The Yoruban people of modern-day Nigeria worship many deities called orichas by means of singing, drumming, and dancing. Their aurally preserved artistic traditions are intrinsically connected to both religious ceremony and everyday life. These forms of worship traveled to the Americas during the colonial era through the brutal transatlantic slave trade and continued to evolve beneath racist societal hierarchies implemented by western European nations. Despite severe oppression, Yoruban slaves in Cuba were able to disguise orichas behind Catholic saints so that they could still actively worship in public. This initial guise led to a synthesis of religious practice, language, and artistry that is known today as Santería.
Though continually repressed by multiple regimes, increased accessibility of information, ease of travel, and an explosion of tourism have catapulted Santería into the global religious conversation. With practitioners around the world, Santería has become an international religion that deserves to be studied and respected. With it comes a rich artistic tradition that both preserves the history of an oppressed people and their indigenous ties to West Africa, and uses a unique combination of influences to embody a living communal tradition that is powerful enough to summon the divine.
I used my Senior Experience Grant to conduct a 30-day research trip to Cuba in July 2017. I gave a lecture-recital about the history of Santería as a world religion on the morning of May 13th in Harper Hall, sharing insights gleaned from my experience in Cuba and presenting a selection of music that I learned from primary sources.
Level of Honors
magna cum laude
Conservatory of Music
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Montgomery, Nathan, "Santería in a Globalized World: A Study in Afro-Cuban Folkloric Music" (2018). Lawrence University Honors Projects. 123.
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