Like Cuban women, Hispanic men

CubaOpium for the people was yesterday

El Cobre, west of Santiago de Cuba, on the edge of a mountain range. The pilgrimage church on the hill can be seen from afar. Vendors sell sunflowers by the roadside. Believers dressed in yellow climb the wide flight of stairs to the basilica. Yellow is the color of the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre, the Merciful Virgin of Cobre.

She has been venerated here since 1612. The Spanish owner of a copper mine had them brought to the town after two Indians and an African slave are said to have found them in the Bahia de Nipe on the Atlantic Ocean. According to the legend. The boat at the feet of the saint with the three praying figures reminds of this.

"Thousands of people come here every week," says a priest after a family service with baptism. The child is also wearing a yellow dress.

The Merciful Virgin some all Cubans, say these women who came to El Cobre from Santiago. They want to celebrate Holy Mass and ask the Virgen for help.

Yellow flowers for the virgen

There are also numerous Santeros among the faithful, recognizable by their white clothes and necklaces with yellow glass beads. Followers of the Cuban Santeria see the Merciful Virgin Ochún, the Orisha of rivers and love.

In Havana's district of Guanabacoa, the community "La Divina Misericordia" has a place that at least resembles a church. (Deutschlandfunk / Anna Maria Goretzki)

"Many Santeria supporters go to El Cobre to offer yellow flowers to the Virgen.

In our religion, the babalao is the most important person. He tells you what to do. He is not only the boss, he is also the mediator between man and God, "says Silvio Ruiz Lasse.

The 30-year-old is a mechanic by profession. He repairs refrigerators. He too had to wear white for a year after entrusting himself to a Santeria priest, a babalao. The initiation clothing of the Santeros and Santeras always includes a white umbrella. They must not get wet, they are only allowed to go out on the streets during the day, and they have to eat and sleep on the floor at times. Silvio is now wearing jeans and a short shirt. But the green and yellow bracelet reveals his connection to the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre, his Orisha.

"You have to be Catholic to belong to the religion"

"My family played a major role. Everyone is a supporter of the Santeria, including my grandmother. We are all baptized Catholics. This is necessary in order to be allowed to belong to this religion. We call God Olofi."

The number of Santeros has increased significantly since the early 1990s. One reason is that followers of the Santeria but also other religious communities in Cuba are no longer professionally disadvantaged. Religion contradicted the ethical ideas of socialism. When asked whether it is possible today to be a member of the Communist Party and at the same time a supporter of the Santeria, Silvio said:

"Look at me. I am a member of the communist party. There are thousands of Santeros. There are also police officers and state officials. Claro. All of them want to be saved. Only some Catholics don't like the Santeria because we also sacrifice animals. So if we do Having problems, then the Babalao said we should sacrifice a chicken. Catholics see that as a bad thing. "

Iglesia de la Santísima Trinidad, Trinidad, Cuba (dpa / picture alliance / Peter Zimmermann)

And you can actually see sacrificed chickens at river mouths or trees, but also other gifts such as chicken bones. The Santeria is omnipresent, like Pope Francis or Che Guevara.

"The Santeria is not a homogeneous religion"

"The Santeria is very diverse. It is not a homogeneous religion. For the followers of the Santeria, however, the Catholic Church is a kind of reverence religion. They must be baptized Catholic. And they are very present with us when it comes to their deaths . Such a close connection between the Catholic Church and Santeria only exists in northeastern Brazil, "says Monsignor Jose Felice Perez.

He is secretary of the Cuban Bishops' Conference, based in Havana. There are many syncretistic currents in Latin America, especially in the Caribbean. In Guatemala and Mexico, Mayan cults have mixed with Catholicism. However, the Cuban Santeria was mainly shaped by the African religions.

"When the indigenous people disappeared here, the African slaves were brought here. They then had to work on the plantations. That is the difference to the other countries. We are not only critical of the Santeria. We respect popular piety. You have to see the people first, the people. What you have to do as a church to bring Jesus Christ closer to them. But the Virchen de la Caridad unites all Cubaneros. "

Tolerated by the party, the Santeria has even developed into a private line of business, like taxi companies or casas particulares for tourists. There are shops selling accessories for the Santeria everywhere, for example in a narrow street in Old Havana. There is San Lazaro next to the Virgen de la Caridad in different sizes. But there are also small seashells, stones, pieces of wood or tools on the shelves. Iron symbolizes Oggun or Peter, explains the trader.

Syncretism in Cuba. Since colonization, the religious traditions of African slaves have been mixed with those of the Catholic Church. (Deutschlandfunk / Andreas Boueke)

"We sell chains and, including the clay vessels in which the saints live, everything that belongs to an Orisha. We also sell clothes. White clothes, but also in other colors. Because later people wear clothes in the colors of the Saints. "

But for many Santero followers, their religion has become a rather expensive undertaking, especially because of the dress code. Felicia, a Germanist from Havana, tells how her Catholic mother became increasingly religious in the 1990s. On the other hand, as a communist, her father rejected all religious cults.

"It cost a lot of money, it costs a lot of money, it's expensive. She stopped doing it later. But I think she's still religious, she believes in something."

Her father has also changed. He's even wearing a crucifix now, says Felicia.

"I think it used to be seen as a weakness. So the men who belonged to the Cuban party shouldn't believe in anything other than the revolution and communism.

Santeria has also become the subject of science

When the first Caribic festivals were celebrated in Santiago de Cuba in the late 1970s, hardly anyone researched the syncretic cults of the Santeria, says Carlos Lloga Dominguez from Casa Caribe, a cultural center in a residential area of ​​Santiago. He is one of the few religious scholars who deals specifically with the various currents of the Santeria, such as voodoo.

1958 Classic Chevy in need of renovation on a cobblestone street in the colonial district of Trinidad in Cuba. (imago / point of view)

"Religion is very deeply rooted in Cuba. In order to understand Cuban culture, one also has to understand religion. Quite apart from the fact that at certain times it was said that religions were no longer important, they were not important. On the contrary, religiosity was always present. "

Until then, that the Santeros in the Siera Maestra called their orishas. They should ensure that the uprising against the Batista dictatorship is victorious. Even Fidel Castro is said to have been a secret Santero.

During his first big speech after the victory of the revolution on January 8, 1959 in Havana, a white dove sat on his shoulder. It symbolizes the world creator Obatalá. For Santeros, the commandante has since been considered the chosen one.

"Religion is opium for the people was a misunderstanding"

Carlos Lloga Dominguez confirms the development has also taken place in the communist party since the 1980s. All religions could be lived out freely. In the past there were conflicts mainly with the Catholic hierarchy. But that too had been over since the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1988 to the Virgen in El Cobre.

Cuba's former head of state Fidel Castro - here in a photo from September 1st, 1998 (dpa / Roque)

"But the popular beliefs never got into this conflict, they tacitly carried on, the times with Marx, when it was said that religion was opium for the people, that was a misunderstanding. Since the 1980s, people have had a different attitude namely that religion and politics can coexist very well, that religion is also about creating something better. "

Especially in times of crisis when many people want to leave the country. And so Carlos Samper Almaguer, deputy head of the Communist Party's Office for Religious Affairs, defends the Santeria as something Ur-Cuban. His conclusions are somewhat different, however.

"The Santeria has become very popular. Religiousness has grown here in Cuba since 1991. This can be attributed to the fact that the political and social conditions have improved. I have to say about myself that I have no religious belief, I am not an atheist, but also no religious community. But I appreciate the values ​​of every religious community here in Cuba because I believe that they all contribute to the ethical improvement of society. There are many religious communities. None is preferred by the state. All are the same and I like them all equally. "