Santeria is a fusion of Catholic practices and African folk beliefs. It emerged in Cuba during the 17th century, and has been embedded in Cuban society ever since.

Fidel Castro is even rumored to be a believer. That may be in part due to an auspicious event that happened during his victory speech on January 8, 1959. While Fidel was addressing the crowd, two doves flew over the podium, and one of them landed on his shoulder. Doves are symbols of Obatalá, the son of God in Santería. Not surprisingly, many people took this as a sign that God wanted Fidel to lead Cuba.

The combining of concepts and terminology from different religions – in this case, from Catholicism and the Lucumí religion – is called religious syncretism. In the minds of many Cubans, the two religions parallel one another, rather than existing as one unified religion. They also don’t see contradictions between the two faiths. Practitioners attend Catholic mass and might even baptize their children, while also practicing forms of Lucumí in their home. In the house of a Santero, you might find statues of Catholic saints alongside orisha symbols.


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