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Musings on Dates, Relations and the Future of Afro-Cuban Religions

Babalú Ayé wood carving and tools.

I have been meaning to write this post for days now, but lately time has been at a prime for me as you may have noticed by the reduced frequency of my posts on the blog.

A week has gone by since the U.S. Government announced its intention to resume relations with the Cuban government.

It was clear to me that the date for the announcement had not been selected at random. December 17th holds a very special place in the mind and hearts of Cubans and of anyone who professes faith in the Orishas because it is on this date that we honor Babalu Aye (syncretized with San Lazaro) and the patron orisha of those who are sick or suffering misfortune.

The relationship between Cuba and the U.S. is one that has been ailing for quite some time, since before I was born. It has been one that has created so many tear, hardships and list of horrors far too long to account and even harder to forget.

But this day was not only special to Santeros and Catholics alike. It also coincided with the celebration of Chanukah for the Jews and there were a good amount of Crypto Jews that established themselves in Cuba. Interestingly enough the family of Fidel Castro has acknowledge its Marranista background and some famous Hispanic surnames include Mir, Miro, Moreno and Marti.

There are many ways to make a message and its meaning adhere. It is not only what is being conveyed, but the tone and the additional circumstances which make the message meaningful.

What next? The process will not be simple, that is a given. However, I am looking into what the outcome will mean in the long term. How will Santeria change when the barriers are fully down? For that matter how Palo and other practices will reshape themselves with the freedom of travel and exchange of ideas, not to mention with perhaps a more liberal approach on bringing back and forth items of worship which currently may be confiscated in transit from Cuba to the United States.

I do hope for the good of us all that our religions do not continue to be peddled. However, it is reasonable to conclude that the current course of action will continue. This course of action includes the many godparents in Cuba eager to initiate (and make money) and then leave iyawos and lesser rank initiates out there without proper upbringing. Yes, I do get quite a few of abandoned godchildren write to me on the blog and on private emails who went to Cuba and now are left uncommunicated and hungry for knowledge and it makes me sick to see the trend continue.

What will happen in the next months or years is up to us initiates to shape. We have a moral responsibility to keep checks and balances and to stand for those who are in need, just like Babalu Aye teaches us.

Omimelli, Oní Yemayá Achagbá

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