By Dmitri Prieto
On occasion adherents of the Yoruba religion make offerings to the Orishas: deities of African origin. Each deity is related to some element or force of nature, which is why the Yoruba religion (like many other ancient beliefs) is often celebrated as a medium for communion with the environment, with those entities for which modernity, in its ascent, has lost respect.
It is a medium for seeking possible spiritual solutions to current environmental problems. I have read many texts about this and Yoruba practitioners themselves often proclaim the validity of this notion.
Yemaya is the orisha of the seas. Therefore offerings to her are associated with the sea. Offerings to other orishas can be found in other locations. For example, in Cuba it is not uncommon to find objects placed at the base of ceibas trees or royal palms.
Each orisha has its own history. Every act of worship is linked to one or more personal biographies. Religions like Yoruba strongly focus on the possibility of obtaining assistance in solving concrete problems of daily life.
A few days ago I witnessed an unusual act. I do not know how odd it really is. I don’t think there have been any studies on it.
In a spot on the mouth of the Havana Bay, where boats enter, on the sidewalk were tourists pass quietly, a man was preparing to place his offering in the bay.
He threw the offering into the sea, and then continued the ritual on the waterfront. He was nearly hidden. His profile was visible from the outdoor restaurant where I sat with a group of friends.
The thing is that the offering was thrown into the sea in a typical plastic bag. I have no idea if the offering inside was something Yemaya will appreciate.
But I do know for sure that plastic bags are not biodegradable; so they are virtually eternal. It is the worst kind of pollution.
I do not know if the practitioner was unaware of that fact or if he knew and didn’t care.
Today, ancient religions are practiced by large segments of the Cuban population, transcending racial stereotypes and education. So a believer’s actions do not have to strictly adhere to the belief as such.
But the colossal inconsistency of the offering to Yemaya that I witnessed alarms me.
The predatory lack of environmental awareness that is dragged along the ground of the spirit: another paradox of our common education; of this complex Cuba in which we live.