Afro Cubans

In spite of Spanish colonization, Cuba is not an essentially a Catholic country. At present there exists a mix of religions. A pre-eminent role is played by West African related belief systems. Santeria - the major Afro-Cuban religion - is practised by both Blacks and whites. These systems are based on motifs and themes that have remained vibrant despite the long Cuban history of slavery - only abolished in 1886 - and the period of racist legislation that followed and prevailed up until the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959. Christianity was the only cultural space available to enslaved Cuban Africans. They were forbidden - sometimes on pain of death - to practice their own religions, traditions and laguages. This prohibition was to destroy any unity among the African population with the goal of preventing revolt. Nonetheless there were many revolts and attempts at revolts. Moreover, the slaves used Christianity as the shell which encapsulated religious and spirtual systems. Thus, the creation of syncretic religions were the results: binding Christian elements within a West African cosmological framework. This African cultural fecundity and resilence continues to be acknowleged and supported by the Cuban Revolution as part of the overall recognition that African heritage and struggle is an integral component of the Cuban nation.

Pictured in our montage is Tatu a high priest of the Shango branch of Santeria and a Shango shrine. Shango is the Yoruba God of Thunder, i.e., a symbol of power. The Yoruba are an ancient West African people who are predominantly located in present day Nigeria. -Samuel Fure Davis and Isaac Saney

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