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viernes, 8 de febrero de 2013


SANTERISMO

THE WAY OF SPIRITS AND SAINTS

 

THE VODOU "VUDU" PUERTO RICANS DO

 
LA MADAMA / LA CONGA
CONGO MAMBO LOA


Amongst Puerto Ricans on the mainland of the United States and the island of Puerto Rico, there exists a magico folk tradition of Espiritismo Folklorico / Criolla that has been greatly influenced by Afro Cuban Lukumi also known as Santeria, which is known amongst Puerto Ricans as Santerismo or the Way of Spirits and Saints.  Santerismo in present day is a combination of three separate traditions, the Orisha religion of the Yoruba people of west Africa, Spiritism "Espirirismo" which is a combination of the view of the Spirit world not just of Kardecian Spiritism, but also Taino and African views and lastly Roman Catholicism.  Similar to Cuban Santeria, those that practice Santerismo have a group of Santos, "Saints" known in Cuba as Orichas, that surround the individual.  Similar to Cuban Santeria these Orichas and Santos surround the devotee and bestow upon him/her blessings, health, protection and luck.  Many Puerto Ricans who practice Santerismo differentiate the African Oricha and the Catholic Saint.  For example statues of Chango Macho is simply that, Chango Macho while Santa Barbara is simply Santa Barbara, although they share many similar traits and functions.  It is very rare that a Puerto Rican will call Our Lady of Charity, by her Yoruba counterpart, Ochun, in Santerismo the Saint is the Saint, the Angel is the Angel and the Orisha is the Orisha.  Unlike Puerto Rican Sance which often synchronize the Saint with the Vodou Lwa.  

Puerto Ricans always have had in some form a great belief in the Spirits, this can be viewed in all its religious and Spiritual practices, from Pentecolism, Espiritismo, Santerismo, Sance and even Catholicism as practiced on the island.  Now although Pentecolism denounces the saints and lighting candles, the way Puerto Rican Pentecostals mount the Holy Spirit, and speak in tongues has more roots in its African and Indigenous ancestry then they themselves care to believe, and it is similar to some sects of Espiritismo Criollo practices.  Although Pentecostals do not have a belief in the Saints, Puetro Ricans in general have a great devotion to its Santos, which also has its roots not only from Europe but again from the Taino Natives and Africa.  
The Catholic Saints was introduced to Puerto Rico in the 1400, when the Spanish Conquistadors and colonists brought with them, from Spain their devotion of the Saints.  The images of the Saints where also used by Spanish monks in the hopes of converting the Pagan and "Savage" Taino people and then the African slave population, this crucial conversion was what would be the birth of Puerto Rican Santerismo, almost 500 years before the word Santerismo was uttered by a Puerto Rican.  Although many Taino and Africans where forced into the Roman Catholic belief system, they held deeply into the roots of their Taino and African views of Divinities and Spirits. Now unlike the African population of Cuba and Hispañola which kept the names of their African spirits alive and hidden within the Catholic Saints, in Puerto Rico it was much different, as the names of the Orisha and Cemi Spirits where eventually forgotten, but their traits could be found within the Santos they where synchronized with.  This is similar and can be seen in the Southern United States population, and traditions such as Gullah, Hoodoo and Louisiana Voodoo.

The role of these African and Indigenous Spirits continued to play an important role in the Puerto Rican mind set.  Catholic churches where scarce and the terrain was ruff on the Island, so many Jibaro mountain folk would have an ancestral shrine to the Santos which had more to do with its African and Indigenous roots than its Roman Catholic views.  Rural Puerto Ricans often kept the wooden Nicho shrines of wooden carved Santos hung on a wall or on shelves or old dressers.  The Nichos did not only have wooden saints but belongings of departed family members such as clothing, hats, jewelry and momentos which also included candles, wooden crosses, rosary beads and prayer cards, imported from Spain and Europe.  

Each of the Santo on the nicho or santuario had its reason for being there and its purpose.  Often the Santos where a family members Patron Saint, or a Saint that commemorated the birth or death of a family member.  Thus one's dead family members always played an important role in the construction of these wooden Nichos and Santuarios.

The wooden Santos like their African and Indigenous Counterparts, "Orishas and Cemi" where imbued with the Saints miraculous faculties and where prayed and invoked as a form of interceding with God on their behalf.  Santos as viewed by Puerto Ricans are powerful intercessors with God, and could heal, console, protect, and bring luck to those that prayed to them.  The Santos were always rewarded when a wish was granted, and offerings such as flowers, fruits,, candles and metal milagros adorned the nichos and santuarios as a form of thanksgiving.  

The wooden Santos where often purchased or tr aided by the local Santero, who often was a healer man or herbalist.  The term Santero in Puerto Rico has nothing to do with the Cuban Santero who often where of the Lukumi tradition, and are correctly called Babalocha and Iyalochas.  The Puerto Rican Santero was often a wood carver of saints but also could have been a Curandero, a Brujo a Santiguador that resembled the Hoodoo man of the Southern United states. They were Spiritual healer who used the energies of the Catholic Saints and the bible to heal as well as curse.  But generally these Santeros viewed their spiritual labor as a vocation, a calling, to serve a spiritual need for the poor and rural communities of the Island of Borinquen, "Puerto Rico". 

The Puerto Rican Santero lived in a time when it was punishable by death to practice anything that was viewed as heresy, in the times when Puerto Rico was a colony of Spain.  But they continued until the late 1800s when French Kardecian Spiritism took over the island, and Espiritismo Criollo and Espiritismo de la Mesa Blanca became popular amongst the islands inhabitants and terms such as Espiritista, Mediumnidad and Presidente de Mesa was adopted.  The Puerto Rican Santero continued, but now known as wooden Saint carvers, who also practiced Espiritismo, and some form of Puerto Rican Brujeria.  By the 1940s the term Santero was almost completely extinct, with the rare few Santero wood carvers who kept their family tradition alive.
 

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