Santería in Cuba

Walking the streets of Havana you may notice people dressed head-to-foot in white, a bead nacklace providing the only colour in their costume. These are practioners of Santeria, the most popular of Afro- Cuban religions, and beads represent their appointed orisha, the gods and goddesses at the heart of their worship.

With roots in the religious beliefs of the Yoruba people of West Africa, Santeria spread in Cuba with the importation of slaves from that region. Forbidden by the Spanish to practise their faith, the slaves found ways of hiding images of their gods behind those of the Catholic saints to whom they were forced to pay homage. From this development the syncretism of african orishas with their Catholic counterparts – thus for example, the Vigren de la Caridad de Cobre, the patron saint if Cuba, embodies the orisha known as Oshún, the goddess of femininity, in part because both are believed to provide protection during birth. Similarily, Yemayá, goddess of water and queen of the sea – considered the mother of all orishas – is the equivalent of the Virge de Regla, whom Spansih Catholics beleived protecting sailors. Other pairings include San Lázaro, patron saint of the sick, with Babalu-Ayé, Santa Barbara with Changó, ans San Christobal with Aggayú. There are some four hundred Afro-Cuba orishas in all. © The Rough Guide to CUBA

The Santería ceremony is a very intimate religious event where only members of the Afro-Cuban community are allowed to express the faith in their orishas. Non-believers or „extrañeros“ (strangers) have no access to the secret kept places where the religious ceremony normally takes place.
The photos shown here have only been possible as Figueredo meanwhile has enourmus confidence within his Afro-Cuban friends community.

The ceremony had been exclusively organized for „Cuba by Figueredo“ photo adventures by Cuban friends. It is not a tourist show and participants must be prepared to stop photographing immediately when dancers might loose self-control during the conga drumming and fall in trance.