The Origin of The Practice of Santeria


The religion Santeria, began its spread from Cuba. Santeria is also called Lukumi which means friendship. It was brought to Cuba by the Yoruba people of West Africa, through the process of slavery. Yoruba people can be found in an area known today as Nigeria. Santeria exists not just as one faith, but as a syncretism of multiple belief systems. The religious beliefs were formed from the Yoruba religion, the Catholic faith and elements of the Caribbean culture.

The Syncretism:

These slaves brought to work for their masters on their sugar plantation did not consider it appropriate to abandon their religious beliefs in exchange for those of their Masters. To convince their Masters otherwise, they would act like they are praying to the Catholic Saints, when in fact they were calling on their gods, the Orishas. They would also worship their gods during the different Saint Days. This is where the syncretism began and the religion Santeria was formed. The name Santeria began because the salves were being mocked for their devotion to the saints and their disregard for the worship of God.

For many years, the religion was practiced in secrecy among African descendants and was not opened to other races. However, with time as Africans began to copulate with other races and produce children of mixed races, the doors of Santeria had to be open to them. Santeria is passed down as a legacy from parent to child. It is practiced as a communal way of life and tribal heritage.


The spread of Santeria has continued since then to different continents. In 1959 when the uprising occurred in Cuba, many Cubans left to other continents and states and they took along with them their religious beliefs in Santeria. 

It is currently being practiced in Brazil, Venezuela, Panama, Dominican Republic, Argentina, Uruguay, Puerto Rico and the United States. It has been said that there are over a million followers of the religion in the United States alone. The estimate worldwide is four million. However, due to societal stigma, religion continues to be practiced in secrecy so a true count may not be possible.

The religion still spreads to date and is usually sent as a representation of the African culture and heritage. There has also been several court rulings in favor of the Santeria followers, permitting them to engage in animal sacrifice as a part of their religious obligations.

Palo Mayombe as a religion began as a branch of Palo. Palo itself started from the African slaves in Cuba. But these slaves were from Central Congo unlike those of Santeria who were from the Yoruba part of Nigeria.

Though Palo accommodates a level of syncretism with other faiths, Palo Mayombe is like the pure branch among other branches. It practices pure dark magic as it originated. Certain Paleros still attempt to learn other teachings from different faiths but that should not be mixed with the faith and practice of Palo Mayombe.