Photo Feature by Elio Delgado Valdes
HAVANA TIMES – The Abakua recognizes manhood, respects and exalts it. Perhaps that explains the social precepts that accompany acceptance for initiation into that masculine society. Being sworn in seems today to be a social phenomenon that takes strength in young men; the decision to do so is free and voluntary.
In order to be accepted, a sponsor is required who swears that the initiation candidate keeps the principles that govern an abakua: being a man, a good son and a good friend. In addition, the person is subjected to a verification process on his social and family behavior and his moral principles.
After being formally accepted, the indísime (this is how the applicant to be an abakuá is termed), must pay a cost of 200 CUC for the right to initiation.
After the initiation ceremony, consisting of the oath, the applicants are consecrated as obonekue or echo, then comes the party that ends with the procession and the goat meat is eaten.
The little devil, an enigmatic character, directs the procession, dances and purifies the environment to scare away evil spirits; Behind him is Isué, the priest, who holds with his teeth the crest of a rooster and in his hands the eribo drum. He is followed by three great dignitaries of the society, while an officiant spreads some holy water with basil branches that will take away any negativity from the place.
These rites attract the attention of many, who approach to share the music, dances and drinks. Others, fearful, do not want to be told about these men cataloged as diabolical. They reject that liturgy, because, they claim, it always ends with violence or criminality.
The history of the Abakua Society in Cuba, originally from the Calabar area in Nigeria and part of Cameroon, emerged in Havana, in the town of Regla, in 1836, with Matanzas and Cardenas being other settlements.
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