Ceremonial Axe for Ṣàngó

African, European, and Indigenous spiritual traditions have shaped Latino communities worldwide. Colonial laws in much of Latin America required the practice of Roman Catholic Christianity. Protestant Christianity, Judaism, along with African and Indigenous religions were forbidden under colonial law. Despite this, local spiritual guides and healers maintained and passed down religious traditions like Santería. Santería is a religious belief system historically practiced by Yoruba-speaking peoples in present-day Nigeria and Benin; it was transplanted to Cuba in the 19th century through the massive importation of slaves from this region of West Africa. In Santería, the warrior Ṣàngó is an òrìṣà, or Yoruba spiritual being. This ceremonial axe represents his power over lightning. Ṣàngó’s spirit of resistance inspired enslaved communities. 

Click to expand image Ceremonial Axe for Ṣàngó
Ceremonial Axe for Ṣàngó. Oché Changó. Baba Ade Cola, California, 2010. Loan from Collection of Joseph M. Murphy

Connecting to the Present

Religion continues to be an important part of daily life for many Latinos and Latinas in the United States, even as contemporary trends are emerging. Fewer Latinos and Latinas are identifying as Catholic and evangelical Christianity is on the rise. Still, other Latinos consider themselves to have no religious affiliation. There are also many non-Christian faiths practiced in Latino communities. About two percent of U.S. Latinos practice Judaism, Buddhism, Santería, and other non-Christian belief systems.

Click to expand image Color photo of four family members dressed in white after a Santeria ceremony.
2007 Santeria Ceremony in New York City. Courtesy of Oscar Hidalgo / Aurora Photos 

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