Depictions of the Horrific “Unseen”

Rafael Ocasio

in Afro-Cuban Costumbrismo

Published by University Press of Florida

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780813041643
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780813043913 | DOI:
Depictions of the Horrific “Unseen”

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This chapter explores the complex development of Black religious beliefs in both rural settings and in urban all-Black institutions. Costumbrista documentation of these beliefs shows clearly that slaves and freed Blacks selected elements of their religious practices to make public, as they paraded in costumes designed specifically for Catholic holidays. The first section, “Iconic Representations in Rural Religious Practices: Biografía de un cimarrón,” examines rare, first-hand, testimonial accounts by runaway slave Esteban Montejo, who spoke about various African religious practices performed secretly on a nineteenth-century Cuban sugarcane plantation.Section two, “For Everyone's Pleasure to View: Urban Black Religious Parades,” traces the Costumbristas’ incorporation of icons of Black religious systems into their narratives. Unable to gain physical access to Black ceremonies, Costumbristas sought knowledge of Creole religions in public parades in the cities. Although their articles exhibited overwhelmingly negative and biased views, their portraits of these culturally inspired parades could not ignore the allure of Black exoticism. These public spectacles long struggled to gain acceptance as viable manifestations of an emerging Cuban national Black culture.

Keywords: Father González de la Cruz; Montejo, Esteban; Biografía de un cimarrón; slave religious practices; sugarcane plantations; Black religious practices; Cuban urban centers; Father Nicolás Duque de Estrada; Santería; Orichas; cabildos; Cofradías

Chapter.  19223 words. 

Subjects: Society and Culture

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