I don’t practice Santeria, I ain’t go no crystal ball.

4 Apr

A few days ago, I was sitting in my friends’ kitchen, chatting and dunking freshly baked chocolate chip cookies into a class of soy milk (she was out of cow’s milk). I don’t remember exactly where the conversation went—probably discussing the relative merits of different types of dairy—but it led me to make an offhand comment.

            “Oh yeah, I’ve never seen a whole dead goat, but I saw a goat head one time.”

            Claire and her weekend guest looked at me with the type of horror and disgust people usually reserve for talking about incest.

            “Where? Why?”

            “Well, it was part of this Santeria sacrifice I saw on a road in Cuba.”

            Shocked silence.

            “There was this really auspicious tree on the road to the National Theater and the Plaza de la Revolucion. I always saw dead birds or offerings of fruit and stuff like that there.”

            When I stopped to think about it, I frequently almost stepped in quite a few piles of pieces of dead animal, paper, ribbons and other sundries that I realized were some sort of offering seconds before plunging my foot into that benevolent blessing (or something less friendly).

            Claire continued to stare, bewildered.

            I didn’t really know how to explain the whole phenomenon because it was one of those things that just sort of exists in Cuba and you are aware of, but you don’t worry too much about (like your eccentric 7th grade geography teacher’s dating life—he’s in his mid-thirties, he’s single, what does he do on the weekend? Whatever.)

            Honestly, I still don’t really know a whole lot about Cuban religions of African descent—I have a fuzzy understanding of the various gods and goddesses, the rituals and the doctrine. This is not meant to be an educational post on the goddess Yemaja or what exactly is an orisha—I’m fully admitting ignorance on 99.9% of these religions because, newsflash for the uninitiated, belief systems and codification of them is complicated. What this is meant to be is a commentary: Maybe there is not so much difference between a decapitated goat’s head outside of someone’s apartment and wearing a necklace with the image of a man painfully dying.

            Until you know the whole story, many things look strange at first glance.

            So I guess one man’s disemboweled bird is another man’s not eating cow.


[A lighter example: We were happily eating milk-soaked cookies, an American pastime, but my Mexican tutor told me that dunking cookies in milk is just weird to many people in the Yucatan, and not a thing.]


2 Responses to “I don’t practice Santeria, I ain’t go no crystal ball.”

  1. jquisol April 4, 2013 at 8:47 am #

    That’s a neat observation. I completely forgot that Afro-Caribbean religions would exist in Cuba. Maybe I’ll witness something similar.
    I’m glad to see you’re blogging again!


    • gschrubbe April 5, 2013 at 11:20 am #

      You most probably will! I read this hilarious article where the author went to Cuba and said something to the effect of “I suddenly realized there was this religion and if you know about it, it’s all around you.” Like it’s a huge secret and you have to be initiated into the cult haha. Just walk down the street people! You inspired me thanks! 🙂

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