African Religion in the Americas

Culto Sincretico SignThe several African-based religions that have developed in Cuba are called syncretic because they combine elements from several different cultures. They include cultural elements from Yourba, baKongo, Fon and other African civilizations as well as colonial Spanish secular and Catholic elements. These religions include Santeria, Palo Monte, Voodoo and Espiritismo. Santeria and Palo Monte are based on the beliefs and practices brought to Cuba by African slaves. Voodoo originated in Haiti. It is based on similar beliefs and practices but developed in a French rather than Spanish environment. It was later brought to Cuba by Haitian workers and is still primarily practiced in those communities. Espiritismo is a combination of African ancestor worship and 18th century French Spiritism.

Looking for a Bibliography? Check out my African Religions in the Americas Reading List.
Have specific questions about Santeria/Lukumi/Orisha Religions? Check out my FAQ page.

You can follow the icons below to learn more about each of these religions:

Eleggua Icon Espiritismo Cross Palo Firma Mambo with Doll
Santeria Espiritismo (Spiritism) Palo Monte
(coming soon) 
(coming soon) 

Eleggua Tour 1995

During the summer of 1995 I was part of a delegation of scholars who visited various religous houses throughout eastern Cuba. I learned to love Cuban rum, Cuban cigars, Cuban coffee and the Cuban people. I have two Cuban “children” in
Santiago as well as several new friends: Cuban, Canadian and American. I’ve brought back over 10 hours of video tape of demonstrations and rituals, over 9 hours of audio tape interviews with practitioners, over 200 pictures, and innumerable memories of the faces of the people who opened up their hearts, their homes and their religious experience to us. I’ll never forget setting on the porch of the voodoo mambo, holding the sacred doll that lives with her in her bedroom while she prepared coffee from her own trees, the innumerable cakes loving prepared and respectfully consumed, the West Indian May Pole dance with its African interpretation of a traditional English ritual, the honor of being
allowed into sacred spaces in gardens, back rooms and buildings consecrated especially to the Orishes or the Lwas or the spirits. I can still feel the chill of the spirits called into an open air Espiritismo building, the penetrating gaze of a babalawo near Las Tunas, the power of the cleansing ritual performed for me in Santiago. I had not yet been home 24 hours before I was trying to figure out how to get packages to the many friends I left behind and when and how I could go


There is a long tradition of pilgrimage in African and European history. In the spirit of such pilgrimages I have put together a group of sites in these traditions
that you can visit. Each links to a picture of a religious altar or display.

Related Sites

Religion Sites

African Sites

Other Sites


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