A syncretistic Caribbean religion
Number & locations of followers
|Aborisha is a term that refers to both the worship of the Orisha,
and to the individual worshiper.|
|Candomble Jege-Nago is a Brazilian religion with some
similarities to Santeria. It is
divided into in various
traditions, reflecting the different nations of origin: (Angola, Efan, Fon,
|La Regla Lucumi is still another term used to refer to the
|Lukumi is also a synonym of Santeria; it is related to a Yoruba word meaning "friend".
It is used
to refer to both the religion and the practitioners of Afro-Cuban worship
of the Orishas.|
|Macumba is sometimes used as a synonym for Santeria. In fact, Macumba
refers to a group of Brazilian religions: Candomble, Umbana and others. They
had their roots in West African Aboriginal religions, but evolved separately
|Orisha: a "...spiritual being or presence that is interpreted as
one of the manifestations of God." 1|
|Quimbanda is a synonym for Macumba.|
|Regla de Ocha (The Rule of the Orisha) is the proper
name for Santeria. Ocha is an abbreviation.|
|Santeria (The Way of the Saints) is the religion's popular
name. Quoting an essay on "The Lukumi Tradition" by Afolabi:|
"The name by which the religion is now most commonly known,
'Santeria,' is a pejorative term first applied by the Spanish to the religious
practices of the peasantry. It was used as a derogatory reference to the unusual amount of
devotion and attention paid to the Catholic Saints, often in preference to Jesus Christ.
This term was again used in Cuba to identify the 'pagan' religion. The Yoruba
devotion to the Orishas, who were often referred to as 'santos'
('saints') by both slave and slave-owners, was mistakenly seen as the
'fanatical' worship of demigods and the neglect of 'God.' Therefore, the opprobrious and
demeaning term 'Santeria' was extended to the religious practices of the so-called
'savages.' Only in recent years, after having the label applied by outsiders for an
extended period of time, has the term begun to be used by members of the religion."
Location and numbers of followers of Santeria:
Santeria is currently concentrated within:
|Cuba and other Caribbean islands. |
Hispanic population in Florida, Puerto Rico, New Jersey, New York City and Los Angeles.
|Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and Venezuela. |
|France, and the Netherlands.|
It had been actively suppressed in
Cuba since the communist revolution - particularly during the 1960's. However,
oppression has now largely ended, and the popularity and practice of Santeria
exploded in Cuba during the 1990's.
Estimates of the number of followers of Santeria in North America have
covered a wide range:
|According to Adherents.com, various sources have predicted:
|North America: 500,000 3|
|J.E. Holloway, the author of "Africanisms in America"
|New York City: 300,000 4|
|Egbe Lukumi estimates:|
|U.S.: over 5 million. 5|
|The "American Religious Identification Survey, (ARIS)" by
Graduate Center of the City University of New York computes:|
|U.S.: 22,000 6|
We suspect that the ARIS survey is reasonably accurate. It involved telephone
interviews of over 50,000 individuals. Apparently only five of them responded that
their religion is Santeria. An unknown number of Santerians probably refused to
answer the question. If we assume that three refused to answer, then one might
estimate that there are a total of 35,000 Santerians in the U.S.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- From "Santeria Religion 101," at:
- An unmoderated forum, alt.religion.orisha discusses of African-based and derived
belief systems throughout the African Diaspora. This includes: Candomble,
Palo, Santeria, Yoruba Orisha and Voudun (Voodoo). Some of the topics include: recent
books, scholarly articles and tapes, ethnography, information on acquisition and use of
herbs in ritual practice, ritual music, instruments and dance, divination systems, the
changing role of traditional practice in modern times, the law and repression of ritual
- "Santeria," Adherents.com, at:
- J.E. Holloway, "Africanisms in America: Blacks in the Diaspora,"
Indiana University, (Reprinted 1991), Page 122.
reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store. Cited
in "Exploring the Culture of Little Havana," at:
- "Religious Movements" at:
http://religiousmovements.lib.virginia quote a
Santeria reference Egbe Lukumi,
http://www.egbelukumi.org/ as saying that "It is estimated that the
number of practitioners of Lukumi Orisha Worship in the United States
surpasses five million."
- "American Religious
Identification Survey," by The Graduate Center of
the City University of New York, at:
http://www.gc.cuny.edu/faculty/research_studies/aris.pdf This is a PDF
file. You may require software to read it. Software can be obtained free
Copyright © 1995 to 2007 by Ontario Consultants on
Latest update: 2007-MAR-24
Author: B.A. Robinson