Anytime one attempts to talk about religion, there's always hesitation ... especially when the religion in question is one that has so many misconceptions surrounding it. This is undoubtably true when it comes to the practice of Santeria.
Born out of the devastating slave trade, Santeria originates from the large number of Yoruba (Nigerian tribal group) African survivors which ultimately were brought to Cuba and forced to practice Catholicism in leu of their own religion.
Being the survivors that they were, these Afro-descendants, while practicing the new Catholic religion also incorporated several aspects of their african spiritual traditions into the faith. From this co-mingling of traditional worship and colonialism emerged the practice of Santeria.
Within Santeria a peace is made where similarities within both faiths are found. African deities and Catholic saints are prayed to equally without conflict. Within this new community, new initiates, called "Iyawos" wear white and undergo a yearlong rites of passage filled with ceremonies, restrictions, new practices.
The act of wearing all white is a form of rebirth symbolizing purity, peace of mind, and spiritual clarity. Due to the unfavorable feelings at times for all things "Africano" on the island, particularly misunderstood religious practices and rituals from the continent, Santeria was not always welcomed and therefore continues to be practiced quietly within tight communities worldwide.
Like so many of african descent living within the diaspora, there comes a point where a merging of cultures occurs ... The clash of two worlds is never an easy one. In the case of the Santeros/as (Santeria practitioners) in Cuba, they were able to find a home under assimilation, untimely like so many others, creating a beautiful new aspect of their culture ... something uniquely their own.