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I am Yoruba: the History of our religion in Cuba

Yoruba religion in Cuba

Traditions, mysticism, courage, strength and the true Cuban identity are characteristic of the documentary Yoruba i am, by Sandor Gónzalez Villar, a production of the year 2018, which describes the broad horizons of syncretism and religiosity and also shows the eternal African presence in the roots of this land.

I am Yoruba: "from that trunk we also nourish ourselves"

Through narrative monologues, the production manages to bring the public closer to elementary pages of the history of Afro-Cuban culture that are rarely revealed.

It also reveals that more than one hundred million people in the world practice the Yoruba religion, so the knowledge that its history and origins can contribute is extremely important.

Begin Yoruba i am, describing the process of capturing African slaves and their subsequent journey to the New World, to the Island of Cuba.

And it is thanks to their fervor in the adoration of their true deities, even before the attempts of the colonialists to discredit their religion, that the yoruba cult.

Recognizing history Afro-Cuban

Lucas Aberasturi (Awo Ogbe Yono), of the Council of Major Priests of Ifá of the Yoruba Cultural Association of Cuba, Caridad Diego Bello, Director of the Office of Religious Affairs of the Central Committee and expert researchers and members of the Cuban religious formation, explain in Yoruba i am, the process of formation of the religious syncretism in Cuba and the African characteristics present in the society of this Island.

Through enlightening images, very Cuban music, colloquial conversations and popular jargon, interposed with a large number of interviews, the audience can come to understand the process of formation of a Cuban nationality with flashes of multiple cultures, essentially African.

Yoruba beliefs and practices, the experts make explicit in the film, are today recognized not only as a folkloric element of society, but as an important religion whose principles are brotherhood and helping others.

"The Yoruba religion makes us better human beings," they say.

And it is that as it shows Yoruba I am, the slaves never denied their ancestors or their Orishas no matter how much another belief was imposed on them, and because of their heritage, Cuba today maintains the African religious tradition united to the most intrinsic Cuban customs.

The documentary emphasizes important pages in the history of Cuban struggles that were led by practitioners of the Yoruba religion.

It cannot be emphasized that there were several members of the Abakuá Society, belonging to the santero cult, those who came to the defense of the 8 medical students murdered by Spanish colonialism.

He also highlighted that well-known social leaders such as Aracelio Iglesia and Lázaro Peña, were practitioners of the Yoruba religion and, at the same time, tireless fighters for workers' rights in Cuba.

"And it is that we, the santeros, are internationalists, parents and hard-working and upright people," highlights a member of the Yoruba religion in the documentary.

It is very important for today's Cuban society to have the strongholds of resistance and identity that the Afro-Cuban culture instills, Caridad Diego Bello also recognized.

Africanism and religiosity in Cuba

The Revolution allowed the Yoruba to stop being a marginalized religion, reflects the documentary, in the words of Esteban Lazo, President of the National Assembly of People's Power, when he said that, although its origin is in Africa, the Yoruba is a Cuban religion.

The documentary shows how with these ideas, the Yoruba Cultural Association of Cuba emerged in 1976, by the idea of ​​several babalawos who wanted to share from the religious point of view, all the actions that were carried out in the country.

Emphasis is placed on the figure of Filiberto O'Farril, who presided over the Association in its beginnings, when they met at the home of Manolo Ibáñez.

History of the Yoruba Cultural Association of Cuba

The film also shows the prevalence of the thought of the Yoruba Cultural Association of Cuba as a cultural entity, whose members were convinced of their role in society.

The country needed an official association, so that the Yoruba voice from Cuba could reach all parts of the world, which is why government recognition was sought. 

And tell Yoruba I am, that the figure of Antonio Castañeda was extremely important for the development of the association.

Emotional testimonies from practitioners recall that, thanks to their ideas and actions, in 1998, the Cuban state was interested in achieving the union of the main religions present in Cuba and supporting its members as believers.

The images reveal the moment when Fidel Castro offered them support for the creation of a headquarters in the capital's Prado.

There they worked until the work was finished and the Yoruba Cultural Association of Cuba opened its doors as headquarters and museum in 1999.

Yoruba I am: Telling the world the whole truth

Today, the Cuban Yorubas say they are grateful to have a temple and carry the Yoruba religion as their Orishas deserve it. The association based in Cuba already has more than 30 thousand members.

Folk dance classes are given in its lecture rooms and specialists, anthropologists, researchers and practitioners share their knowledge.

In addition, the Library of the Yoruba Cultural Association of Cuba has great information on Afro-Cuban culture, which they will gladly show to the interested public.

Orishas Museum

As shown in the documentary, Association museum It is also essential to know not only Yoruba history, but also to provide a look at that great intangible heritage of humanity that is Afro-Cuban culture.

The sculptures present in it were made by the young sculptor Lázaro Valdés, who tells in his testimony that he is not consecrated to religion, but that he decided to undertake the task as a recent graduate, of making all the Museum sculptures from African photographs and representations.

"I wanted to do something necessary for society," he said and said that, with the help of his father, also a sculptor, they made up the sculptures in honor of the Orishas that remain today in the institution in 5 years.

The museum: Temple of faith for the people

However, the documentary Yoruba i am, also shows the state of deterioration to which the headquarters of the Association and its museum are currently subjected, due to the inclement weather and the years.

Many of its members regret that the headquarters has not undergone a comprehensive restoration due to economic problems, and emphasize the importance of the premises as a heritage of Afro-Cuban culture.

The film reveals to the public the numerous leaks and the necessary repairs of a museum that Cuba cannot afford to lose, as the experts affirm.

It is worth noting that in the Yoruba Cultural Association in Havana you can find any type of information about the Orishas, ​​cults and rituals, which they share with the public in talks and meetings.

The members of the Association are also responsible for officially disseminating the "Letter of the Year" in more than 10 countries, which aims to ensure that all religious people, initiated or not, follow the advice of Ifá.

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