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Sacred Spaces and Religious Traditions in Oriente Cuba

Jualynne E. Dodson

Publication Year: 2008

The investigation of Dodson and the African Atlantic Research team offers an interconnected examination of the history and embedded understandings of four religions while simultaneously offering a panoramic view of religious development in Cuba and practitioners' struggle for a self-defined, Africa-based nature for their religious activities on the island.

Published by: University of New Mexico Press

Series: Religions of the Americas Series

Front Cover

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Title Page

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pp. iii


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pp. iv


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pp. vii


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pp. viii

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Editors’ Foreword

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pp. ix-x

In 1947 Don Fernando Ortiz in his book Cuban Counterpoint: Tobacco and Sugar coined the terms “transcultural” and “transculturation” as expressions of descriptive and methodological orientations to the reality of Cuban culture and religion. The...

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pp. xi-xii

The African Atlantic Research Team (AART) is a mentoring collective that attempts to socialize as well as educate graduate and undergraduate students to the rigors and demands of academic production. AART was founded on the principle of collective and integrated engagement and we have worked to refine practical...

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pp. xii

We give thanks to those who have gone before and made it possible for us to be at Eternal debt to Dr. Ruth Simms Hamilton of Michigan State University, whose intellectual life and groundbreaking conceptual work greatly influenced this book.There are at least two hundred or more persons whose help was indispensable to this volume’s completion. Indeed, there never would have been a book ...

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pp. 1-18

Spaces constructed by religious practitioners of Oriente represent their understanding about the sacredness of their world. They also incorporate ideas about what it means to be human as they express portions of the collective history of a particular religion and its followers. Images in this book...


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Part I

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pp. 19

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1: Contours and Concepts

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pp. 21-38

To begin to comprehend and analyze sacred spaces constructed by religious practitioners in Oriente it is essential to appreciate the geographic as well as the sociohistoric and religious contours that set in motion the ideas and realities from which today’s sacred locations are built. We should be interested...

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2: African Cosmic Orientation: Core Commonalties

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pp. 39-60

This chapter is devoted to examining the shared cosmic orientation that permeates indigenous religions as we investigated them in Oriente and as that sensibility originally arrived with sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Africans who landed in Cuba’s eastern region. These individuals brought...

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3: What Sacred Spaces Do

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pp. 61-78

Academic fields of religious studies, anthropology, geography, sociology, and others have persistently investigated religious activities as a product of human group interactions. Sacred spaces that result from religious activities also have received considerable attention as scholars and...

Part II

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pp. 79

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4: Palo Monte/Palo Mayombe

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pp. 81-103

More than any other landscape in Cuba, Oriente is known as “land of the dead.” This is largely due to the historical presence of enslaved descendants from Africa’s west central region of Kongo Kingdom ethnic groups. Spiritual life among this group of peoples is personally interconnected...

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5: Vod

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pp. 104-123

Approximately thirty-five miles of sea separate eastern Cuba from the nation of Haiti. On a clear evening, from shores of the former French colony, one can see the lights of Santiago de Cuba, the second largest city in Cuba (see map 5). It is no wonder, therefore, that Haiti, where at least 66 percent...

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6: Espiritismo

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pp. 124-144

Cuban Espiritismo is a varied set of religious practices that are exceptionally popular in Oriente. Although it is not an Africa-based tradition, it does include marker characteristics from the nation’s African heritage. Espiritismo originates from practices in the United States and from...

Part III

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pp. 145

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7: “Land of the Dead” Beginnings: Muertéra Bembé de Sao

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pp. 147-159

Thus far we have outlined historical parameters of the African presence in Oriente, discussed some conceptual roles of sacred spaces, clarified important commonalities of an Africa-based cosmic orientation, and examined salient issues related to three of four indigenous religions that...

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8: Findings and Conclusions

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pp. 160-175

Much before the opening of the twenty-first century, the historian of religions, Charles H. Long was writing and speaking about human orientation, knowledge, religion, time, space, and related...


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pp. 177-188

Glossary of Select Terms

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pp. 189-191


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pp. 192-204


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pp. 205-210

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780826343550
E-ISBN-10: 0826343554
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826343536
Print-ISBN-10: 0826343538

Page Count: 216
Illustrations: 18 color photographs, 6 maps
Publication Year: 2008

Series Title: Religions of the Americas Series

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Holguín (Cuba : Province) -- Religious life and customs.
  • Sacred space -- Cuba -- Holguín (Province).
  • Afro-Caribbean cults -- Cuba -- Holguín (Province).
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