AFRO-CUBAN RELIGIONS

Miguel Barnet, Author
Miguel Barnet, Author . Markus Wiener $36 (160p) ISBN 978-1-55876-254-1
Reviewed on: 05/14/2001
Release date: 01/01/2001
Hardcover - 160 pages - 978-1-55876-255-8
Paperback - 160 pages - 978-976-637-054-1
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To understand Cuba, posits Barnet (the Fernando Ortiz Foundation, Havana), one has to understand its distinctive religious traditions, which have been produced by centuries of blending African traditions with Catholicism and Native American practices. That's a fine premise, but the book—disjointed and desultory—does not go far toward in helping readers understand those syncretic religious practices. The opening chapter deals with myth on a theoretical, but unsophisticated, level. ("Believers do not need to ponder the legitimacy of a myth.... [T]hey take it at face value.") The second chapter opens with a brief history lesson about the arrival of slaves in Cuba, and then describes Regla de Ocha, or Santería, introducing readers to the various deities and spirits of the pantheon. The next, and most confusing, chapter describes several Cuban Congo sects. Barnet then offers a broader discussion of dance, magic and supernatural beings. In the haphazard closing pages, he delves unnecessarily into the autobiographical: "In my memory, my journey to the land of the orishas appears like a beautiful strip of light." Despite the preponderance of useful photographs, diagrams and illustrations throughout, the book does little more than skim the surface of the complicated, colorful world of Cuban religion. (July)

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