Religion and revolution

8 06 2011

I recently saw a report from the BBC a couple of years ago on a shrine dedicated to St. Lazarus in Cuba. The report brings up again the rumor that many of the people who fought in the revolution were also believers in santeria. That is not surprising, as even in the films of Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, one of the fathers of Cuban cinema, one often sees portrayals of popular and African religiosity, as in the montage above from his last film, Guantanamera.
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Fundamentalism and modernity

14 06 2010

Editorial note: I’m unavailable until Thursday. Posts will continue to appear, but this blog is on auto-pilot

I highly recommend the article, Rush Hour of the Gods by William Dalrymple (found via the Western Confucian blog). The article makes many counterintuitive points that I think any student of modern religion needs to take into consideration. While his analysis of Islam in south Asia was known to me, his analysis of modern Hinduism was particularly informative. Such an “ancient religion” is really not so ancient all things considered, and modernity has come to shape it just as much as it has contemporary Christianity.

My own exercise here is to compare and contrast what is going on with Hinduism and Islam in India with the long evolution of Catholicism in Latin America. In both cases, nationality, technology, scholarship, and the media are striving to define what Catholicism, Islam, and Hinduism are on a national and international scale, often in contrast with more local manifestations of these faiths.
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La Milagrosa

5 02 2009


After some poking around the Internet, I found the story of this Cuban folk saint here, and most of the details of the story are from that source. Also, there is a good NPR story on this that you can listen to by following this link.

The story is rather touching as folk saint stories go. At the beginning of the 20th century, two Cuban aristocrats, José Vicente Adott and Amelia Goiry de la Hoz fell in love and got married. She became pregnant with her first child, but after eight months of pregnancy she fell deftly ill and died, and the child she was carrying was thus a stillborn. According to Spanish custom at the time, the infant was buried between her legs. The husband, distraught with grief, all but lost his senses, and devoted himself to the care of his wife’s tomb. He came twice a day dressed in black, circled the tomb, and knocked three times on it, saying, “wake up, Amelia”. He would then speak to her, and when he was finished, he would walk away backwards, being sure never to turn his back since, “you should never turn your back on a lady, and much less my beloved Amelia”.

Years afterwards, the family decided to bury another relative in the same tomb and move the bones to an ossuary. The still distraught husband wanted to see Amelia for the last time, and made himself present for the transferal. When they opened the tomb, they were shocked to find that the body of mother and child were incorrupt, and the child had moved from between the legs into the arms of the mother. They left her alone, and since then, she has been known as la Milagrosa or the Miraculous Woman. Cubans still come to her tomb and ask for favors, following the ritual of the mourning husband, and many ex-votos are left at her grave giving testimony to her powerful intercession.