Talking about Santeria in Cuba

By Miguel Arias Sanchez

Kiosk selling Santeria religious articles.  Photo: Irina Echarry

HAVANA TIMES — Darnelys Dominguez Pino is 42 years old and works as an attendant at a sports center. He has been directly linked to the Afro-Cuban religion known as Santeria for many years. He is a man of few words who is concerned about the path his religion is taking.

HT: How old were you when you started out in this Afro-Cuban religion?

Darnelys Dominguez Pino: Ever since I was born practically. I began because I wanted to, I was drawn to it by its sincerity and truth.

HT: What do you really think about your religion?

DDP: I believe it is something beautiful, human, when it is practiced honestly.

HT: Why has this fever to become initiated into Santeria come about?

DDP: Looking for different objectives: financial, to leave the country or to improve ones health.

HT: Why would a person choose to do this?

DDP: Look there are many reasons why: some are incited by other people who have done this; others, by their families or by their own inspiration, they believe that it will help them to progress or to be better.

HT: Are health or life always necessary reasons in every case?

DDP: I don’t think so, there are special cases which draws people to santeria because of health problems, but not all of them. A lot of people approach the religion because they hope to be better off financially, that it will open new doors for them.

HT: Why do they ask for so many animals, even money, in order to become a santero?

DDC: It’s true, you need animals, but sometimes you don’t need as many as the santeria priest asks for; money? is something new too, in reality, what they ask for is a right.

HT: Is everything that’s asked for the initiation?

DDP: No, it’s not always like that, there are people who take what they can out of this for their own personal benefit.

HT: Do they finally meet all the requirements?

DDP: Some do, others don’t, and everything depends on what is being done is in a loyal and pure way.

HT: Do you think that all of those people who practice as santeria priests: babalao, palero, etc. do so in a truly dignified manner?

DDP: No. There are people who do this just to make money, for their own benefit and wellbeing.

HT: Was this religion in Cuba always like this?

DDP: No, it used to be a lot more honest in the past.

HT: What’s the main difference?

DDP: Before, people used to practice out of conviction while today they do so because of money a lot of the time.

HT: Can anybody be initiated into santeria, even if they are a criminal, alcoholic or an immoral person?

DDP: Yes, of course anyone can.

HT: How’s that?

DDP: If you become initiated in an honest and proper way, santeria educates you and takes you out of the evil path, guiding you down new paths to what’s good.

HT: How would you define a person practicing Santeria?

DDP: Somebody who doesn’t fail to meet the precepts of Santeria.

HT: Are you proud about your religion right now, about how it is being practiced here in Cuba?

DDP: Yes, I am proud of it, but I’m not proud of everybody who practices it.  There are still a lot of people who respect it but it has become a scam in a lot of other cases, it isn’t practiced as it should be and people take advantage of it for their own good.

One thought on “Talking about Santeria in Cuba

  • The interview was very informative, especially coming from a Santero residing in Cuba. I am Iya’losa) Omo’Osun (initiated 1986) living in America.
    Charletons, hustlers, thieves, dis-ingenious phonies, etc. exist in EVERY religion on this planet. Ours is NO different in that sense. Eshu watches ALL…and judgements awaits all.
    There are also some awesome, righteous Aborisa (Orisa worshippers) initiated and in-initiated alike who LOVE this religion and practice Iwa Pele (righteous character and behavior).
    I am YeYe OlaOshun Lakesin and I practice the Isese’Lagba path (traditional). This religion to me is beloved and very sacred, and I love the Orisa and proud to travel on this path for my spiritual salvation.
    Let the Cubans know that the worship of Orisa’Ifa is officially recognized among the world’s religions. Elder Babalawo Wande Abimbola, Awise Agbaye, chants Our sacred oracular liturgies (scriptures) of Odu’Ifa beautifully, in the presence of other major religious leaders at the Vatigan in Rome.
    We have come a long way, by the Grace of Olódùmarè, our various sects and traditions are exchanging dialogue especially in the Diaspora.
    Be Blessed,

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