Photographers blog: A Cuban Santera

Mayra’s transformation from housewife to witch is dramatic. Others had spoken to me about her but I didn’t believe them, so I had to see for myself. I’m not particularly religious myself, but after speaking to her and insisting, she invited me to a ceremony in which her husband acted as her assistant.

I visited her home several times but her clients were not particularly interested in having a photographer there. My curiosity for the subject started to increase so I had to be patient. Usually people involved in the Afro-Cuban Santeria religion are very camera shy and do not allow their rites to be documented. Because of that I feel privileged to have gained access to document some of these interesting occurrences.

There are a handful of photos, although nothing dramatic. Most of her clients are middle-aged, which I found interesting. I wonder if Santeria is losing its appeal, or if it simply is a matter older people feeling more need for help? (Or maybe it is simply that this particular santera appeals mainly to middle-aged people?)

I imagine in South Florida and elsewhere the youth are becoming Americanized. Does seem odd it attracts the middle age according to the article.

A thought came to me, which may or may not be accurate:

The Communist revolution was 60 years ago, so middle-aged persons would have no memories of life before that. But their parents would have, and those parents might have continued to practice Santeria despite government disapproval. Being exposed to Santeria as children might have influenced some of them to continue the practice as adults. But as those numbers declined, the younger generations would have had less and less contact with Santeria practitioners and the religion may have less appeal to the youngest.

If that is so, it will be interesting to see if Santeria, as with Catholicism, rebounds in Cuba now that restrictions are being lessened.

Good observations.

Also noteworthy, is that Santeria originated with the Cuban slaves–as a means of concealing their truth faith (voodoo) in Catholic icons. Hence it is a religion that started out as concealing itself. So, concealing their religion was old hat/second hand to them. So whether it was the Catholic Spanish colonists, or the Communists–concealing their religion, was already something that they were accostemed to.

The second thing that comes to mind, is the natural acrimony between communism, and Catholicism. Communits view Catholicism as a threat, as so the religious prohibition was aimed primairly at Catholicism. The communists probably didn’t enforce the prohibition nearly as strongly against voodoo/santeria (nor persecute it nearly as zealously).


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