The African in Cuban culture. Main historical and cultural exponents

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* Why there is in popular religion and culture of Cuba, the strong influence of the African

* Syncretism between Catholic saints and Yoruba Pantheon

* The African in the religious field

* Properties of plants belonging to the deities of the Pantheon Oricha

* What African music

* Features Dances each Orisha deities of the Pantheon

* Conclusions

* Bibliography


The following paper deals with the study of some aspects of acculturation phenomenon closely linked to the historical process of Cuba, given the permanence of Cuban culture from the roots of our ancestors. Because the Cuban cultural phenomenon can not be separated from the political, economic and social conditions in each of the moments in the history of Cuba, we will stage in history that formed the basis of this complex process, specifically including the painful regime of slavery.

The cultural integration of Latin America and the Caribbean operated essentially a process of syncretism of social functions, they were conditioned by the ways in different periods of colonial and neocolonial, was created in the communication layers in accordance with the structures they adopted the relations of production and profiles traced the class struggle.

If on one side to the black slave colonialism was only the provision of labor, the African presence in the New World initiated the more powerful cultural phenomenon that has registered the history of humankind and a countertop until now permanent revitalization.


The man’s presence in Cuba began about ten thousand years ago, when the first migration came to our islands. Its geographical position in the American group puts in the crossing of different cultures. First are three groups of cultures, even in the nineteenth century there was a major distraction to take the literature of the period, the indigenous issue, then the term was generalized Siboney, for all the natives of the island.

These groups Paleolithic humans were hunters, their typical features were those of Mongoloid origin endoamericano. Its core activities were the first gathering and fishing. By 1000 BC is seen in the Cuban territory the presence of a more advanced culture, their activities remain the same but with the use of new techniques.

Taino communities had a wide range of beliefs, myths and magic-religious practices linked to the process known as the Neolithic revolution, associated with the attainment by man of a certain domain of nature, the presence of agriculture and the creation of a certain memory collective historical, in the myth that their forms of oral transmission.

A strong social component that brought the Spanish colonization was the Africans who came to be slave labor for the operation of the colonized territories, his arrival in America is almost simultaneous with the Spanish. From the beginning of the black presence was linked to slavery. The characteristics of the slave trade with the Spanish colonies explain the complexity of Cuban black component. The first point to note is that these Africans were not a cultural unit, but rather a mosaic of ethnic groups that had developed traditions, habits, customs, religions and languages.

With the existence of indigenous, African and Spanish on the island there is a mixing process which fundamentally interrelated components of these three cultures, hence include the beginning of a process of acculturation and its subsequent consolidation, which resulted in the culture Cuba today is not more than the result of symbiosis native-Spanish-Cuban shaped by the acculturation process, enriched by the influx of new settlers from other regions.

As the native population was quickly extinguished the victim of a massive predation, it is very strong impact on the Hispanic-African population of the island as well as economic, political and social time.

By focusing specifically on religion, we believe that it influenced primarily a religious contempt, that the Spanish considered inferior to his, and the lack of consideration.


Africans contributed important cultural elements since they arrived in these lands, with the conditions that favored slave labor and the objective circumstances that were presented, but mainly looking for a way, a peculiar way of being together in the foster their identity and never forget the legacy of their parents is therefore to be asked the following mystery:Why is there in popular religion and culture of Cuba, the strong influence of the African

It is a fact now widely recognized the influence of “African” in Cuban culture, and this is evident in every aspect of Cuban culture: the arts, music, dance, literature and musical instruments, Spanish spoken in Cuba, food, ways of working the land, religion, the existence of plants that are rooted in African culture, also in the way of being Cuban perception of reality even in ideas about life or death. However it is not easy to determine a specifically African or Spanish origin, as saying the national poet Nicolas Guillen “here’s all mixed up.”

A field that is evident and obvious that it is the incidence African religious framework. The original African religions were brought to Cuba from the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries, were part of the cultures of various peoples of the black continent, and a movement of change and persistence were inserted into the Cuban nationality as one of the most important parts of their ethno-cultural roots. Diverted from their original environment and normal social and economic development, cultures of these peoples were modified under the conditions of slavery and later of underdeveloped capitalism. In these conditions were from African religions, in particular, by a process of adaptation of representations, rituals and organizational modes, mediated by a syncretism between themselves and with other religious expressions extinct in Cuba, particularly the Catholicism imposed on our country as the official religion of the colonizers and later spiritualism with which there are some nearby.

Constraints socioeconomic, ideological, political and cultural gaps with the work of the clergy, but even more the fact that evangelization, as a process of religious conversion, objective difficulties encountered that limited his effectiveness, determined that most practice some tolerance formal provisions above and verify an early syncretism between elements of the Catholic saints and Yoruba Pantheon.

Syncretism between Catholic saints and Yoruba Pantheon

Under the conditions of Cuban society in the prerevolutionary African religious expressions found factors that favored its extension to the population.

The Catholic Church was identified with the political interests of the Spanish Crown, through the provisions of the bulls, papers of the era and the establishment of the Regional Board, which together placed our institution within the structure of colonial domination. This meant the end on religious grounds of the Spanish regime and the slavery system.

The civil and ecclesiastical provisions along the Colonial stage set standards for Christian education of Africans, enslaved. These regulate the evangelization of the slaves. But should be met by the slavers, who found no practical benefits in evangelism. On the other hand it was not appropriate religious union, but was more helpful, as action against the uprisings, maintain division

The African and his descendants were not beings acultural or irreligious, Christianize meant to erase their culture and beliefs and it was the logical resistance to disappear their own identity.

Moreover, it is important to remember that slavery was a period that reached the late nineteenth century. That uniqueness is derived several important aspects of Cuban society:

* On the one hand contributed to considerable significance was qualitatively African ethnic and racial composition of Cuba.

* In addition facilitated the establishment and spread of African cultural and religious values, adapted to the society of that time and later.

All these elements favored in Cuba, conjugates are kept current African religious representations. Its empirical character and its reference to the everyday, their characteristics by which offer magic solutions to problems, divination and rituals of protection, the attractiveness of their ceremonies and stories have been conducive to its spread in the population.

As we have seen is inevitable the presence of African elements in Cuban culture. Based on their religious practices were inserted elements in other facets of the arts such as music, language, customs, plants, etc.

“African” in the religious field

Cuba is a country emerging from the social point of view of the heterogeneity of racial and cultural, due to constant interaction, transmutation, conscious and unconscious tolerance has created a new and independent cultural group, although their bases rest on the preceding items .

Given the process of acculturation religious elements of different cultures relate to giving rise to new. One variant which expresses this phenomenon and tolerance among religions it is the Holy Cruzao, which is characterized by the predominance of elements of different variants of the Regla Conga and Regla Ocha

Regla Conga.

* Comes from the great lakes of East Africa (early thirteenth century XIV).

* These communities are characterized by melting under a central authority, the Manikongo.

* Deity supreme Nzambi

* Slopes: Mayombe, Brillumba, Chamalongo and Kimbisia.

Rule Kimbisia of Santo Cristo del bon voyage, is a product purely Cuban. Founded in the mid-nineteenth century by Andres Facundo de los Dolores Petit.

* Temples Guide: San Luis Beltran.

* The deities are: the Catholic calendar.

* Objects of worship: the ancestors, nature and energy.


Santeria is a result of the blend pagan religion Yoruba and Catholicism. This plant loves and creative force called Olodumare; results from it all there and everything returns to it.

Its essential base are the Orishas.

Orisha, Yoruba pantheon of deities, each one comes and owns an element of nature.

Yemaya is the owner of the seas.

Oshun owns the rivers.

Shango owns the fire.

Recognizes four Santeria rituals:

* Divination.

* The Sacrifice.

* The trance.

* The initiation.

Similar situation occurs with the Voodoo, that religious expression can be considered as part of Cuban cultural identity.

As it is conceived in this culture, the mountain is sacred because the saints are in the bush, and is the begetter of life mount, we are all children of the forest and everything is on the mountain, the foundations of the cosmos, and all There have to ask the mountain, which gives us everything. In this explanation argue that life emerged from the mountain, and we are children of the mountain, the mountain that is conceived as equivalent to land in the concept of universal mother, source of life, land and forest are the same.

This culture manifests itself as it goes to the Catholic Church, the house of God, to meet their needs, because without God’s help, what can a man The black goes into the jungle which is full of dead saints and to ask about his health and business, but this can not come with disrespect, as if it respects people’s home is home of the saints will be more. Mount holds for black everything you need for magic, for the preservation of their health and welfare, all that he needs to defend itself against any adverse force, providing protection items and more effective attack, but consenting to take the plant or the stick or stone is essential to its object must ask permission and religiously paid all that hot water, snuff, money. A club does not make the mountain and into the forest every tree, every plant, every herb has its own and with a sense of well-defined property.

There is neither the most daring thief in town would dare in the open to grab a vine for a spell, not a reverential – licensed – and without paying the owner fair and square and feared invisible copper coins, and if not has, a few grains of corn.

Trees and plants play an extremely important role in religion and mystical life of blacks in Cuba – and all the mixed people of Cuba for them as trees and plants are being endowed with soul, intellect and will, like all what grows and lives is born under the sun, like everything else is the work of nature.

They argue that when a tree is not just the housing or the throne of a god has the virtues that gives that to which he belongs, is the Ache, his grace. The popular Christian tradition, which sets out a previous custom and universal old also knows a lot about herbs and trees miraculous some plants because they were born at Calvary, it healed the wounds of our Lord, or were planted by the same virgin, and received beneficial properties of these divine hands. In others, as well as in everything, got the devil walked.

But in order for the healing powers, by the magical power attributed to the black trees and plants can not live without, almost daily, to use and invoke the protection of the spirits or forces them fixed. The magic is the major concern of our negroes, and obtaining the domain of powerful unseen forces and blindly obey him, has not ceased to be his greatest desire.

They assume that every calamity is the antidote or preventive in a stick or weed and of course that through the intervention of another spirit stronger than in this act, fight and overcome the spirit that has produced contrary evil, for example:

Properties of plants belonging to the deities of the Pantheon Oricha


Owner: Eleggua and Chango.

Properties: The cooking of their young buds intestinal cold. The root, bark and buds, are prescribed in case of bloody diarrhea. The resin is applied in patches on wounds from nails, rusty cans or anything.

For the cold, one should be four or five sheets crossed under the pillow and if a child can specifically wrap the feet with warm sheets.

This plant is estimated also by the power that God gave to cure hernias in Good Friday and the navels of children.


Owner: Eleggua.

Properties: To cure a cold, the root is boiled and strained and given to drink three times a day without saying what it is also very refreshing, lowers blood sugar and also cure diseases of the kidney and liver .


Owner: Obbatala.

Properties: Crush with rum is applied to the wounds rebels, the first plaster burns a lot, but the second the heat is lost after the third or fourth plaster is finished with the ~na~nara.

This plant account, the Virgin Mary and Santa Ana had gone to the mountain to find herbs. Santa Ana started one, smelled and tasted it and said: “This is mint.” But the Virgin Mary that had started another at the same time, he replied: “This is better, Ana” is why the grass since it was called Mary found Marjoram and he found Anne Yerbabuena.

The legend Marjoram also that when it grows in abundance is an omen of prosperity, but if it fades and does not turn into ruin. A sprig of itself, without you love, has power to charm and should be kept on the pocket and in cooking is very effective to cause you to push for women in labor.


Owners: White, Obatala, Yemaya. Purple, Chango.

Purifications: With comb wash all female orishas. In decoction is diuretic. The white eye wash. Purple, in bathrooms, is beneficial.

To spoil and good luck: purl purple, white hood, basil and paradise, all boiled and made into the tub with winning spirit, spirit amansaguapo quiet.

Ca~na Brava

Owner: Babalu Aye

Babalu Aye blessed the cane and therefore does not harm the thunder ever. It is said that at 12 o’clock at night, a light or a flower, fleeting as a flash, springs on the rod higher. It’s like a flower of light that turns a few seconds and goes from one stem to another. He who sees the light dies and if it dies, suffers a terrible shock and praying should be done immediately.

Properties: The root decoction has calming properties asthma or drowning, when you feel in your mouth taste of blood, otherwise it should not be taken. It also applies its infusion into vaginal injections, it is good for cystitis and purify the blood. And it does grow hair on head washing.

Cane Choir

Owners: Yemaya and Chango.

Properties: The whole plant infusion to cleanse the kidneys and bladder.

Bitter canvas

Owner: Yemaya and Babalu Aye.

Properties: The cooking of any part of the plant for sitz baths, also serves this concoction to wash and spray timber that are invaded by moths and other insects.


Owner: Chango.

Properties: Cut a piece of bark from the west and one from rising: three flowers of the dead calls and three droplets, exactly, oil stick. Everything is beaten and are given in case of pneumonia, three tasit day. If the patient check blood clots black, no reason to panic.


Owner: Of all the saints.

Properties: diuretic, is supposed to dissolve kidney stones and bladder. Raw prevents colds. Cooked at bedtime, sleep does to those who suffer from insomnia.


Owner: Oshun.

Properties: Used in poultices resolute, and infusion is soothing for toothaches and earaches.


Owner: Yemaya.

Properties: With the young leaves are flavored meals of the Orishas. The juice is abortive and infusion regulates the menstrual period.

It is syncretic in short, the distinguishing feature, the use of this term, in our opinion precludes any appreciable another African contributions to our identity, the Cuban religious expressions from the Regla Ocha to Briyumba and Kimbisia of Yoruba descent, the first and second Bantu, to which we must include Abakua Societies.

Abakua Societies

In Cuba the founding of the Society Abakua was linked to the work activity of ports.

Abakua society: a set of small groups or integrated power by men. Solidarity among brothers of each game (ekobios) is unconditional.

It is organized into groups that are called:

* Powers.

* Games.

* Land.

* Nations.

The ceremonies are performed initiation and Plante.

Deity worshiped:

* Abasi (god).

* Obebe (Las Mercedes).

* Okun (Shango).

* Okanda (Yemaya).

Sacred elements:

* Drums.

* Palos percussive.

What African music

The music that is conserved in Cuba of African ritual practices is Cuban music, including instruments (drums, rattles, whistles, buzzers, etc percucientes sticks.) Have undergone changes in their morphology and their functions, these changes reflect the complex process of experienced cultural contacts in our environment.

So in the conga parades and processions as part of our traditional carnivals, shows the footprint of characters, decorative items, and musical resources of these ancestors.

According to musicologists, the son is a genus of our folklore which brings together a number of influences. In clusters occurred soneras qualitative balance of an instrument to another. Of part three and the guitar appear in the hands of the small black and marimba which later joined the ensemble of peasant revelry.

The presence of the bongo brings us to another aspect of the great synthesis that occurs in the sound, bongo comes from the various instrumental combinations of blacks who made use of a double drum made of small rafts.

The present maracas African organology sonero join the group to take the plane rhythmic sound the same.

The instruments used by blacks took in the musical environment and qualitatively new social an essence that goes far beyond the morphological to become distinctly Cuban instruments.

Features Dances each Orisha deities of the Pantheon.

Eleggua: When this orisha is uploaded or when one of its believers feel possessed by him, is soon to be placed behind the door is the place for ritual. He keeps jumping and moving according to their whims and unusual gestures as a restless and rebellious guy. Muequea Eleggua so laughable, spin or play the ball. With your right hand open and your thumb on the tip of the nose makes mockery signals. Use a stick as two feet, ending in a hook, called a “doodle.” This doodle is moved from side to side as if he were away the undergrowth or open path in the jungle, and symbolizes their role as “open roads.”

Eleggua wearing a jacket and trousers belted at the knees and a big hat like the typical chef, all in red and black.

Ogg’un: In their dances mimic Ogg’un has two: the belligerent, as in dance pirical in amenzadoramente wielding a machete, and labor and agriculture, in this instrument that cuts the weeds and thorns of the bush and smith, which struck with a hammer. The dancers at the wheel merely imitate.

Ogg’un is decorated as Eleggua but differs from it in her dress is all green and black, his hat is low and tight to the belt takes a long garland of palm fibers, symbolizing protection from evil.

Ochosi: His emblems are the bow and arrow, guns used for hunting pantomime dance, which lends much to the improvisational choreographic dances amid cries issues such as those that give up the chase.

Ochosi Eleggua and dresses like Ogg’un, for he too is “holy warrior”, but her dress is all blue and his fur cap is tigre, as your bag.

Babalu – Aye: This oricha when “up” is almost always ill, ca~nengo, “all jorobeteado” with their hands engurru~nadas, limping and so weakened that falls. (This saint is dressed in sackcloth, their tools are symbolic crutches and also ja, or a deck brush or palm oil, palm twigs, tied in twine handle decorated with snails).

During the dance is bent, as ailing and apoyadose on crutches or a cane, and sometimes done as though the flies and other insects that land on their injuries, or shake the ja in the air, like a cleansing rite , at the wheel of the dancers are also limping and bent by imitation.

Obbatala: The tool used is symbolic iruke, white horse’s tail. The dancers, in honor of this deity mimic the smooth movement of the old god, hunched, trembling, sometimes leaning on a stick, or mimic the movements of the rider and as a warrior wielding a broadsword, or shake the iruke cleaner. Obbatala Africa is considered the creator deity in the world. Androgynous, it may appear the same for male and female.

Chango: When you get to his head and rammed it three “somersault” into the drums, then opens his eyes wide, stick out your tongue to symbolize that has fire, shake up his ax Oche or sacred. No other orisha jumps higher than he, nor do most violent contortions, nor figures rarest or most improbable antics such as eating fire. She dresses in trousers and red jacket with white stripes on her head and wears a crown.

Shango dances are warriors erotic Chango sato is said, or lecherous, very “meneon and cinturero.” Her dance partners in the choir imitate their movements warrior with the Oche and libidinous Wiggles.

Yemaya: This oricha female is the mother of the sea and salt water is the universal goddess of motherhood. Its emblem is a fan manual called agbegbe made of guano palm or peacock feathers, shells and adorned with jingling bells. Its color is blue with some white color symbolizes the foam of the waves. When it is uploaded laughs loudly, and dances are very lively stalling around like the waves and ocean eddies.

Yemaya wears a tight coat with a sort of girdle fabric with a breastplate or diamond-shaped extension on the navel. It’s a virtuous goddess, chaste and wise but also cheerful and sandunguera.

Oshun: This is a goddess Aphrodite, happy, attractive, flirtatious. Their music and dance are the most sensual, his verses are the most salacious. The dancer of Oshun evokes waving their arms to ring and gold bracelets from above and from the mountaintop, his hands come down and run over your body, such as springs and streams.

In their dances with delight and with their hands raised forward in supplication and pelvic contortions of fury alluding lewd calls oni!, Oni, or honey, aphrodisiac symbol of sweetness, the tastiness of the loving essence of life.

Orula: The Orisha of the oracles is not “up”, so do not dance.

Each of the deities represented different animal feed, taking from them only the blood, which we would use to make tasty dishes with the meat of these animals and we could differentiate the menu for each of the Kimbos, for example:

Eleggua – Chicken.

Ogg’un – Goat and Rooster.

Obbatala – Dove White Hen.

Oshun – Yellow Hen.

Chango – Sheep and Rooster white or yellow.

Yemaya – Pato

Orula – black hen.

Ochosi – Paloma.

Everything nowadays we consider contributions of African man and what was being of indigenous peoples and their descendants in the culture of Latin America and the Caribbean, must be placed in close correspondence with input interactional Iberian, the complex path followed by the colonization and neo along the struggles of man, in his constant quest for independence.


It is part of the African American and Caribbean identity, built on a long and complex process aptly described by Fernando Ortiz’s transculturation (Ortiz 1986), Lusitanian and Spanish contributions to various degrees of aboriginal cultures, Mesoamerican and Incan more markedly, in a African and other areas.

In diverse cultural influences have converged as American, British, French and other lower levels of European and Asian countries. The result is a new synthesis of these submissions called transculturation.


* Arguelles Mederos, A. The so-called syncretic cults and spiritualism. Ed Academy. Havana, 1991. p.36.

* Cabrera, Lydia. Mt. Ed Letras Cubanas. La Habana, 1993. p.p 277 to 533.

* Choy Rodriguez, M.C. Syncretic cults in Cuba, in: Panorama of Cuban culture. Ed Human Resource Management, Cubanacan. Havana, 2004. p.25.

* Collective of Authors. History of Cuba 9 No Grado.Editorial People and Education.

* Lazara Menendez. Afro-Cuban Studies, selection of reading Volume II. Universidad de La Habana, La Habana 1990.

* Ortiz, Fernando. Ethnicity and Society. Social Science Ed. La Habana, 1993. p.p. 202 to 213.

* Vivian Paley Sabater. Society and Religion, Volume I. Reading Selection Editorial Felix Varela, La Habana 2003.

* Eduardo Torres Cuevas. History of Cuba 1492-1898, Education and Liberation of the Nation. Editorial People and Education.



Diaz Yanerkis Ozuna

Baez Gretel Register

University of Pinar del Rio “Hermanos Saiz Montes de Oca” – Cuba

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