A Timeline of Lukumi History


On Cuban Shores

August 3: It was on August 3, 1492, that Cristóbal Colón (known also as Christopher Columbus) set sail from Spain to find new trade routes.

October 27 – 29 (historical references vary on exact date): It was on October 27 – 29, 1492, that Cristóbal lands on the island that will later be named Cuba, and claims it for the Spanish crown.


On Cuban Shores

Explorers believed that Cuba was connected to North America; however, in 1508, Sebastián de Ocampo sailed around Cuba, proving it was an island.


On Cuban Shores

Cristóbal Colón’s son, Diego, relocates to Cuba. Diego Velázquez is appointed governor of the island by Spain. Note that when the Spaniards came in 1511, the native Taino people offered a huge feast to welcome them. After the feast, the Spanish soldiers turned on the natives. They were slaughtered and disemboweled in a vicious attack. The Taino chief Hatuey was burned at the stake after this carnage.


On Cuban Shores

The Spanish crown allows Amador de Lares to bring four Africans as slaves from Hispaniola. The names of the slaves are not remembered, however, this is the first documented evidence that African slaves were brought to the island.


On Cuban Shores

Pánfilo de Narváez establishes the city of Havana. It was named after a local chief, San Cristóbal de Habana.


On Cuban Shores

More Africans, kidnapped from their homeland, arrive in Cuba in small numbers.


On Cuban Shores

December 17, 1519: The first Catholic mass is celebrated in Havana, under a Ceiba tree.


On Cuban Shores

Seven years after the first small group of African slaves were brought to Cuba, the first large group of African slaves, 300 in total, were brought to work in the gold mines.


The Spanish crown issues a royal writ allowing slaves who can afford to do so to purchase their freedom.


On Cuban Shores

The first documented slave uprising in Cuba happens this year: four unnamed slaves from the Jobabo mines battle the military; they fight to their death. To quell colonist’s fears, the heads of the four men are removed and displayed in Bayamo.


On Cuban Shores

Local slaves, assisted by French pirates, burn Havana.

Note that there were six Christian towns in Cuba at this time: Santiago (80 houses), Havana (between 70 – 80 homes), Baracoa, Puerto Príncipe, Santi Spíritus, and Bayamo with 30-40 homes each.


On Cuban Shores

The Spanish crown allows a rich merchant group to import African slaves to Cuba.


On Cuban Shores

May 14: Havana City Council issues a decree that prohibited African-owned taverns or inns. It also prevented them from selling tobacco or wine. The punishment for infraction was fifty lashes with a whip.


On Cuban Shores

Cabildo Shangó is established in Havana. This is the first cabildo formed on the island.[1]


On Cuban Shores

September: A royal decree regulating the sale of tobacco states that penalties for breaking this law are doubled if the law-breaker is a negro. In addition to doubled penalties, the negro was to receive 200 lashes in public.


On Cuban Shores

There are 18 ingenias (sugar mills) established in the city of Havana. While all employ slave labor, none has more than 26 slaves on its roster.[2]


On Cuban Shores

Havana becomes the capital of Cuba.


On Cuban Shores

Blacks, mulattos, and metis are forbidden, by Catholic Synode, to enter Church orders. Blacks cannot seek asylum with the church, nor can they sing at funerals.[3]


On Cuban Shores

A papal synode instructs priests in Cuba to begin conversion of Africans to Catholic beliefs.[4]


The Spanish crown issued a decree allowing slaves to purchase their freedom. Those who did so were to be known as cortados.


On Cuban Shores

300 slaves revolt in Quiebra-Hacha, a sugar mill in the western part of Havana. It took government and military intervention to sustain the revolt.

Note that sample populations of slaves in Cuba between 1760 and 1769 showed that 8.22 percent of all slave labor was from Oyó (Lukumí, as described by Miguel W. Ramos).[5]


On Cuban Shores

Between1762 and 1838, roughly 391,000 slaves are brought to Cuba.


On Cuban Shores

Widespread raiding of the Yoruba/Lucumí territories began in this year.


On Cuban Shores

It was in 1764 that the custom of receiving African cabildos on the day of kings, in the palace, began.[6]


On Cuban Shores

The Cuban census of this year breaks down the island’s population as follows: 172,620 inhabitants. Of these there are: 96,440 whites, 31,847 cortados (free blacks, as defined by Spain), and 44,333 African slaves.

On Oyó’s Shores

During the reign of Alafin Abiodun, in 1774, Oyo’s interest in the slave trade began.[7]


On Cuban Shores

With its slave labor, sugar plantations produce 4,700 tons of sugar this year.


On Cuban Shores

By 1789, the Yoruba were among the largest slave population in Cuba.

On Spanish Shores

May 31, 1789: King Charles III issues a new codex for slavery. It was titled “The Royal Document on the Trades and Occupations of Slaves.” From the age of 17 through the age of 60, blacks were to toil in Cuban fields. It allows only 270 work days per year. Masters are forced to feed and clothe slaves according to accepted standards. They are forced to instruct them in Catholicism and convince them to take Mass regularly. However, slave-master regulations were not forced on a consistent basis.


On Cuban Shores

One out of every 23 residents in Cuba is a black slave. Between 1791 and 1805, 91,211 slaves are brought in through Havana’s port.


On Cuban Shores

Nicolás Morales, a free black, leads an uprising that starts in Bayamo and spreads throughout the eastern part of Cuba. It is quickly suppressed by the Spanish army. In A History of Cuba and its Relations with the United States, Volume I, 1492-1845: “. . . what especially disturbed the slave-owners about this uprising was that whites and negroes joined together in the revolt and demanded, as in the Haitian revolution, equality between black and white.”

Cuba now produces 14,000 tons of sugar a year due to increased slave labor.

1800 through 1820: Slaves brought from ancient Oyó (Lukumí, as defined by Miguel W. Ramos) total 8.38 percent of Cuba’s slave population.[8]


On Cuban Shores

Cuba now produces 34,000 tons of sugar each year, due to increased slave labor. That is a huge increase from 1795, in which national production was only 14,000 tons.


On Cuban Shores

An Afro Cuban cabildo is founded in Matanzas.[9] Remember that these are African mutual-aid societies based on ethnic identity. Many in the cabildos work to purchase the freedom of more influential members of their respective societies, the priesthood.


On Cuban Shores

José Antonio Aponte, leader of Negro uprising, and eight of his accomplices are caught and put in prison. He was a free black man and militia commander who organized a revolt of the slaves. This uprising was known as the  Aponte Conspiracy.

April 9, 1812, at 9:30 a.m.: José Aponte and the other accomplices are put to the gallows. Aponte’s head is displayed in an iron cage in front of his house. His hand is displayed in another street. The heads of his accomplices are also displayed.


On Cuban Shores

Napoleonic wars bring prosperity to Cuba. Demand for sugar, tobacco, and coffee increases, and more money is put to crop production by the crown. More slaves are brought.


On Spanish Shores

December: King Ferdinand VII of Spain writes, “the impossibility of finding Indians . . . to do the work of breaking and cultivation of land demanded that this work . . . be delivered into more robust arms.” Thus, he explained the illegal increase of slaves (per the British agreement) on the island.

On Cuban Shores

A British-inspired agreement in 1817 ends the slave trade, but after the agreement, slaves are imported illegally, and in greater numbers.

The new census breaks down the population thus: 239,000 whites and 331,000 non whites (blacks and those of mixed heritage).

Between 1821 and 1831, more than 300 expeditions bring over 60,000 slaves to Cuba. Among these slaves (prior to 1930) were two men important to the history of batá in Cuba and the rest of the world: Ño Juan el Cojo, Àyànbí, and Ño Filomeno Garcia, Àtàndá Fálúbí. Ño Juan el Cojo was a babalawo, osainista, and drummer. Filomeno Garcia was a babalawo, carver/sculptor, and olúbàtá (chief of the drum). The work of these two men would restore the true batá drums to Cuba.[10]


On Cuban Shores

It was about this year that Oyó practices became paramount in the religion.[11]


On Cuban Shores

The Spanish schooner Minerva lands 6 boatloads of slaves in the port of Havana at night. British authorities try to prosecute, however, General Francisco Dionisio, captain general of Cuba, refuses because they were not caught at high sea.[12]


On Cuban Shores

The census for this year shows the following breakdown: 311,000 whites, 286,000 slaves, and 106,000 free negroes or mixed bloods. It lists 1,000 sugar mills, 30,090 ranches, 5,534 tobacco farms, and 2,067 coffee plantations.

In the late 1820s, Oyó Ifá priest Ño Remigio Herrera, Addéchina, was enslaved in Cuba. The exact year of his arrival is not known, for he arrived on one of the undocumented slave-ships operating illegally at that time.[13] He was put to work in a sugar mill and worked as a slave for an unknown amount of time, however, because of his status as a Lucumí Ifá priest, other slaves from Oyó quickly paid for his freedom.  The year that his freedom was bought was circa 1827. Within a year of obtaining freedom, he created Cabildo Lucumí Santa Bárbara at 175 Dahoiz Street, on he corner of Manzaneda Street. His Cuban priesthood began there, at the Cabildo he opened.[14]


On Cuban Shores

Cabildo Lucumí Santa Barbara is established by Ño Remigio Herrera, Addéchina. The address of this cabildo was 175 Dahoiz Street, on the corner of Manzaneda Street.


On Cuban Shores

It was this year that both Ño Filomeno Garcia and Ño Juan el Cojo began attending cabildo Alakisa. The name of the cabildo means, “the ragged ones.” It was in Havana on Egido Street. The drums that were used there, however, were not orthodox, and the two men wanted to correct his. Together, they built the first set of properly constructed drums in Cuba, and named them Àyànbí after Ño Juan el Cojo.


On British Shores

British colonies abolish slavery in its entirety.

On Cuban Shores

Between 1790 and 1839, sugar haciendas increase from 400 to 800.


On Oyó’s Shores

The Fulani Jihad causes ancient Oyo’s fall. Many Yoruba are sold into slavery by conquerors and wound up, illegally, in Cuba.[15] The kingdom of Oyo is decimated and no longer exists within its original boundaries.[16]

On Cuban Shores

1840’s to 1850s: Miguel W. Ramos documents that sometime in this time period, Ma Monserrate Apotó Gonzalez, Oba Tero, an Egbádo native, arrived in Cuba. She was smuggled in one of the slave ships that operated illegally to transport African slaves.[17] For this reason, one is unable to determine the exact year of her arrival.


On Cuban Shores

The Cuban census reports: 1,037,624 people in Cuba. 448,291 are white, 152,838 are free blacks, and 436,495 are slaves. The number of slaves almost matches that of whites. Please note that the total number of Africans on the island now outnumbers whites by a total of 141,042 people. Those of mixed heritage (biracial) are included in the count of free blacks by the census.


On Cuban Shores

A slave named Carlotta picks up her machete (“a mad black woman!”) and leads an uprising at Triunvirato, a sugar mill in Matanzas. Unfortunately, she is killed by authorities.[18]


On Cuban Shores

Yucatecan Indians from Mexico are imported for slave labor. At the same time, Chinese contract workers are entering Cuba in large numbers. This is to offset the difficulty of importing slave labor from African regions.

Whites enforce segregation in public to stress their superiority.


On Cuban Shores

Twenty years after the fall of ancient Oyó in the Yoruba provinces, the population of Oyó natives and descendants (described as Lukumí by Miguel W. Ramos) totals 35 percent of the slave population. They were the majority among Cuba’s slaves.[19]


On Cuban Shores

September 23, 1853: Spain appoints the Marquis Juan de la Pezuela as Captain General of Cuba. He is against slavery, and is assigned the task of suppressing it.

December 7, 1853: Diario de la Marina, a government newspaper, begins a series of articles discussing slavery and slave trafficking. The articles stress the advantage of a free labor system.

December 23, 1853: Marquis de la Pezuela issues decrees: Negroes “known by the name of ‘emancipados’ are all free”; anyone caught importing Africans would be heavily fined and banished from the island for two years; all governors and lieutenant governors who fail to advice him of clandestine landings in their respective provinces will be removed from office. At this time, a black bought in Africa for 40 “duros” could be sold in Cuba for 700 “duros.” Cuba’s long and broken coastline makes it difficult to prevent landings. Slave traders continue to risk the established British blockades.


On Cuban Shores

April: A number of influential slave owners meet in Havana with U.S. Consul William H. Robertson to urge that he persuade U.S. President Pierce to send American troops to Cuba to prevent slave emancipation.

May: All slave owners are instructed to make a full declaration of their slave property. This includes name, age and sex of each slave, and purchase information.


On Cuban Shores

Timotea Albear, Latuán, arrived in Cuba in 1863. She and her Congo husband Evaristo Albear were domestic slaves in the home of Colonel Francisco Albear y Lara. She and her husband arrived on the same illegal slave ship in Matanzas, and were brought to Havana..[20]

In the city of Havana, Andres Facundo Cristo de Dolores Petit begins initiating white men into the Abakuá mysteries. These rituals and mysteries are derived from the Efik and Efo tribes from the Cross River Delta in Nigeria. All of the initiates are the children of rich white families, and are accused of conspiring against Spain.[21]


On Cuban Shores

March 25, 1865: An article in El Siglio by the Count of Ponzos Dulces (who owned the paper), announced the formation of the Reform Party, adding that a number of slave and property owners have joined intellectuals in favoring the end of the slave traffic and the abolition of slavery.

November 25, 1865: A Royal Decree establishes a Colonial Reform Commission to discuss proposals to reform the island. A Junta de Información (Board of Information) is to discuss 3 issues: 1. Special laws already promised and how they are to be founded; 2. How to regulate the work of blacks and Asians and the encouragement of white immigration; 3. commercial treaties and related tax reforms.

By this time, Creole liberals are encouraged by the end of the Civil War in North America, the Spanish defeat in the revolution of Santo Domingo, and the victory of Juárez in Mexico. Many Cubans are more willing to oppose the government, but most of the wealthy are still reluctant to risk their property in radical measures. The fear of the Negroes in a revolution is one of the main restraining factors.

Sometime in the late 1860s, Ma Monserrate Apotó Gonzalez, Oba Tero, acquired her freedom.[22]


On Cuban Shores

Remigio Herrera, Addéchina, moved to Havana and established Cabildo Yemayá in Regla. The drums for this cabildo were also commissioned in 1866.[23] Ño Juan el Cojo, Àyànbí, and Ño Filomeno Garcia, Àtàndá Fálúbí, were the two who built these drums. They were named after Filomeno, Àtàndá. Eventually, these drums Àtàndá are confiscated by Cuban authorities.[24] It would be quite some time before they were given back to the cabildo.[25] Note that many confuse the cabildo in Havana with the cabildo he established in Matanzas, Cabildo Lucumí Santa Bárbara. While he helped establish both, they remained separate entities in their respective areas. [Refer to the years 1827 and 1828.]


On Cuban Shores

By 1872, Remigio Herrera, Addéchina, was established in Regla in a house on 23 San Ciprián Street.[26]


On Cuban Shores

December 4, 1873:[27] Miguel W. Ramos documents that ere is the first historical evidence of a tambor played with batá drums to Shangó on his feast day in Cabildo Santa Barbara. The drums were played by Ño Remigio Herrera, Addéchina. Miguel W. Ramos documents the following from correspondence with Israel Molinar, a professional Matanzas historian. The letter was dated October 6, 1999. Israel Molinar wrote to Miguel Ramos, “An inspector from the town of San Francisco informed the Civil Governor of the city of Matanzas about a significant incident in the Lucumí Cabildo Santa Bárbara, situated on Manzaneda Street, on the corner of Velarde, where Ño Remigio Herrera Addéchina played three strange drums he called batá, in the celebrations of December 3.”[28]

AfroCubaWeb documents that the last slave ship disembarks in Cuba.[29]


Ño Remigio Herrera, Addéchina, moved to 31 San Ciprián Street with his wife Francisca Buzlet, his stepdaughter Eugenia Lausevio, his own daughter Norma Josefa, and his son, Teodoro.[30]


African Cabildos no longer have permission to come out on the Day of Kings.[31]

Around the 1890s to early 1900s, because the orishas requested it, Lucumí adherents began sharing knowledge with the Arará. It was Ma Monserrate Gonzalez who began teaching them about diloggún divination, and in turn, they taught her the secrets of Babaluaiye, Nanumé, Nana Buruku, and other Arará orishas.[32] Note that the Arará in western Africa had the secrets of cowrie-shell divination, however, those that were brought to Cuba in slavery either did not retain or did not pass on that knowledge, and by Ma Monserrate’s time, no one in the Arará cabildos remembered the process or procedures.[33]


José Roche (Oshún Kayodé) was ordained this year by Tranquilina Balmaseda (Omi Yalé), and was provided with multiple orishas.[34] Prudencia Alfaro (Olympia Alfaro’s aunt, a famous priestess of Yemayá) was the ojigbona.[35] According to the Lucumí historian Miguel Ramos, this is the first historical evidence that the royal-centered Lucumí practices were in place.


December 31, 1899: Remigio Herrera, Adeshina, was the first babalawo to pull down an odu for the coming year. Six of his godchildren were with him when he established this custom: Mark Garcia (Ifalola Ejiogbe Meji), Oluguere (Oyekun Meji), Eulogio Rodriguez (Tata Gaytan Ogundafun), Jose Carmen Batiste (Obewene), Salvador Montalvo (Okanran Meji), and Bernardine Rojo (Ireteuntendi).The very first letter of the year, for 1900, was Obara Meji. It came with iré.


December 16, 1901: Nicolas Valentín Angarica was born on December 16, 1901. He was the child of Rosalina Angarica and Ramón Rubio. He was born in a province of Matanzas; it is said that his mother was of Lucumí descent. Both of Rosalina’s parents came from the Oyó region of Africa. Rosalina even retained the Lucumí name given to her at birth, Ayobo (the princess was taught). The ancestry of his father is not  known, however, it is claimed that he was not of Lucumí descent. The parents were never married and he retained his mother’s last name.


Remigio Herrera suffered multiple health problems and was unable to practice as an active Ifá priest.

December 31, 1902: Because Remigio Herrera suffered multiple health problems, his godson Eulogio Rodriguez (Tata Gaytan Ogundafun) assumed the responsibility of organizing the letter of the year. With him were the following babalawos: Secundino Crucet (Osaloforbeyo), Bernabe Menocal (Ejiogbe Meji), Quintin Lecon Garcia (Oturaniko), and Jose Asuncion Villalonga (Ogundamasa). Others less noted also helped in the organization of the letter of the year at this point.


María Eugenía Pérez was born this year.[36]


In 1906 Remigio Herrera (Adeshina) died and Bernardine Rojo became his successor for organizing the letter of the year. Under the trusteeship of Tata Gaytan he assumed all responsibility for the letter of the year.

Josefina Aguirre (Oshún Gere) was ordained by Tranquilina Balmaseda (Omi Sanjá). She received multiple orishas in her ordination.[37]

December 31, 1906: Due to Remigio Herrera’s death, Bernardine Rojo assumed all responsibility for organizing the letter of the year. Due to age and declining health, Eulogio Rodriguez (Tata Gaytan Ogundafun) stepped down as an active leader and guided Bernardine Rojo from behind the scenes. Juan Antonio Ariosa (Ogbetua), Tatica (Obararete), Joaquin Salazar (Osaloforbeyo), Cornelio Vidal (Ogbeshe), Miguel Febles (Odika), and Aurelio Estrada (Ejiogbe Meji) were all major organizers for the next few years, under Bernardine Rojo’s leadership.


Egbádo descendant and priestess of Shangó, initiated in Egbádo regions, Ma Monserrate Apotó Gonzalez, Oba Tero, dies. Oral history recounts that she was a centurion, well over 100 years old at her death.[38]


In the year 1910, month and date unknown, the man who brought the mysteries of the batá drums to Cuba, Ño Juan el Cojo, Àyànbí, died.[39]


July 10, 1913: Felicita “Fela” Mendez was born in Loiza Aldea, Puerto Rico, on July 10, 1913.[40]


July 23, 1923: María Eugenía Pérez was ordained on July 23, 1923, to Oshún. Her name in ocha was Oshún Niké. She was crowned by Luisa Arango, Shangó Ladé. Timotea Albear was the oriaté. In this ordination, the iyawó received all the following orishas: Elegguá, Ogún, Ochosi, Obatalá, Yemayá, Shangó, and Oshún, her crowning orisha. According to the Lucumí historian Miguel Ramos, this is the earliest historical evidence we have that the Lucumí rituals used today were in place, as María received all the orishas that a modern Lucumí initiate would receive. [Note: in my own lineage, it is customary for Oshún to go in with Aganyú. I need to recheck this information, however, with my godfather.] Other olorishas ordained during this time period also received multiple orishas: Aurelia Mora (Omi Dina), Basilia Cárdenas Massip (Omi Dina), and Nemensia Espinoza (Oshún Miwá).[41]


November 10, 1927: Olympia Alfaro was born in Havana, Cuba, in the Buena Vista section of Marianao.[42]


February, 1935: This is the month documented by Miguel W. Ramos that Timotea Albear died.[43]

December, 1935: In December of 1935, on the series of Cuban radio shows known as Cuatro Charlas Radiofónicas (Four Radio Chats), Gustavo Urrutia, a black scholar, had batá played for the public for the first time.[44]


An “ethnographic conference” including a live performance of Lucumí music was performed in Cuba in 1936. Pablo Roché played Iyá, Aguedo Morales played Itótele, and Jesús Pérez played Okónkolo.[45]


May 1, 1939: Armando Franci was ordained to Yemayá by Josefa Masa, Babá Funke, on May 1, 1939. His ojigbona was Clara Omisaya. In ocha, his name was Omi Dina. The oriaté Domingo Aye Oba was his ocha twin. Note that later, Armando would receive pinaldo from the hands of Domingo Aye Oba. Tomas Romero was the oriaté for these ceremonies. As of the writing of this timeline (today’s date is September 7, 2006) Armando Franci is still alive, well, and working in Havana, Cuba.


Nicolas Valentín Angarica was ordained by Lorenzo Octavio Samá. In ocha, his name became Oba Tola. The month and day of this ordination are not known to this author. He studied to become an oriaté with his godfather until Obadimeji’s death in 1944.


On Cuban Shores

January 27, 1944: Pancho Mora was initiated to Ifá on January 27, 1944. His godfather in Ifá was babalawo Quintin Lecon.[46] Pancho Mora’s Ifá name became Mòrótì (Ifá’s knowledge pushes aside difficulty).

October, 1944: Lorenzo Octavio Samá, Obadimeji, dies.[47]


On United States Shores

Pancho Mora, Ifá Mòrótì (Ifá’s knowledge pushes aside difficulty), immigrated to the United States in 1946. He settled in New York. He established the first ilé ocha in the city. He was also the first person in the United States to practice Ifá divination.[48]


On Cuban Shores

July, 1947: Josefa Herrera-Pepa, Eshubi, died. She was well into her 80s at her death.


On Cuban Shores

November 7, 1950: On November 7, 1950, Arturo Sardiña was initiated to Yemayá by Rigoberto “de la Madruga” Rodriguez. His name in ocha became Olomidara. The coronation was done in Madruga, Cuba.


On Cuban Shores

Los Muñequitos de Matanzas, a folkloric group, formed in 1952. They toured internationally in the 1980s, and in the United States in 1952. In 1996, they would release a CD devoted to Lucumí rhythms, Ito Iban Echu.[49]

On United States Shores

Cuban-born Mercedes Nobles moved to New York in 1952.[50]


Secular performances of batá in Las Vegas.[51]


On Cuban Shores

February 20, 1955: Felicita “Fela” Mendez (born July 10, 1913, in Loiza Aldea, Puerto Rico) was crowned to Shangó on February 20, 1955, in Cuba, by her godmother Rita Miranda (Eguín Lade). Her ojigbona was Juana Nuñez (Eguín Yemi). The oriaté for her ceremonies was Maximilian “Orda Ayicoi.” Her name in ocha was Shangó Gumi. Her godson, Luis Rivera (Oke Ewe), became the santero responsible for creating the lineage piraña.[52]

On United States Shores

There were probably no more than twenty-five santeros and babalawos in all of New York City in 1955. Among these were the babalawo Pancho Mora.[53]

December 4, 1955: Francisco Aguabella and Julito Collazo attended their first Lucumí ritual in New York City. Willie the Bolitero[54] (numbers runner) gave this celebration for Shangó. It took place at 111th Street and St. Nicolas Avenue in Harlem, at the Palladium night club.[55]


On United States Shores

According to Marta Vega, the first public orisha event occurred in this year. She wrote, “In 1956, the Afro-Cuban percussionist Mongo Santamaria organized the first public performance of orisha music and dance at the Palladium night club, in tribute to the Yoruba orisha Shangó. Julito Collazo performed songs and dances for the orisha Shangó and made a broad audience aware of this ancient African belief system.”[56]


On Cuban Shores

Conjunto Folklórico Nacional de Cuba was formed with Jesús Pérez and Lazaro Ros as two of its founding members.[57]

March 9, 1958: Mercedes Nobles was crowned in Cuba on March 9, 1958, by Marina Ofún Tola. The ojigbona was Caridad Saldivar.[58]

December 31, 1958: The babalawos in Cuba brought down the odu Ofún Ogbe in osogbo; it was determined that Olokun was ruling that year.  As ebó, the babalawos were to perform Olokun’s dance with masks, however, they were afraid. Alternate ebós were offered. Olokun accepted.


On Cuban Shores

January 1, 1959: Fidel Castro begins his rise to power in Cuba.

May 9, 1959: In Cuba, Bernardine Rojo passed away.

August 5, 1959: Asunción Serrano, “Sunta,” was initiated to Obatalá in Guanabacoa, Cuba, on August 5, 1959. Her name in ocha became Osá Aunko. Some credit her as being the first Puerto Rican initiated in Cuba. Some also credit her as being the first to initiate American blacks and whites into the religion, and during her life, she worked closely with Walter King in the days of the Yoruba Temple in New York City. She was born in the year 1902, and died in 1986.

August 26, 1959: Christopher Oliana and Walter Eugene King, two African Americans from New York, were initiated as ocha twins in Jovellanos, Matanzas Province, Cuba. Walter King was crowned to Obatalá and named Oseijeman Adefunmi, making him the eldest and the first African American initiated in the Lucumí system. Christopher Oliana was crowned to Aganyú and named Obailumi, making him the second African American initiated in the Lucumí system.[59]

On United States Shores

March 9, 1959: On Mercedes Nobles’ (Oban Yoko) first ocha birthday, March 9, 1959, Julito Collazo played her tambor.[60]


On United States Shores

January, 1960: Walter King (Oseijeman Adefunmi), Christopher Oliana (Obailumi), Clarence Robbins (who later crowned Elegguá), Royal G. Brown, Bonsu, and Mama Keké (who later crowned Oshún), established the African Theological Archministy, Inc.[61]


On United States Shores

1961 (Month and date unknown to author): Mercedes Nobles, Obanjoko, performed the first ordination in the United States, in New York City. She crowned Julia Franco to Shangó. Oreste Blanco was the oriaté for her ordination. The ceremonies occurred at 610 W 136th St in Manhattan. Many came to know this address as “the basement” and many ordinations still occur there today (2006).[62]

Yoruba Andabo, a rumba group, was formed from Havana dockworkers in 1961. Batá drummer Pancho Quinto was a founding member.[63]

Summer, 1961: Pancho Mora held a religious drum feast, a bembé, for the orisha Shangó in Casa Carmen, a dance hall in the Bronx, New York City. Julito Collazo led the drummers. They played batá abèrínkùlà.[64] John Mason mistakenly attributes this as the first bembé given in the United States in his book Orin Orisa. My own research has shown the first bembé to be on December 4, 1955; it was given by Willie The Bolitero in honor of Shangó. See the December 4, 1955 entry for more information. As a note to myself: This demands more research.


Nicolas Valentín Angarica, Obatola, died in 1963.


On Cuban Shores

July 28, 1964: Angel Pedro Bolaños Corrales (known as Angel Bolaños), a folklore musician and professor of folkloric music in Havana, Cuba, was ordained to Yemayá by his godmother “Bellita.”[65]

On United States Shores

In 1964, babalawo Pancho Mora held a public drum ceremony for the orishas that attracted 3,000 people. Among those in attendance were Latin music performers Julio Collazo and Machito.[66]


December, 1967 (day unknown to author): Asunción Serrano, “Sunta,” initiated Renaud Simmons (a.k.a. Teddy) in December of 1967. He was the first African American oriaté in New York City; he was also an apuón and drummer.[67]


July 25, 1968: Olympia Alfaro (born November 10, 1927 in Havana, Cuba) was crowned by Carlos Garcia on July 25, 1968. She was made to Yemayá, and her name in ocha became Omi Sanyá. She arrived in the US in 1969, and was one of the more influential apuóns in the country.[68]


August, 1972: On this date, Temujin Ekunfeo writes, “Walter King (Oseijeman Adefunmi) was ordained into the Ifá priesthood with the Oluwa (King) of Ijeun at Abeokuta, Nigeria.”[69]


From the C.L.B.A. Resume 1974 – 1999: “Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye was founded in the state of Florida by: Iyalosha Carmen Pla, Babalosha Raul Rodriguez, Oba Ernesto Pichardo, Babalosha Fernando Pichardo, Attorney Gino Negretti. C.L.B.A. was created according to spiritual guidance and mandates of Encarnacio De La Caridad y Rodriguez, an Oshún spirit, and confirmations were established through divination with the orishas.”[70]


On United States Shores

February 13, 1975: In the United States, the first set of Añá batá drums was consecrated in Miami, Florida. Babalawo Pipo Peña (Ogbeyonu) consecrated them with 16 babalawos and various olorishas present. Okilapá was the name given to the drums; they were named after Pablo Roche, a famous Cuban batá drummer. Not long after this, Peña, his sons Arturo and Reynaldo, and Julito Collazo were consecrated as omó Añá.[71]

            Note that in Orin Orisa, John Mason writes, “Àyàn (Mason’s preferred spelling for Añá) was not to arrive until 1976 when the babalawo Olòsun and omo Àyàn, ‘Pipo’ Pina, of Miami, brought a consecrated set from Cuba. This set of Àyàn first came to New York in 1976 and was played in the Harlem home of the well known ritual singer and Yemoja (Mason’s preferred spelling) Priestess, Olympia Alfaro.”[72] This is at odds with what the Cuban-American scholar and Oba/Oriaté Miguel Ramos has written regarding the history of these drums in “Calling to the Heavens: A Tribute to the Late Lukumí Apuón Olympia Alfaro, Omí Sanyá.”


. I invite anyone with more information regarding these drums to write to me at [email protected]; however, I trust the scholarship of Miguel Ramos over that of John Mason regarding this issue, as he was a personal friend of Olympia Alfaro until her death recently, and she was intimately entwined in the history of this set of drums.


On United States Shores

Date unknown, 1976: Okilapá, the batá drums born in Miami on February 13, 1975, were played in 1976 in New York for the first time at the home of apuón Olympia Alfara, in Harlem. Julito Collazo played Iyá, Pipo played Itótele, and Pipo’s son played Okónkolo. Antonio Gonzalez, a priest and mount of Yemayá, danced Yemayá. New York initiates were finally presented to Añá.[73]


On United States Shores

From the C.L.B.A. Resume 1974 – 1999: “First three day conference with scholars, Catholic and Lukumi priests. Sponsored by Florida Endowment for the Humanities, the University of Miami, and Dr. O. R. Dathorne director of African American Studies. The first ordination to the patron orisha Babalu Aye was performed at Oyo-Tunji African Village, founding of Babalu Aye site, and the introduction of the orisha Oba.”[74]


On United States Shores

From the C.L.B.A. Resume 1974 – 1999: [These years of the C.L.B.A. were] “Dedicated to academic research and presentations, thesis assistance, and development of Church structure.”[75]


On Cuban Shores

April: 10,000 Cubans go to the Peruvian embassy in Havana demanding political asylum. These refugees leaves from the Mariel port to the U.S. This exodus continues until September of this year, sending 125,000 refugees to US shores.

Batá masters Orlando “Puntilla” Rios, Juan “El Negro” Raymat, and many others came to both Miami and New York as a result of the Mariel Boat Lift.[76]

300,000 Haitians flee Haiti dictatorship and travel to Cuba. Cuba accepts all refugees. These Haitians establish a form of Vodu on the island, much as the Mariel boatlift helped to establish greater numbers of santeros and babalawos in the US.


On United States Shores

Temujin Ekunfeo writes, “. . . while presenting a paper at a conference on Orisa tradition at the University of Ilé Ifé, Nigeria, [Oseijeman Adefunmi (Walter King)] was presented to Okunade Sijuwade, Olubouse II, the Ooni of Ifé. The Ooni ordered the chiefs of Ifé to perform the rites of coronation on him. He was crowned, Oba Efuntola Oseijeman Adelabu Adefunmi I and given the ceremonial sword of office inscribed with the name of his Liege Lord the Ooni, which grants him the right to speak in the name of the Ooni. He is the first African American to receive such an honor.”[77]

Throughout the early 80s, after arriving in New York in 1981, Orlando “Puntilla” Rios forms Nueva Generación, a folkloric group that presented batá rhythms in public venues.[78]


On Cuban Shores

Lazara Cuesta makes Ifá with Miguel Febles, Odika. Lazara’s name in Ifá becomes Iwori Bofun. He studies with Miguel until Miguel dies in December of 1986.

On United States Shores

The first case in the United States regarding animal sacrifice was litigated in New York. The case referenced is First Church of Changó v. American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals; 134 A.D.2d 971, 621 N.Y.S.2d 356. The judge ruled that there was no legal protection for religious animal sacrifices, and they were prohibited under New York state anti-cruelty law.[79]

1983 – 1984

On United States Shores

From the C.L.B.A. Resume 1974 – 1999: “Established the first academic and religious group called Institute for New World Studies. The group acquired funding through the Florida Endowment for the Humanities, to carry out workshops on Afro-Caribbean religions for law enforcement, hospitals, mental health professionals, and cultural organizations. Implemented the first local ABC news series on Afro-Cuban forms of worship. Our first film contract came through Soto Productions of California. This was a PBS national documentary on Miami, which included Santeria. CLBA and Dade County School Board representatives met, and established religious exemptions for newly ordained students, during a school calendar year.”[80]


On United States Shores

From the C.L.B.A. Resume 1974 – 1999: “CLBA developed and established the first courses on Afro-Caribbean religions offered through Miami Dade Community College. The first book titled Odúduwa, and a Lukumí Divination educational video, were produced. Universal Studios producer of the series Miami Vice contracted our representatives and consultants for a pilot episode. As did Tri-Star motion pictures on a film titled Band on the Hand. CLBA intervention delivered victory on cruelty to animal charges on thirteen Ifá priests.”[81]


On United States Shores

Asunción Serrano, “Sunta,” died in 1986 in New York City.

In the United States, from the C.L.B.A. Resume 1974 – 1999: “A presentation for the State of Florida Folk-life Festival was done. Mental Health Association of Dade County began as sponsors in conjunction with CLBA to provide accredited law enforcement training. Our first organizational committee of sixteen members was formed, for the purpose of development and implementation of a community church, and educational center. CLBA offered its first courses on Bata drums, divination, and Yoruba history. CLBA began its first general support campaign for the purpose of recruiting members and officers among senior priests and priestesses of Dade County.”[82]

On Cuban Shores

December, 1986: Miguel Febles, Odika, dies. He had been the elder Ifá priest in Cuba since the early 1970’s.

December, 1986: La Comision Organizada is officially organized and named. It’s purpose is to take out the letter of the year in honor of Miguel Febles, Odika, who died in December of this same year. Normally the ceremonies are held in a house in the municipality of 10 de Octubre. This organization operates independently of the state and has no official ties to Fidel Castro. Since 1986, the Comisión Organizadora de la Letra del Año Miguel Febles Padrón has performing this ceremony for Cuba and the rest of the world.


On Cuban Shores

Ifá Ayer, Ifá Hoy, and Ifá Mañana (Ifá yesterday, Ifá today, and Ifá tomorrow) was formed in 1987. It’s original founders were Feliberto O’Farril, Manuel Ibañez, Reinaldo Blayo, and others, with Eustaguio Delgado “Tatica” as its head. This group gathered with the blessings of Fidel Castro, and participated in the welcoming of the Oni of Ifé when he visited Cuba in the late 1980s. This organization quickly fell apart.

On United States Shores

June 9, 1987: The city council of Hialeah, Florida, held an emergency public council meeting regarding the opening of the Church of the Lucumí of Babalu Aye. They adopted resolution 87-66. In this resolution, it was written that, “. . . certain religions may propose to engage in practices which are inconsistent with public morals, peace, or safety . . . the City reiterates its commitment to a prohibition against any and all acts of any and all religious groups which are inconsistent with public morals, peace, or safety.” Following resolution 87-66, they then enacted an emergency ordinance, Ordinance 87-40. This ordinance was in reference to anyone who, “unnecessarily or cruelly . . . kills any animal.”[83]

Mid-July, 1987: Responding to the Hialeah city council’s request for more information regarding the Florida State Statutes regarding animal cruelty laws, the attorney general of Florida wrote back to the city council, “ritual sacrifice of animals for purposes other than food consumption [are not] necessary . . . “ Therefore, the attorney general reasoned, religious practices of the Lucumí faith were prohibited by state statute 828.12.[84]

August 4, 1987: Awó Osún was formed, an egbe established by initiates of Oshún in NYC. It is the first and oldest egbe orisha in the city.[85]

September, 1987: The city council of Hialeah, Florida, created the following statutes to foil the Lucumí practices of animal sacrifice: Ordinance 87-52, Ordinance 87-71, and Ordinance 87-72. A definition of sacrifice was provided in ordinance 87-52: “to unnecessarily kill, torment, torture, or mutilate an animal in a public or private ritual or ceremony not for the primary purpose of food consumption.” Exemptions were provided for non-ritual situations. Ordinance 87-71 declared, “it shall be unlawful for any person, persons, corporations, or association to sacrifice any animal within the corporate limits of the City of Hialeah, Florida.” Ordinance 87-72 gave a definition of slaughter: “the killing of animals for food.”[86]

September/October, 1987: CLBA and Ernesto Pichardo filed suit in the United States District Court, Southern Florida District. Hialeah, the mayor, and individuals of the city council were named as defendants.[87]

In the United States, from the C.L.B.A. Resume 1974 – 1999: “CLBA celebrated its pre-opening as an established Lukumí community church. A general educational curriculum was implements. After several months of political controversy, the order to Florida Power & Light, and Department of Water and Sewer to stop services, came from city officials. CLBA had its victory and officially opened as the first Lukumí Church in the United States. The controversy, heated by the enactment of three city ordinances banning ritual animal sacrifices, caused CLBA to sue the City of Hialeah claiming the ordinances violated First Amendment rights. National and international media took intense interest on this landmark case. During the Papal visit to Miami, ABC world news presented CLBA as the authentic competitor of the Catholic Church, among Hispanics. The editorial board of the Miami Herald published its first support on behalf of CLBA pertaining to its legal rights.”[88]


On United States Shores

From the C.L.B.A. Resume 1974 – 1999: “CLBA relocated to a storefront across from Hialeah City Hall. Pending litigation in Federal Court, this location was vandalized numerous times. Law enforcement entered Church premises daily. Members were stopped leaving the Church. Christian denominations protested frequently, and its activists implemented in a hate campaign, joined by several animal rights organizations.”[89]

Olympia Alfaro and Miguel W. Ramos appeared in two stage productions in Miami, Florida: Wemilere, Fiesta a los Orishas and Ibolorun, Paraiso Yoruba. They were the apuóns for these two productions.[90]

On Cuban Shores

December 31, 1988: The Organizing Commission meets in Havana, Cuba, to determine the letter of the year for 1989.


On Cuban Shores

January 1, 1989: The Organizing Commission declares the odu Ejiogbe Meji to be the letter of the year for 1989.

On United States Shores

From the C.L.B.A. Resume 1974 – 1999: “Joined by the support of American Civil Liberties Union, and Attorney Jorge Duarte, CLBA went to trial at the US Federal District Court. In support of city interests Attorney Michael J. Neimand, office of the Attorney General, for the State of Florida, joined with Amicus Curiae. Followed in support as witnesses by Michael Fox and Mark Paulhus, from the United States Humane Society.”[91]


On Cuban Shores

Sometime in the 1990s,  Yoruba Cultural Association is born from the ashes of Ifá Ayer, Ifá Hoy, and Ifá Mañana.

Havana, Cuba, batá drummer Pancho Quinto was interviewed for a documentary El País de los Orichas. Clips of Pancho’s drumming and dancing were included, as was the group Yoruba Andabo, whose performances were featured in the film.[92]


On Cuban Shores

Yoruba Andabo collaborates with Jane Bunnett, a Canadian saxophonist, on her CD Spirits of Havana.[93]


On United States Shores

Christopher Oliana, Obailumi, dies in 1993 in New York city.

Blackmind Book Boutique releases El País de los Orichas in Brooklyn.[94]

June 11, 1993: Ernesto Pichardo, on his website, wrote, “United States Supreme Court in a unanimous landmark ruling overturned the lower courts, in favor of CLBA. The decision established that Hialeah laws were unconstitutional, and religious animal sacrifices of the Lukumí faith are constitutionally protected. This ruling is applicable in all States. For research purposes, net search under “Church of the Lukumí of Babalu Aye” or “Animal Sacrifice.” There are many sites available that present the documentation. In a settlement agreement, Hialeah agreed to pay approximately five hundred thousand dollars for CLBA legal fees. CLBA never sued for compensation on damages. A one dollar compensation was paid to CLBA by acting Mayor Julio Martinez as a symbol of reconciliation. Nationwide all pending cruelty to animal cases related to our faith were dismissed.”[95]


On Cuban Shores

December 31, 1994: The Organizing Commission meets in Havana, Cuba, to determine the letter of the year for 1995.


On Cuban Shores

January 1, 1995: The Organizing Commission declares Ejiogbe Meji to be the letter of the year for 1995.

December 31, 1995: The Organizing Commission meets in Havana, Cuba, to determine the letter of the year for 1996.

On United States Shores

From the C.L.B.A. Resume 1974 – 1999: “The first historic group of forty senior Ifá, Oriate, Iyalosha, Babalosha, priests and priestesses became officially certified as clergy members of the Lukumi/Ayoba religion through CLBA.”[96]


From the C.L.B.A. Resume 1974 – 1999: “CLBA established the first Lukumi radio program, with weekly transmissions for adherents in Cuba, through La Voz Del Cid.”[97]

Callejón de los Rumberos is released by Yoruba Andabo.[98]

January 1, 1996: The Organizing Commission declares Ejiogbe Meji to, again, be the letter ruling the year.

December 31, 1996: The Organizing Commission meets in Havana, Cuba, to determine the letter of the year for 1997.

1997 – 1998

From the C.L.B.A. Resume 1974 – 1999: “CLBA relocated to one block south of Hialeah City Hall. Performed our first Lukumí marriages in Miami and Washington; newborn naming ceremony, and reestablished an extensive educational and cultural curriculum. CLBA has become the only established Lukumí Church in the US, with the largest membership of adherents, priests, and priestesses of all ranks, in this hemisphere. Performed several religious services for adherents in the Federal Correctional institution. Established our internet site.”[99]


January 1, 1997: The Organizing Commission declares Odí Trupon to the letter of the year for 1997.

Chamalongo is released by Jane Bunnett, a Canadian saxophonist. Pancho Quinto appears in her recordings.[100]

December 31, 1997: The Organizing Commission meets in Havana, Cuba, to determine the letter of the year for 1998. The Ifá priests Frank Cabrera, Lazaro Cuesta, David Cedron, Raul Sotero, Raul Dominguez, Cesar Baguez, Ricardo Guerra and others officiated at the ceremony.


January 1, 1998: The Organizing Commission declares Ejiogbe Meji to the letter of the year for 1998. Obatalá ruled, accompanied by Yemayá. The flag was white with blue borders.

January: Papal visit to Cuba. Jaime Ortega, the cardinal of Havana refuses to allow a meeting between the Pope and Afro Cuban religious representatives. Meetings are arranged with Protestants and Jews.

Pancho Quinto records his own album, En el Solar la Cueva del Humo.[101]


The Yoruba Cultural Association invites the Organizing Commission to join its ranks. The Organizing Commission declines because the administration (the government) and not the babalawos would be in control of the organization.

Pancho Quinto records with Omar Sosa on Spirit of Roots and Bembón.[102]

Abbilona, a batá ensemble from Havana, Cuba, begins releasing CDs of batá music. Over time, they come to release a total of 16 CDs.[103]


Pancho Quinto records again with Canadian saxophonist Jane Bennett in Ritma & Soul.[104]

December 31, 2000: The Yoruba Cultural Association meets to determine the letter of the year for 2001. It was pulled at the following address: Prado No. 615, entre Monte y Dragones, Municipio Habana Vieja.

Olympia Alfaro appears in the HBO movie For Love or Country: The Arturo Sandoval Story.[105]

July 2000: Juan Garcia Fernández replaced Teresa González as the director of Conjunto Folklórico Nacional. He served from July 2000 until April 2004.


January 1, 2001: The Yoruba Cultural Association announces that the letter of the year for 2001 is Iroso Ogbe. The witnesses were Ogbe Oché and Oché Bile. The prophesy was: Iré ariku oyale lese Orunmila (A blessing of heath given to us by Orunmila). Yemayá ruled, accompanied by Elegguá. The flag was blue with red and white trimming.

Pancho Quinto records with the Puente Brothers in Morumba Cubana.[106]

September 11, 2001: Lazaro Ros was nominated for the Best Folk Album in the Latin Grammy Awards.

December 31, 2001: The Organizing Commission of the Letter of the Year of Miguel Febles Padrón pulled down the letter of the year for 2002. As they have done since the year 1986, for Cuba and the world in general. in the temple-house located in Av. 10 de Octubre # 1509 between Josefina and Gertrudis, Víbora, Municipio 10 de Octubre, Habana City, Cuba. The ceremony was presided by the Ifá priest Guillermo Diago “Ogbe Weñe”.

December 31, 2001: The Yoruba Cultural Association met to pull the letter for the year 2002. It was pulled at the following address: Prado No. 615, entre Monte y Dragones, Municipio Habana Vieja.


January 1, 2002: The Organizing Commission determined Ogbe Yono to be the odu ruling 2002. Shangó governed, accompanied by Yemayá. The flag was red with blue borders.

January 1, 2002: The Yoruba Cultural Association determined Oché Meji was the letter of the year for 2002. Prophecy: iré arikú elese Oshún. Yemaya governed, accompanied by Orúnmila. The flag was blue with a green border.

March 5, 2002: Renaud Simmons, the first African-American oriaté in New York City, passed away on March 5, 2002.[107]

July 16, 2002: Lazaro Ros receives the Fernando Ortiz prize in Cuba for his musical accomplishments.

December 31, 2002: On December 31, 2002, the Yoruba Cultural Association met to determine the letter of the year for 2003. It was pulled at the following address: Prado No. 615, entre Monte y Dragones, Municipio Habana Vieja.

December 31, 2002: On December 31, 2002, the Organizing Commission gathered to determine the letter of the year for 2003, with 817 priests of Ifá met, in representation of the immense majority of the branches of families in Cuba, in addition counting on the endorsement of priests of Ifá in the following countries: Brazil, Belgium, Colombia, Costa Rica, Spain, United States, Mexico, Italy, England, Panama, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela, in the house temple located in Avenue Tenth of October #1509 between Josefina and Gertrudis, Viper, municipality: Tenth of October, Havana City, Cuba. The ceremony was presided over by the Ifá priest Guillermo Diago, “Ogbe Weñe.”


January 1, 2003: On January 1, 2003, the Yoruba Cultural Association announced the letter Okana Oché was the odu for the year. The prophecy: iré arikú yale tesi elese Orúnmila (firm luck and health at the feet of Orúnmila). Obatalá ruled, accompanied by Oyá. The flag was white with stripes of color. The ebó was: One rooster, two pigeons, and two hens (to Obatalá and Oyá), hair from one’s head, used rope, stripes of colors, trash from one’s house, dirt from a road, a read parrot feather, sand from a river, raspadura de las herramientas de Ogún, ewe de Osain, rum, red palm oil, smoked fish and jutía, toasted corn, a candle, a coconut, and  opolopowo.

Pancho Quinto records with Jane Bennett again: Cuban Odyssey.[108]

January 1, 2003: The Organizing Commission announced that Ogundá Ogbe was the odu ruling 2003. The prophecy was: Osogbo Ikú intorí arojé (Death due to complaints, debates, and offenses) Olófin Onire (Olófin blesses and defends). The ebó was an offering to Eshu, 3 balls of cooked cornmeal with canary seeds. Elegguá ruled the year, accompanied by Oshún. The flag was half white and half black with yellow borders.

June 5, 2003: Baldomero Ricardo Cané Gómez, a senior member of Los Muñequitos de Matanzas and initiate of Shangó, died in the Provincial Hospital of Matanzas. He was 54 years old.

November 2003: The United States begins denying entrance to all Cuban musical groups. All visas for performance artists are systematically denied. The Bush administration quoted “security concerns” as the reason for all denials.

December 31, 2003: Organizing Commission of the Letter of the Year of Miguel Febles Padrón pulled down the letter of the year for 2004, as they have done since the year 1986, for Cuba and the world in general. in the temple-house located in Av. 10 de Octubre # 1509 between Josefina and Gertrudis, Víbora, Municipio 10 de Octubre, Habana City, Cuba. The ceremony was presided by the Ifá priest Guillermo Diago “Ogbe Weñe”. The youngest priest drew the letter, counting with the presence of a great number of national and international renown and capable Ifá priests, whose analysis and valuations are summarized in the orientations that the following document exposes.

December 31, 2003: The Yoruba Cultural Society of Cuba met to determine the letter of the year for 2004.


January 1, 2004: The Organizing Commission declares Babá Ejiogbe Meji to be the ruling letter of the year for 2004. Prophecy: Iré Omá Alaye Umbelaye lowo Olokun: Blessing of intelligence for the incapable that lives of richness. Obatalá reigned, accompanied by Oshún. The flag was White with yellow border or trimming. This information was not readily available to the world, as it was blocked by Fidel Castro and the YCA

January 1, 2004: The Yoruba Cultural Society of Cuba determines the letter of the year to be Ogundá Meji. For its part, the Sociedad draw Ogunda Meyi with the prophecy Iré Arikú oyale tesi lese Orúnmila (a firm blessing of good health because of Orúnmila) and for them Oshún rules accompanied by Obatalá. Their flag was yellow with a white border.

January 2, 2004: La Sociedad Cultural Yoruba de Cuba gave its press conference to release the letter of the year. The Organizing Commission was not able to release its letter of the year, due to financial and state-imposed constraints, until January 6, 2004.

January 11, 2004: The Organizing Commission held a tambor in honor of the letter of the year, in honor of the reigning Orishas at the Temple-House at Calle 39 # 9018, between 90 and 92, Marianao (House of Bernardo Rojas).

April, 2004: Manoclo Miller replaced Juan Garcia Fernández as the director of Conjunto Folklórico Nacional.

May 21, 2004: The first ocha was crowned in Calhoun, Georgia by Ajesola Aganyú and Oba Ala Efun (Eduardo Cruz); Nelson “Pupi” Yemayá was the oriaté. The person crowned was Milocha (real name) Oni Yemayá.[109]

December 31, 2004: The Yoruba Cultural Association met to determine the letter of the year for 2005.

December 31, 2004: The Organizing Commission met to determine the letter of the year for 2005.


January 1, 2005: The Yoruba Cultural Association declares the odu Irosun Meji to be the letter ruling 2005. The prophesy was: Ire arikú yale elese Orúnmila. They declared Obatalá as ruler, accompanied by Oshún. The flag was white with a yellow triangle in the center.

January 1, 2005: The Organizing Commission determined the letter of the year to be Ofún Tempola (Ofún Otura), sometimes called “Ofún calls the corojo.” The prophecy was: Ire aiku lowo Shango (Good health/long life at the hands of Shangó). Shangó ruled the year 2005, accompanied by Oyá. The flag for the year was completely red. The ebó was: Chicken for Eleguá, palm oil, cocoa butter, lard [that is, three kinds of oil]; the spine of a fish with head and tail attached, worn clothes, salt, and the other ingredients (the ebó goes to the bush).

July 16, 2005: The first tambor fundamiento in Georgia state was played by Tomas Antonio Biggieri de Barcadi (Otá Omi) for the Obatalá of Eduardo Cruz (Oba Ala Efun). Aña was played by Juan “el negro” and danced by “Kiki” Obatalá, both from Florida. The akpon who sang was Anibal Tejada “Scorpion” (Obairawo). [110]

December 31, 2005: The Yoruba Cultural Association met on this date to determine the letter of the year for 2006.

December 31, 2005: The Organizing Commission met on December 31, 2005, to determine the letter of the year for 2006.


January 1, 2006: The sign announced as ruling 2006 was announced by Yoruba Cultural Association to be Oyekun Obara. Prophecy was iré arikú lowo Orúnmila (Orúnmila gives good health). The governing orisha was determined to be Ogún, and he was accompanied by Oshún. The flag is a dark purple with a yellow border. The ebó that was marked was: 1 rooster, 2 pigeons, a horse bit, water from the ocean, water from the river, trap, arrow, raw corn, grass scrapings off the horse’s harness, rum, 1 candle, 2 dry coconuts, palm oil, cocoa butter, honey, cascarilla, smoked fish and jutía.

January 1, 2006: The Organizing Commission determined the letter of the year to be Ogundá Irete. The prophesy: Osogbo arun otorunwa (Diseases that appear at the moment by unknown, unexpected causes) Orúnla onire. Obatalá ruled, accompanied by Oshún. The flag was white with its borders in green. The ebó: 3 chickens, 3 nails, a flowerpot, 7 coconuts, 7 kepis (hats), and other ingredients, all for Eshu. Rogate to Orúnmila with 2 painted coconuts.

February 4, 2006: Nina Pérez, Igbín Koladé, died.

August 11, 2006: Alberto Romero Díaz, singer with los Muñequitos, died of cancer at 58 years of age.

Sources Cited:

Author Unknown. “Introduction to Santeria and Animal Sacrifice.”


. August 10, 2006. Page 1.

Babalorisha Obalorun Temujin Ekunfeo. “When was Aborisha, Orisha Worship, First Practiced by African Americans in the United States?”


. November 11, 2002.

Mason, John. 1992. Orin Orisa: Songs for Selected Heads. New York: Yoruba Theological Archministry.

Justice Kennedy. “Church of the Lucumí Babalu Aye, Inc. v. City of Hialeah Supreme Court of the United States.”


. January 2, 2005.

Marta Morena Vega. “The Yoruba Orisha Tradition Comes to New York City.” ]http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2838/is_n2_v29/ai_17534773/print]. September 23, 2006.

Miguel W. Ramos. “La división de la Habana: Territorial Conflict and Cultural Hegemony in the Followers of Oyo Lukumí Religion, 1850s – 1920s.” [Project Muse. http://muse.jhu.edu]. 18 February 2004.

Miguel W. Ramos. “Calling to the Heavens: A Tribute to the Late Lukumí Apuón Olympia Alfaro, Omí Sanyá.” [http://ilarioba.tripod.com/Callheaven.htm]. 30 August 2006.

Oba Ernesto Pichardo. “History: C.L.B.A. Resume 1974 – 1999.”


. November 11, 2002.

Babalorisha Tomas Antonio Biggieri de Barcadi (Otá Omi), interview by the author, Winter Park, Florida, 2006.

Kenneth George Schweitzer. “Afro-Cuban Batá Drum Aesthetics: Developing Individual and Group Technique, Sound, and Identity.” PhD dissertation, University of Maryland, College Park, 2003.

Olorisha Calvin J. Diaz (Oshún Niye), conversation with the author, August 30, 1966.

AfroCubaWeb. “Afro Cuban History: A Timeline.” [http://www.afrocubaweb.com/history.htm]. September 3, 2006.