5 Things You Don’t Know About Santeria
Cuba - January 21, 2020

Old Cuban lady sitting in the street with a cat in a stroller

This is a Sponsored Post for Fathom Cruise.  However, all opinions are my own.

I had the opportunity to travel to Cuba through Fathom.org a few months ago, and it was amazing!  I’ve always loved the Cuban lifestyle, specifically the food, haha!  I lived in Miami Beach for ten years and got to know the culture and made many Cuban friends.  I quickly learned their language in Spanglish so I could sell cosmetics to the shoppers at Downtown Macy’s.  I drank coladas daily and enjoyed the amazing cuisine at David’s on Miami Beach, which closed after many years.   Because I got to know Cuban people so well living in Miami, I quickly learned that most Cubans were very religious. 

I never really asked my friends but noticed that many were praying to what I thought were saints.  Sometimes they wore white on certain days adorned with beads around their necks. I never wanted to pry and I’m glad I didn’t.

But I always wondered what Santeria’s beliefs were and if it was voodoo, along with animal sacrifices, like many people said.

cat laying on a piece of wood in Cuba

From what I hear, Santeria in Cuba is a very private religion and one can only find out their true practices when they are initiated into the religion.  They do not have a holy book or a house of worship. It truly was fascinating learning about the purpose of Santeria.

cuban women with traditional cuban attire

So, when I went on my Fathom cruise to Cuba, they offered a class on the history of Santeria and how it plays such a big part in Cuban culture.

There are five things I didn’t know before I took this interesting class on the Adonia Cruise Ship.

Santeria is Considered a Religion.

Yes, it’s considered a religion.  It was even offered as a class at FIU when I attended there.  It is considered a syncretic religion which is defined by two or more cultures that blend together to make a new idea.

African slaves (Yoruba people of West Africa) where brought over to the Caribbean and the Revolution did not allow anyone to practice religion.  So, to keep practicing their religion, they found a way to equate their Orisha’s (head guardians) with the Roman Catholicism saints.

Initiation is a Big Part of Santeria.

Initiation is not done for power or money.  It’s done for moving forward in life.   There are different levels of initiation and that’s where the necklaces come into place.  Sometimes they go through full Initiation as a Santero or Santera (Priest or Priestess).  They are very high up in the religion and are considered representatives of the Orishas.

There are other initiations like becoming a Babalawo or Father of the Secrets.

The process of initiation is a huge part of the religion. One becomes a part of an extended family, having Godparents.

Santeria has many Deities.

God is referred to as Oloran., the “owner of heaven.”  He is the creator of the Orishas.  There are many Orishas, around 1700, male and female who are the servants of Oloran.  There are Orishas of virtually everything.

One of them is goddess of the sea, Yemaya, also called the mother goddess, ruler of the home, fertility, love and family.

Oshun is the goddess of love, beauty, prosperity. She forms balance with Yamaya because she is also the source of fresh waters.

Each Orisha has a sacred number and color and is blended with a Catholic Saint.  For instance, Saint Anthony is the equivalent to Santeria’s Orisha Ellegua.  The colors are red and black and the numbers are 3 and 21.  Ellegua is also known as a mischievous child.

Santeria Practices the Sacrifice of Animals

Ebo is the term for “offering.”   Orishas are treated like humans and need food.  Sometimes is fruit or cooked food and sometimes it’s blood.  Animal sacrifice is also called Eyebale and usually takes place in rented space or private homes.

an orange brick well

According to Santeriachurch.org “Animal sacrifice is something that should be done with great respect to the animal, making sure they are given plenty of food and water as well as room to move about while in holding prior to the ritual. The sacrifice method commonly used in Santeria involves the severing of the carotid arteries with a knife to cause the animal to pass out before it dies. This is one of the most humane ways of killing an animal and is nearly identical to the way animals are handled with Kosher and Halal religious slaughter techniques.”

Usually, after the initiations, the meat is cooked and shared with the community.  So, the orishas eat the blood, and the people eat the meat. It is an act of communion with the spirits.

I was told that without sacrifice the religion would die out.

There’s a Street in Cuba Dedicated to Santeria called Callejon de Hamel

The Fathom cruise offers excursions and one of them is to visit Callejon de Hamel.

It is a street dedicated to Afro-Cuban culture where you will see all types of street art and colorful murals.

It is a street artist’s wonderland and I felt like I stepped into a psychedelic mural where the art comes to life.

It is also home to the artist and Cuban painter Salvador Gonzalez Escalona. His work can be described as a mix of surrealism, cubism and abstract art, and immerses every home, each corner of the winding street in poetry, muralism, sculpture, motion and spirituality, scaling four-plus stories of the surrounding apartment buildings. There is an art shop where you can purchase his paintings at Callejón de Hamel.

We met with him inside his gallery and saw some of this work.

He has many students there also that work with him and they also sell their art.

This is someone you will see a lot…

His name is Elias. He is the head assistant, who gave us a tour of the street.  Yes, he pretty much smoked that cigar the whole time, lol.

Saturdays are a popular day to visit because they have Rumba parties.  And yes, there is a bar there.

If you take a trip to Cuba, I highly recommend that you check out this area and spend time learning about this amazing culture and religion. Again, don’t forget the Sunday rumba party at Callejón de Hamel!


  1. This was a fascinating read. Africans used the Catholic saints to represent their gods so that they could still practice their religion. Christians did the same thing, I think.

  2. This is really good information, it helps you understand their culture more as well. I’ve never heard of Santeria before.

  3. omyy! this is very intersting! their culture and everything! thanks for posting about them! Santeria is very interessting

  4. These are some great photos. Wow! This is a place I would love to visit. It looks like the culture is very rich there. Thanks for sharing!

  5. I took the Fathom cruise as well. I was interested in the Santaria class myself. Unfortunately, I missed it. My husband did attend the pre-18th Century history of Cuba class, though. He really enjoyed it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



* indicates required











Please click! A visit a day boosts my blog ranking at Top Mommy Blogs - The Best Mommy Blog Directory Ever!
The Network Niche