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Santeria: The Beliefs and Rituals of a Growing Religion in America by Miguel A. De La Torre

Santeria: The Beliefs and Rituals of a Growing Religion in America by Miguel A. De La Torre

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This book by Miguel De La Torre offers a fascinating guide to the history, beliefs, rituals, and culture of Santeria -- a religious tradition that, despite persecution, suppression, and its own secretive nature, has close to a million adherents in the United States alone.

Santeria is a religion with Afro-Cuban roots, rising out of the cultural clash between the Yoruba people of West Africa and the Spanish Catholics who brought them to the Americas as slaves. As a faith of the marginalized and persecuted, it gave oppressed men and women strength and the will to survive. With the exile of thousands of Cubans in the wake of Castro's revolution in 1959, Santeria came to the United States, where it is gradually coming to be recognized as a legitimate faith tradition.

Apart from vague suspicions that Santeria's rituals include animal sacrifice and notions that it is a syncretistic form of Catholicism, most people in America's cultural and religious mainstream know very little about this rich faith tradition -- in fact, many have never heard of it at all. De La Torre, who was reared in Santeria, sets out in this book to provide a basic understanding of its inner workings. He clearly explains the particular worldview, myths, rituals, and practices of Santeria, and he discusses what role the religion typically plays in the life of its practitioners as well as the cultural influence it continues to exert in Latin American communities today.

In offering a balanced, informed survey of Santeria from his unique insider-outsider perspective, De La Torre also provides insight into how Christianity and Santeria can enter into dialogue -- a dialogue that will challenge Christians to consider what this emerging faith tradition can teach them about their own. Enhanced with illustrations, tables, and a glossary, De La Torre's "Santeria" sheds light on a religion all too often shrouded in mystery and misunderstanding.

South Florida Sun-Sentinel
"The author, who grew up in the Santeria faith, provides insight into the myths, rituals, worldview, history and cultural influence of the Afro-Cuban religion. Neither condemning nor condoning, he seeks to provide the information and context necessary to prompt discussion and understanding between Santeria believers and Christians."

Library Journal
"De La Torre succeeds fully in giving us the best general introduction to Santería, an Afro-Cuban folk religion brought to the United States by Cuban refugees after Castro's 1959 revolution. . . He draws on both lived experience (having grown up in the religion) and scholarly expertise . . . to strike just the right balance between the personal perspectives of the faithful and the distance of a non-believing scholar. . . Strongly recommended."