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Orishas in Cuba

Cuba, a tourist destination par excellence in the Caribbean, has a rich history of tradition, culture and natural wealth that make up a unique product for thousands of foreign vacationers who visit the country every year.

In addition to its many attractions, including excellent beaches, museums, nightclubs and colonial architecture in perfect state of preservation, Cuba also offers the treasure of its popular religiosity.

That process combines religious and cultural expressions brought from Europe and those contributed by the African slaves, especially those from the Yoruba tribe, brought to Cuba by the Spanish colonizers.

That way, the Orishas – the gods of that religion – have been recognized in Cuba over the past five centuries, due to their human characteristics and other distinguishing elements such as colors, music, animals, and food and drink preferences.

According to experts, in Cuba, the Yoruba people were called "lucumí", due to the phonetic expression of their greeting, "oluku mi", which means "my friend".

Despite the colonizers' efforts to convert the slaves into Catholicism, the latter succeeded in preserving their religion and even identified their Orishas with Catholic saints.

Attributes of Orishas.
Batá Drums.
Our Lady of Mercy.

That complex process resulted in a sort of religious syncretism that is currently known as "Santería".

The long list of African deities includes Obatala, which represents clarity and is associated with Our Lady of Mercy, while her son, Elegua (Saint Anthony), is seen as the god that prepares the ground.

Yemaya, the goddess of the sea and the mother of all saints, is identified with the color blue and is recognized in the figure of the Virgin of Regla, while Shango, the Yoruba god of fire and war, lives on top of royal palms and controls the lightning. His color is red and it is associated with Saint Barbara.

His son, Aggayu Sola, god of earth and protector of travelers, is associated with Saint Christopher, while Oshun, Shango's wife and Yemaya's friend, is the goddess of love and the rivers and her color is yellow.

Other Orishas are Oshosi, the god of hunting and protection, Orunmila or Orula (wisdom), Babalu Aye (diseases) and Oya (death).

Like in Catholicism, believers of the Yoruba religion must follow a series of commandments known as the 16 Laws of Ifá, whose origin is attributed to the pronouncements made by Orunmila, the Orisha of wisdom and prediction.

The several religious elements that accompany that cult in Cuba are also a unique attraction for both Cubans and foreigners interested in that extraordinary patrimonial value of the Caribbean Island's cultural spectrum.

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