Department of Social Anthropology

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Cuba, Santería & The Dances of The Orichas

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Master's thesis submitted at Department of Social Anthropology, autumn 2015.

By: Karina Thérèse DeGaust Hunderi
Supervisor: Professor Andrew Lattas

This paper is about Cuban Santeria, its religious dances and the religion’s followers.

Firstly it looks at its creation starting from the arrival of African slaves and through political regulations forming its creation. Showing the environment where the dances are used, the reader is lead through a Toque de Santo, which is a religious ritual where these religious dances take place. Further on, modern changes such as the folklorization of the religion are discussed. It looks at the effects this process has when the dances are danced in theaters and presented to tourists as “the true Cuban culture”.

After looking at the modern day uses of the dances, this paper goes deeper into the possession aspect of the dances. It looks at why this is desired, the affects it may have and how practitioners distinguish that which they define as “put on” from that which is defined as “a real” possession. As a finishing touch placing Santeria in a different light, the religion is briefly looked at as business and how many followers make a living from the religion, reactions to this and how some have started to reconstruct the religion in modern forms looking for the true religion.