An unpublished book by Fernando Ortiz shatters still existing prejudices on African-Cuban pagan rites
BY MARTA ROJAS*
HAVANA - THE publication of Brujas e inquisidores (Witches and Inquisitors) from the Fernando Ortiz collection by the learned Cuban of the same name is first-hand news of great importance.
The argument of this revealing work - in the sense that it puts many things in their place - reflects a counterpoint of opinions that emerged in a religious drama that took place in the community of Remedios (pictured) between José González de la Cruz, a cleric, and a black woman slave named Leonarda.
To that world of Europe - of witchcraft, demons, the rampant sabbats, the killing of babies to spice spells and the infamous situations in convents and communities.
In other words, the profusion of facts described with Fernando Ortiz' exceptional elegance and precision, which firstly openly exposes our origins, demolishes a host of still-existing prejudices assigned to the pagan and even brutal rites of black Cubans by the champions of ideological power. Dating back to the introduction of slavery in Cuba, this prejudice led to the fierce persecution of African Cubans in the early years of the republic, and did much damage to their favorable development after the triumph of the Revolution.
A close reading of the book, with the orgiastic European sabbat masterly described, as one would imagine, offers a whole geographical spectrum of the phenomenon and credulity on the part of venerated saints in the Catholic calendar in terms of the curses and the cunning of Satan, which did not escape the perspective and pen of Fernando Ortiz, who died in the last century.
The Holy Office of the Inquisition - described by Ortiz as an act of terrorism that was even implanted in the Americas - did not manifest itself (in Cuba) with such force, or was not very perceptible, due to Cubans' personal qualities - the sons of the earth in the distant island (ours). But that was not the case, for example, with the demoniacal terror sown in Cartagena de las Indias and other American territories.
Reading this book dwarfs the atrocities recorded by history on the customs of those born in the so-called New Spain in relation to the sacrifice of human beings, including babies, which proliferated in Europe.
Black mass; Europe's royal families
Poor Carlos II (pictured), the bewitched and sexually impotent king whose infirmity was attributed by the clergy to a spell was, not left behind. "Signor Rocabertu, the general inquisitor and father confessor, in consultation with the curate Camgas, went every day to the palace," Ortiz writes, "and after the day had dawned and his Majesty had just awoken, they made him breakfast on a large horn o
According to Montagure Summers, an English cleric, witches' and wizards' coitus with demons were both a fact and effective.
Details and data on all kinds of witchcraft without any element of fiction, so forceful because they were written down and can be consulted, certainly diminish the believers of that century.
To return to the case of Remedios, Fernando Ortiz gives his judgement in Brujas e inquisidores: "It does not appear then, that the Cuban priest José González de la Cruz should be blamed for believing in and making others believe in the demonizing of the black woman Leonarda. Both the cleric and the slave believed in 'the evil enemy'." The slave Leonarda "was possessed by a saint whom the priest believed was Lucifer."
Doctor Daysi Rivero, president of the Economic Society of Friends of the Country, which together with the Foundation and the Institute of Literature and Linguistics, made the publication of this impressive work possible, stated at the launch:
"As the author notes in his brief foreword, the book is dedicated to the black magic of the white practicants of witchcraft and is thus a complement to La Santería y la brujería de los blancos (The Santeria and Witchcraft of the Whites), also published as a collaboration between the three institutions."
Without any doubt, this offering is imbued with the tenacity, intellectual valor and Cuban identity of Miguel Barnet, who personally immersed himself in editing this work that contributes to interpreting the universality of culture, and his own culture.
20 January 2004
La Fundación Fernando Ortiz (Fernando Ortiz Foundation)
*Special for Granma International. Edited slightly by Shunpiking Online
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