something wrong when people feel that they have to be so clandestine with their connection with a higher power. Born again Christians approached me with open arms. So did Muslims and Buddhists. What is so wrong with Santería being that slavery has long ended? Another concern is why did these Yoruba deities permit the capturing of African people to be put on slave ships, their sufferings during the middle passage, and their oppression long after their arrival in the western world? If anyone reading this can enlighten me, I sure would appreciate it. Like I said, I know very little about Santeria other than the fact that I just might not be missing anything!

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