Discovering the Santeria Religion in Cuba

September 20, 2012
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Cuba's rich and long history, coupled with isolation from much of the developing world until recently, has created a unique culture on the island nation that will intrigue and surprise visitors as they delve into the daily lives of locals on International Expeditions’ people-to-people Cuba travel program. There's even a religion among parts of the Afro-Cuban population on the island, known as the Santeria religion, that may be completely unfamiliar to individuals from other parts of the world.

Santeria's origins date back to the dark history of the slave trade in Cuba. The ideology stems from the Yoruba traditions brought to the island by African slaves from Nigeria and Benin. Spanish plantation owners attempted to convert some of their slaves to Catholicism, which resulted in the commingling of Catholic and Yoruba faith, thus creating Santeria.

The religion is polytheistic, meaning its practitioners celebrate several gods and goddesses. According to Santeria beliefs, each person is born under the guardianship of a saint, known as an Orsha, whom they are obligated to worship throughout life. To honor the Orsha, Santeria worshipers perform rituals using roots, herbs, flowers and plants.

Partaking in licensed travel to Cuba with International Expeditions gives American visitors the opportunity to meet and discuss Santeria with some of its believers. While the religion is spreading to North America, its stronghold is still on the island nation.