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What Heritage did the Africans leave us? A treasured legacy in Cuba

What a legacy the Africans left us

Never would the settlers have expected to unleash such a vast culture and historical legacy.

The entry of black slaves into America was one of the first measures dictated by the Spanish colonialists for work and development in their domains, as the aborigines began to die because of how strong and painful the work they were forced to carry out was. .

So the solution for the owners of haciendas was the entry of another workforce, in this case the African, characterized by its robustness and vitality.

The objective was that they cultivate the lands and carry out other obligations also characterized by their difficulty.

The exact number of slaves brought into Cuba to work in the sugar and coffee plantations is not known, but it is known that the slavery process was much more extensive than in other Caribbean territories.

Slavery was a long and violent crime against Africa, but it was also a symbol of rebellion and faith that was strongly linked to the identity roots of the Cuban nation.

Some contributions of Africans to our culture: Customs and traditions

Slaves made an immense contribution to the Cuban cultural scene and left their traditions in many spheres of life.

The Africans brought with them their songs and rhythms, their creeds and their gods, their culinary style, their language and their immense faith, among many other aspects.

Upon their arrival in Cuba they were not allowed to maintain their beliefs, so in order to hide them from their masters and continue practicing their religion, they decided to mix their cults with the rituals of the Catholic religion and that union of patrons gave rise to popular culture. that the Cuban population professes today, an exponent of a striking syncretism.

The African touch to the process of formation of the Cuban nationality and its influence on the identity of this nation is undeniable.

In addition, it contributed to the strengthening of Cuban history and popular traditions through the participation of many Africans in the wars of independence.

These cultural heritage inherited from African slaves enrich the various spheres of current Cuban society with a highly varied cultural ensemble that has no equal in the entire world.

Cuba is an immense ajiaco, would say the anthropologist Fernando Ortiz.

Religious syncretism is born as part of acculturation in Cuba

One of the religious expressions that most strongly remained in the ideology and faith of the Cuban people was the Yoruba religion.

However, by syncretizing the deities of the yoruba pantheon With Catholic Saints, what is known today as Santeria or Regla de Osha was formed, and it is an extremely widespread and practiced cult in Cuba.

Not being able to worship their gods freely, they did so through the saints and images of the Catholic Christian religion and transculturation occurred, in the Regla de la Ocha or Santeria.

The Orishas and Saints most revered from syncretism are:

  • Obatala: Father Orisha, is the African deity of purity. It was assimilated to the Virgen de las Mercedes.
  • Oshun: goddess of love and rivers. He incarnated in the Virgin of Charity of Copper, patron saint of Cuba.
  • Shango: god of thunder, fire and drums. It was equated to Santa Barbara.
  • Yemaya: mother of life and goddess of the sea. Synchronized with the Virgin of Regla, patron saint of the bay of Havana.
  • Babalu Aye: African deity of plagues and ailments. Synchronized with Saint Lazarus, miraculous protector of health
  • Eleggua: Lord of the Roads and Destiny. It was syncretized in the Niño de Atocha or San Antonio de Padua.
  • Oggun: Metals Pattern. Syncretized with San Miguel and San Pedro.
  • orula: The fortune teller and interpreter of the word of Ifá joins the cult of San Francisco de Asís.

These saints, as they are commonly called, are highly adored by the Cuban population and have cults that intertwine religions, very popular today.

From our Africa came styles of life, dance and music

Life in the barracks, which were characterized by extreme overcrowding, was tough.

African slaves were not treated as people, so the very existence was made painful.

That is why we can say that one of the most widespread contributions to Cuban culture was dance.

Above all, the "drum dance" that African slaves performed during times of marronage became popular, reflecting liberation and unbridled euphoria with touches of eroticism and sensuality.

And like that, many dance expressions resulting from African religious expressions have remained in the cultural mix and in today's Cuban culture.

Even today the African deities have specific dances and touches dedicated to invoke their energy to the Earth.

The Orishas are also sung to venerate them and thank them for their blessings, something very common today among Cubans who practice African religious expressions.

We inherited respect for nature and the Earth

Nature worship was typical of all African cultures and slaves continued to practice it, finding similarities between Cuban herbs and mountains with Africans.

They attributed magical and religious powers to the herbs and considered the mountain as a temple of deities such as Elegguá, Oggún, Ochosi, Oko, Aye, Changó, Allagguna, and spirits or eggunes.

Sacred trees in Afro-Cuban religiosity:

Some trees that were sacred in Africa and that slaves found in Cuba are:

  • Ceiba, temple of spirits, protector tree and grantor of wishes.
  • The Palm, throne and refuge of Shango, from his foliage he watches over his children
  • The siguaraya, a sacred and protective tree that also welcomes the souls of the deceased.

Also many plants that can cure numerous ailments and possess immense powers linked to the forces of the Orishas were found here by the Africans. For instance:

  • Yagruma
  • Gimp
  • Caña brava
  • Mahogany
  • Seedling

Many African slaves used these plants to cure their diseases, and to make amulets to ward off evil.

These customs have also remained to this day as part of natural and traditional medicine.

Likewise, herbs constitute offerings for deities and are sacred elements in religious cults and ceremonies.

The inheritance that the Africans left us it is present in the daily life of each Cuban, that African touch lives among us, in our faith, our speech, and even in the personality, that Africa belongs to everyone.

Learn about other articles on Afro-Cuban culture and religiosity:

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