Throughout the years, Cuba is known to be a Communist country struggling to determine its own identity. Some Cubans have fought with the decision to stay in their native country or migrate to the United States. Others have decided to settle in Cuba and let their fate be determined by the gods. Santería, an African religion mixed with Catholic traditions, is practiced by many Cubans and allows followers to establish their destiny by the orishas, or African spirits. It also gives a sense of individuality to the characters in the novel, Dreaming in Cuban which incorporates several elements of the faith into the story. Overall, the Santería religion affects the Cuban people in many parts of their lives politically, artistically, musically, and in their relationships.
Santeria or "La Regla Lucumm" originated in the region of West Africa and was part of the traditional faith of the Yoruba inhabitants. It was brought to the Caribbean countries of Cuba, Haiti and Brazil, Trinidad, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic through the Yoruba people who were part of the slave trade. When they arrived at their Caribbean destinations, they reluctantly baptized within the Roman Catholic faith and were forced to leave behind their traditional beliefs and practices. However, they managed to come up with a way to merge their beliefs with the Roman Catholic Church by “…choosing a catholic saint and associating the saint to each of the orishas, [or African gods,] of their traditional practices” (Santeria 101). The santeros focus on building relationships with “powerful, but mortal, spirits, called orishas, [which is] a manifestation of …God” (BBC). In addition, they are taught that if they carry out the appropriate rituals, these spirits will support them in life, and enable them to “achieve the destiny that God planned for them before they were born” (BBC). The idea makes the followers feel that they have a purpose for their life and will live their life according to the standards.
According to a Cuban researcher, “there are several principle orishas which are believed to control every aspect of human life, especially health, purity, and fertility. The orishas are rather like Greek gods or goddesses, in that they reflect the human weaknesses and strengths, but are closely identified with their Catholic counterpart” (Marshall 231). In Dreaming in Cuban, by Christina García, Felicia chooses her orisha to be Saint Sebastian due to her admiration of his “double death” (García 77). She was able to related to the god in a way that resembles how she feel. A man chooses to sacrifice every little item he has to his orisha: “He lights an unfiltered Popular—Cuba’s national brand—and offers a bit of tobacco to Eleggua, the orisha of opportunity” (Sigler 207). Having the fear of a god controlling his life, the man would submit everything he has to the god.
For such crisis as the Cuban Revolution, Cubans have sought for help from the spiritual world and have become drawn to the Santería religion. According to a documentary filmmaker, Cubans have always “flocked to Santería priests, or babalawos, during hard times to ease their weary bodies, minds, and souls; and the current climate of economic instability proves no exceptions” (Sigler 213). They have also looked to their orishas for a “…source of comfort and help in time of need…” (Gonzalez- Wippler 70). However, in order to continue receiving assistance from the, they have to uphold their moral behavior strictly. Straying from the “right and narrow way” will disqualify them from the protection of the orishas and will receive punishment. A santero priest who lived in Cuba says he sees between seven to eight clients per day, but “demand for his services has gradually increased in recent years” (Sigler 213). Thus, the downfall of the life quality in Cuba increased the influence of the religion on Cubans.
Many people are drawn to the practices of the religion throughout their neighborhoods....
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