By Mike Gleason
Cuban Santeria, by Raul Canizares
Destiny Books, 0892817623, 138 pages + colour insert, 1993, 1999
Raul Canizares offers a truly unique perspective in this book – that of not only an active member of the religion of Santeria, but of a high-ranking member of that religion. There have been other books by members of the religion , but none by someone with the academic background and training which Mr. Canizares brings to this work. Add to that the length of his active involvement and you have a perspective which would be hard to duplicate.
This is a reissue of a work which was aimed at an objective, academic audience, as a part of the research in order to complete a master’s thesis. It has been expanded by the addition of anecdotal stories and appendices.
On a personal note, I would like to recommend that, if possible, you obtain a copy of the CD Sacred Sounds of Santeria,1 which is a collection of traditional Santeria rhythms, as well as a few other songs collected in Cuba by Mr. Canizares. It offers a real feel for the rhythms which are such an important part of this religion. Having the CD playing in the background as you read this book will certainly enhance the experience of both for you.
This book, unlike those by such authors as Migene Gonzalez-Wippler, is less concerned with the workings of the religion and more concerned with the “relational” aspects. It delves into the use of Catholic iconography from a previously unexpressed point of view, as an example. It also focuses on the changes occurring in Santeria as a result of the large influx of non-Hispanic followers. As one of those non-Hispanic followers myself, it was a welcome change to see a discussion of this type in print.
Mr. Canizares is capable of presenting information regarding a seldom-understood religion in a way which is enlightening, non-threatening and, most importantly, entertaining way. I would hope that others will be inspired by his writing to continue this effort, as well as his effort to collect songs and chants “in the field.”
As a follower of a Wiccan path as well as a necklace-wearing member of the Lucumi, I applaud this books and highly recommend it to all the Pagans I know as a way of gathering further knowledge and dispelling prejudice. The more we understand other points of view, the less prejudice, distrust and hatred will hold sway in our world.
This book should be in the library of every religious educator, I know it will have a prominent place on my own library shelves.Footnotes: