There is so much I want to say… so much I want to share. I have been preparing for this trip to Cuba since 2012, but ten years before that, in 2001, this was when I began my journey into the Yoruba tradition.
I didn’t understand what it was that drew me, and much like the mantra “we fear what we don’t understand…” I feared this connection and pull that was hard for me to explain. I feared what certain sounds of the drum did to me. I feared learning about a religion and tradition that I was not exposed to in my Catholic home. In fact, anything connected to Africa other than my dad playing the tambora was the closest I got to learning about the African influence in my Dominican upbringing—music being my initial connection. I was drawn. It was a secret obsession. I shared it with no one. I believed that no one would understand. I was being pulled in the direction of discovering myself and coming to understand the depth of my identity socially, spiritually, and culturally.
When I was told that I had no right to claim my blackness, this was when I found myself holding onto it more. I began writing about my African roots as a Dominican woman, published my first article and then was blessed with working on the Afrolatinos documentary! Here I came face to face with not only confirmations of what I have always known but was not taught at home… that I AM BLACK… that I am part of the African Diaspora… and that I AM AN AFROLATINA! While I traveled I began to embrace all that I am! We visited over 15 countries in Latin America, interviewing and meeting with large groups of people who were celebrating and owning their African roots… we were black folks who speak Spanish.
I immersed myself in everything that connected Latino culture to Africa… but my connection to the Afrocuban religion “Santeria” or “Regla de Ocha” comes from a personal connection I have with Nigeria. Of the many groups of enslaved peoples who were taken to Hispaniola, I have always believed that my ancestors were from Nigeria. “But you were raised Catholic!” Many people are uncomfortable with my decision. I don’t expect for people to get it. My religious journey is something that I have barely written about publicly, yet I am open to sharing my process “Iyaworaje” with those closest to me, and those interested in learning what a year in white entails.
To donate to my campaign visit: https://www.gofundme.com/ewsfe9zw (please share widely).
With so much love,