Many holidaymakers are unaware of Cuba’s rich Afro-Cuban culture but it is worth exploring since it affects the ways that Cubans dream, act, talk, relate and keep secrets. We can never understand the rich and mysterious complexity of Afro-Cuban culture in one trip, but we can fix up some eye-epening rich experiences for those who are truly interested.
Consult a high priest of the Afro-Cuban religion Santeria. The Afro-Cuban religions, including Santeria, have spread well beyond the Afro-Cuban community. Most presidents of Cuba have been initiated in Santeria, which was born on the banks of the River Niger in Nigeria, amongst the Yoruba people. African slaves brought their religion with them to Cuba but were forbidden to practise, forced by the landowners to worship Christianity instead. They ingeniously resisted by secretly fusing their African deities with images of Catholic saints. Thus ‘Santeria’ thrived and continues to live on today. The babalao will consult Olorun, the all-seeing divine entity, about your past, present and future. After writing your name and date of birth, he embarks on a ritual of chanting in Yoruba. As you face your open palms towards him he will splash water from half a coconut shell, tap the table, click his fingers and throw down a chain hung with discs of coconut rind.
Cuba Private Travel can arrange for Cuban black history experts to talk you through the deep scar of slavery in Cuba, its four-hundred-year legacy, and the rich seam of the African culture it brought onto the island, fusing with Spanish colonialism to create the unique melting pot that is Cuba.
Visit the Asociación Quisicuaba in a gritty corner of Centro Habana, an extraordinary social project that combines the study of Cuban religions of African root – Ifaismo, Palo Monte, Spiritism, Abakua and Santeria. It also offersan amazing diversity of social work, from AIDS and transgender workshops to the support of addicts and the feeding of 450 people daily through a soup kitchen. Stand amid the candle-holding devotees of the black Madonna at the magical Nuestra Señora de Regla. They are worshipping the Santeria deity of Yemayá, the orisha spirit of the ocean, and you can feel their fervour like a physical presence.