Haitian Voodoo and Cuban Sant

HaitianVoodoo and Cuban Sant

HaitianVoodoo and Cuban Sant

TheCaribbean borough is one of the main areas where many African slavessettled after the emancipation from the yolk of slavery. The regionhas experienced momentous African cultural influence, and issometimes referred to as the superficial edge of the African culturalcomposite (Andres &amp Perez, 2013). African based norms andreligious practices have had immense effects and transcendence inHaiti and Cuba where there is still exists large group of Africancommunity. As a product of slave trade and slavery a horde of westAfrican cultural and religious practices were deeply transplanted toHaiti, Cuba and many of the Latin states between the 17thand 18thcentury (Herskovits,2001). Theywere blended together with the Roman Catholicism of the slave mastersand land lords. The consequence was a set of syncretistic religions,most conspicuously Vodoo among the Haiti and Santeria among theCuban. African religious practices have permeated Haitian and Cubanliterature, culture, art, linguistic, in addition to theethnological, religious and historical facets (Andres &amp Perez,2013). In this respect, it is hard to understand the Haitian voodooand the Cuban Sant without taking into account their African core.This paper will seek to discuss and compare the Haitian voodoo andthe Cuban sant.

Originof Vodoo and Santeria

Africanswho were shipped into the American continent during the transatlanticslave trade, especially during the 16thcentury and up to the early years of the 19thcentury came from different ethnic groups (Andres &amp Perez, 2013). For example, the fact that most slaves were derived from West andCentral Africa meant that communities that settled arouinf the Westand Central part of the continent formed the larger proportion of theslaves taken into the new world and other colonial lands such asJamica, Cuba and Haiti.In this vein communities such as the Yoruba ofNigeria commonly known as Lucumi in Cuba, the Ibo, the Efik, peoplefrom Hahomey kingdom, Madongo, and Loango from Congo and many othersfrom central and west Africa constituted the majority of the thosesold into slavery and subsequently settled in the Caribbean regionafter slave trade was abolished (Herskovits,2001). Aslate as 188-, contraband slaves continued to stream into theCaribbean region even after this treacherous act had been officiallystamped out decades earlier. This is the notable reason behind thepresence of African-born slaves in the first three decades of the20thcentury, and who recalled their customs and traditions of theirhomeland and were able to pass it on to their descendants (Andres &ampPerez, 2013).

Theterm Sant or Santería in Cuba means ‘’the way of the saints’’and is mostly employed as a collective term for the different formsof Afro-Cuban customs, traditions and religious practices concretizedfrom the influence of all the ethnic communities that reached theCaribbean region and more specifically that settled in Cuba after theabolition of the slavery and slave trade (Brandon,2003). Inthe Caribbean and many parts of the Latin America, the language,culture and religion of the Africans were methodically incorporatedby the catholics who allowed a greater room for syncretism than didtheir Protestants counterparts in other parts of the world.Consequently, African religion tended to stay alive, although indifferent modified forms (Andres &amp Perez, 2013).For example, inCuba as Santeria, in Haiti as voodoo, in United States of America asHoodoo, in Trinidad and Tobago as Shango, and in Brazil as Candoble.

Santis a numinous religion complete with striking music composed of theAfrican drum and surreptitious powers. It is rich in imagery thatencompasses a great pact of beauty, knowledge and power (Brandon,2003).It primarily originated for the Yoruba people of Nigeria, West Africaand it was the worship of their deities (gods). In the 21stcentury, it remains one of the magically powerful religions and hasstrong links to the catholic doctrines (Herskovits,2001).

WhenAfricans were shipped into the new world they came with their music,traditions, gods and music. As said above most of the slaves camefrom West Africa and were concentrated in the Caribbean and LatinAmerica region (Brandon,2003). Santeria has a close link with the Yoruba who were the largestcommunity in West Africa during the transatlantic trade. Africansfrom the Yoruba community are referred to as Lukumi in Cuba. Santeriais also practiced in United States in areas where there are largegroup of people from Cuba (Andres&amp Perez, 2013).

Majoritypeople fail to recognize the notable difference between the Haitianvoodoo and the Cuaban Santeria. There appears to be a commonmisconstruction by many Christian religious politics that voodoosignifies black magic, witchcraft and sorcery. The Haitian voodoo isderived from the Creole French ‘Vaudoux’ a name for a Negrosorcerer (Andres&amp Perez, 2013).In Haiti it is a name used mainly by French to refer to particularmagical practices, secret rites and superstitions which were salientfeatures among the Negroes of the West Indies and more specificallyin Haiti.

Voodoooriginated in Haiti in the early years of the 18 century, whenAfricans were corced to convert to Christianity and their religiouspractices were smothered. Just like Santeria in Cuba has its roots inWest Africa, which was a religious practice performed mainly by theEwe and Fon communities (Andres&amp Perez, 2013). The Haitian voodoo encompassed catholic practices, beliefs ofAfrican people from West Africa, European mysticism and symbolism ofthe freemasonry.

Differencesbetween Cuban Sant and Haitian Voodoo

BothVoodoo and Santeria are religions though there are underlyingdifferences that make them district practices. Haitian voodoo is anAfrican Diasporic Religion that originated from the cultural norms,traditions and religious practices of numerous tribes andcommunities, mainly from West Africa, whom were forced to bury theirdifferences and rivalry and rely on one another and survive under thedepressing and inhumane conditions of slavery. In both Santeria andVoodoo people united their practices in a bid to survive and in theprocess created a ritual order to credit and accord each tribe’sand community’s spirits their flash of worship. In both CubanSanteria and Haitian voodoo practices were significantly influencedby European Catholicism (Andres&amp Perez, 2013).

Cubanculture arises from two primary sources the African and Hispanicdevelopment, and the fusion is the result of a strong process oftransculturacionwhere the consolidation of cultural aspects constructs the nationalculture. Interior attachment and changes in political, social andeconomic environment in Cuba through the years of colonialism underthe Spanish imperialists (1512-1898), followed by the neocolonial era(1898-1958) up to the immediate past at the center of the revolutionof the Cuban Socialist resulted to an incessant shock andincorporation of cultures and the creation of national culture(Andres &amp Perez, 2013).

Haitianculture as aforementioned has strong links to the Africa norms andpractices, but more significantly the French practices influencealmost all aspects of people’s way of living (Andres&amp Perez, 2013).From language to religion and even music, Haitian Voodoo has borrowedheavily from French culture. Haitian Voodoo includes diverse normsand practices from Native Americans, African culture and Europeanreligious practices.

Santeriaincorporated the religious practices of the Yoruba people of Nigeria.The focus on this tribe and other African norms and belief systems isupon a pantheon of deities (gods). These deities are oftenconcretized with the catholic priest. These two religions havespecial reference to African heritage and European syncreticism(Andres &amp Perez, 2013). In Santeria deities from West Africacommunities such as the Benin and Dahomey are commonly identifiedwith catholic saints. In the same vein voodoo priest have for manyyears incorporated elements from Catholicism in their religiouspractices including but not limited to crosses, sue of candles,making sign of the cross and baptism. These Christian essentials areintertwined with African religious practices such as ancestorworship, spirit possession, dancing and drumming (Andres &amp Perez,2013).

Thebasic involvement of Catholic elements in Santeria is rooted in theEspiritismo,a district religious practice that has been profoundly intertwinedinto the Santeria from mid 20th century (Andres &ampPerez, 2013). Both Santeria and Voodoo are exceedingly initiatory,enigmatic and works under austere religious tenets. Participation inboth Haitian voodoo and Cuban Sant is only limited to only thoseindividuals who are initiates. The same scenario is very similar inthe Cuban Sant, nonetheless, an individual initiated in the HaitianVoodoo would not have acquiescence and rights to participate oroperate in a Sant service. Each religion uses a distinct language,applies different rituals, songs and prayers. In Cuban Sant followersemploy ornate drawn symbols to call their gods while the Voodoo usebulls eye style painting in certain rituals. The only shared practiceis the use of animal sacrifice and the application of magical spellwhich is a central part of their religious practice.


Today,African religious practices and cultural norms still permeate boththe Haitian and Cuban culture. For example the trendy music rhumbaand numerous folk expression and dietary habits have all their rootsin West Africa. Sant and Voodoo are still influential cultural force,and both serve the same function they used to serve and continue toserve in many African communities. WhenAfricans were shipped into the new world they came with their music,traditions, gods and music. As aforementioned most of the slaves camefrom West Africa and were concentrated in the Caribbean and LatinAmerica region. That is why Africanreligion tended to stay alive, although in different modified forms,such as Sant in Cuba and Voodoo in Haiti. Both are indicative of aparticular preservation of the African religious beliefs, spiritualthought and cultural practices that still permeates the Americancontinent and psychology.


Andres,I. and Perez, y. (2013). CubanSantería, Haitian Vodun, Puerto Rican Spiritualism: AMulticulturalist Inquiry intoSyncretism.Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Vol. 37, No. 1 pp.15-27. Wiley and Society for the Scientific Study of Religion.Accessed on 23 October 2014 from http://www.jstor.org/stable/1388026.

Brandon,G. (2003). Santeriafrom Africa to the New World. .Accessed on 23 October 2014 fromhttp://science.jrank.org/pages/11388/Syncretism-Santeria-Voodoo.html#ixzz3HPdvZiHM

Herskovits,M. J. (2001). Africangods and Catholic saints in the new world Negro belief, AmericanAnthropologist.Accessed on 23 October 2014 from http://www./history/african-american-religious-experience-in-america-history-essay.php#ixzz3HPV4XNa8