9 junio, 2024

Cuban saints: what they are, list of the most famous

What are the Cuban saints?

The cuban saints They are part of a neo-African religious tradition that developed in the Caribbean, specifically on the island of Cuba. Despite being practiced by people all over the world, Santeria is considered an Afro-Cuban religion.

This practice is based on the religion of the Yoruba people (from West Africa). It was developed by the large number of Yoruba Africans brought to Cuba as slaves, especially during the 19th century. Africans worked on tobacco and sugar plantations.

The Yoruba religion is polytheistic, hundreds of deities coexist, also called orisha, who dominate certain aspects of nature. Therefore, it is considered an animistic religion.

In Cuba there was a syncretism between this religion and the Catholic, and also with spiritualism. Due to syncretism, many of the orishas were called as saints or virgins of the Catholic religion, a bit also to hide the worship of their gods. Any religion other than Catholicism was strictly prohibited.

The most famous Cuban saints

1. Oshun

Oshun is the youngest of the orishas. She is the deity of beauty, love, prosperity, order and fertility, and she represents feminine grace. She is the protector of the poor and the mother of the sick, as well as the queen of rivers and other sweet waters. She is represented by the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre, patron saint of Cuba.

2. Shango

Shango is the owner of lightning, thunder and fire. He is often associated with dance, especially drum dancing. He is related to Santa Barbara because she is the protector against lightning.

3. Yemaya

Yemaya is the mother and protector of all living beings, the queen of heaven, earth and water. She lives in the ocean. This orisha is related to Our Lady of the Rule, because she is the patron saint of the sea.

4. Obatala

He is the oldest of the orishas and creator of humans, which were sculpted in clay, just like in the Jewish religion. He is known as the king of logic and peace.

Promotes the use of diplomacy and reason to resolve disputes and often acts as a mediator between the other deities. Similarly, he is the protector of people with cognitive compromises and addicts.

Obatalá is syncretized with Jesus, San Sebastián and Our Lady of Mercy. He is usually associated with Jesus because both represent wisdom and purity, and because they are the firstborn of great gods.

5. Orula

It is the orisha of divination. Like Eleguá, he knows the patterns of destiny and therefore can be consulted to discover what the future holds.

It is the patron of the ifá religion, composed of babalaos, priests who are credited with the ability of clairvoyance. Orula is associated with San Francisco de Asís for unknown reasons.

6. Oshosi

He is the orisha of the forests and of hunting, his arrows always hit the target. It represents blind justice that applies to everyone equally. He is associated with Saint Norbert for unknown reasons.

7. Aggayu Sola

In Santeria, Aggayú is the father of Shangó. This deity controls volcanoes and is the patron of deserts. He is related to San Cristóbal.

8. Oggun

He is a warrior. He is depicted as a blacksmith who creates tools and weapons. In addition, he is the father of technology and is usually associated with San Pedro because he holds metal keys, and Oggún is a blacksmith.

9. Choose

Elegguá, also known as Esu, Eleda or Elegbara, is the messenger of destiny, that is, of Orula, since he speaks all human languages. He is associated with the entrances, the paths and, above all, the crossroads, of which he is the patron.

This orisha also represents birth and death (alpha and omega), which is why it is syncretized with the Santo Niño de Atoche (which symbolizes childhood) and with San Antonio de Padua (which symbolizes old age).

10. Babalu Aye

Babalú Ayé means «the king who hurts the world». This is the orisha of illness; His messengers are disease-carrying mosquitoes and flies.

Babalú Ayé is represented as a man covered in pestilential ulcers. This deity is also capable of healing the sick and is usually related to Saint Lazarus because the latter suffered from skin diseases, such as leprosy.

According to some authors, the correspondence between the Catholic saints and the orishas is not perfect or exact because it was made taking into account a small number of elements from Western culture, such as the iconography of the Catholic Church and the colors they used.


Duncan, C. Why is it called Santeria? Recovered from aboutsanteria.com.
Rahman, H. (2013). Latino Minority Religion. Retrieved from academiccommons.

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