For many people in Cuba, a “Rastafarian” is someone associated with reggae. Their clothing usually includes red, yellow and green colors; they wear dreadlocks and they’re known as users of marijuana.
My first impression of Rastafarians came from those semi-hard matted locks —so close to being natural— that grew from their heads. To this was added their music, which touched my African roots, so accustomed to percussive rhythms.
With the passing of time, I’ve learned that they’re more than that. I’ve come to realize that they have a strong belief in their god, Jah (Yahweh); in Marcus Garvey as a prophet, and in the black Messiah (the Savior). They are in route to their promised land (Africa), where Haile Selassie was the Emperor in Ethiopian, though he died in 1975.
I learned that this way of life arose in Jamaica among the poorest, that they once defended Black supremacy, and that their dreadlocks symbolize the Lion of Judah.
I found that smoking “ganjah” (cannabis or marijuana) is a path to getting closer to their God, a sacrament, though it’s not required to smoke the substance to achieve that.
The music that identifies them arose in Jamaica as a product of the fusion of various sounds. The first played was “ska” and later reggae appeared, with Bob Marley beings it’s most famous singer-songwriter as he converted lyrics into ideology, sermons and prayers. This is a music that gives them freedom and hope.
“Babylon” is an enemy that prevents the Rastas from moving the tasks forward that are in their path.
In the 1990s there was an avalanche of Rastafaris in Havana, the great majority motivated by tourists interested in these types of exotic individuals.
It became stylish. Many of them had pretty, well-formed and orderly dreadlocks, accompanied by “jineteriles” (hustler/gigolo) clothes with Rasta symbols. Among them, a certain percentage of these lovers of reggae music came from the east of the country – but without roots; they are called “phony Rastas” or “tourist hunters” by some.
It’s certain that many were involved in half-truths. Yet among them there exist those who began on that path for the most superficial reasons but have turned into studious and fervent followers of the movement.
The “true ones” or “pure Rastas” that I’ve known have a very personal way of conducting their lifestyle and are said to be kings in their own kingdom. They wear the dreadlocks that the years have given them, grown like roots of sacred trees and reasons in themselves for adoration.
They wear large tanges (tams or turbans) and on festive occasions put on traditional tunics.
Their diet is natural, though not all of them are vegetarians.
Among them there are reggae musicians and others devoted to artisanship. There are few university graduates among them, as most work in diverse trades and occupations. A good part of them study their ideology and are lovers of peace and justice, as well as defenders of cultural and racial pride. Many are authentic warriors with their flowing manes full of energy.