Perhaps one of the most fascinating and memorable experiences I had on this week-long odyssey was my introduction to Santeria, Cuba's national religion. Santeria, like other syncretic religions (Obeah, Pokemania, Myal, and Vodu) synthesizes Catholic elements with those of primarily West African traditions. Also, like the other syncretic faiths we have discussed, the performance of music and the dances of Santeria convey a narrative concerning the way postcolonial culture has retained its origins in West African traditions through a Catholic guise, and attaining a means of militating against the forces of oppression.
The videos below offer insight into the colorful and lively performance of Santeria as well as an example of the nourishing processes it offers to its followers.
Known more familiarly to us as Esu-Elegbara, or Papa Legba. As he represents the "beginning and ending of life', Elegba is at times portrayed as a spirited child; at others he is portrayed as an elderly man. Here he is portrayed as a playful child--by a woman performer (1).
Oya: Owner of the Wind: Oya is the "fiercest" of the female santos and fights alongside Chango, the "Lord of Fire and Lightening," wielding a sword in each hand. She is said to bring change--whether wanted or not--into the lives of believers.
Below, our guide, Elian, explains the order of gods, or Santeras, of Santeria that include the figures of Yemaya, Oya, Ochun, and Elegba.
The clips that follow show two santeros (Olorichas)--or priests--conducting a blessing.