Religion is one of the most scared aspects a person has in his or her life; for many practitioners
their world, their universe revolves around it. Santeria is a religion in which many people do not
know of and if they do it is often misunderstood to be some sort of cult. To those who practice it
is a unique way of life with rich cultural and spiritual roots. The word Santeria is a syncretistic
religion which combines the fundamentals of roman Catholicism, Animism , Voodoo and
African religions. The word Santeria means “way of the saints”. Today it's practiced worldwide
by people of all races.
“Santeria promotes a connection between the divine, the human, and the natural world by
teaching individuals how to live in harmony”. (Duncan 2010)
Santeria religion originated with the Yoruba and Lukim indigenous people’s from West Africa.
The Yoruba and Lukim people were enslaved, shipped to the New World and forced by Spanish
to worship as Catholics. The enslaved people eventually accept the same Catholic saints because
they were able to identify characteristics in them reminiscent of their own African gods.
However, in Spanish ruled Cuba and Puerto Rico, the evangelical purpose of the Catholic
Church, obligated the conversion of African slaves to Catholicism to “save” them from
worshipping to “false” gods. The saving of enslaved people from damnation was not, however,
the only motive at work; the Spanish saw the continuing practice of African rooted religions as a
risk of cultural identification between people and possibly revolt against the owners of the
slaves. In an effort to control the enslaved Africans , the Spanish banned the practice of African
religions and forced stronger laws to promote the conversion of the African people to
Catholicism. The people were forced to hide their African religions and practice Catholicism.
The African people, however, found in the Catholic saints similar to their Yoruba gods
(Orishas); this allowed for the worship of Yoruba gods under the camouflage of Catholicism.
The similarities between Yoruba gods (Orishas) and Catholic saints, along with the worshipping
of both allowed for the interconnecting of two religions into what became known as Santeria or
“La Regla Lucumi” (rule of the religion lucumi) and the Rule of Osha (rule of the story) .
Some practitioners of Santeria might describe themselves as Catholic, attend Catholic masses,
and baptize their children as Catholic, while also practicing African-based religion in their “
ilé”, ( Lucumí temple) or in their own homes or in the home of a religious elder. While they
know that the Catholic saints and the Lucumí Orishas are not identical, there are many
similarities between them. So Santeros (practitioners) perhaps may keep a statue of Saint
Barbara or the Virgin of Charity on a Lucumí altar, as another way of representing