Santería, a syncretic religion, developed under slavery in Cuba in the early 16th
century and emerged as a way to preserve AfroCuban identity. Today, Santería is a
global phenomena, with santeros of all ages and races hailing from around the world.
This thesis argues that as Cuban hegemony changed, Santería practice had to adapt its
presentation and its preservation of AfroCuban identity. I identify five historic moments
to show the different ways in which Santería evolved under five different hegemonies.
The historic moments I discuss are: (1) Europe and West Africa at the inception of
Spanish colonization and the transatlantic slave trade in the 16th century; (2) Colonial
Cuba and Europe during the slave era from the 16th century through the end of the 19th
century; (3) Cuban independence from Spain from the mid to the end of the 19th
century; (4) Revolutionary Cuba in the 1950s and 1960s; and (5) Cuba today.
Philosophies of Enlightenment and aché, institutions of marginality and authority, and
even souvenirs have shaped the development of Santería. I also describe syncretism as
an ongoing discourse that permits the temporality and the adaptability Santería
requires. Most importantly, I propose that unraveling the history of AfroCuban religious
identity models how the United States and Cuba must unravel their political identities to
bring greater amity between our peoples. !