African Gods in America’s Bible Belt: The Challenges of a Santería Community in the Southern U.S.


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Members of the Afro-Cuban Santería religious community in the rural southern United States practice a living spiritual tradition that provides identity, ethical standards, and a system of biological and psychological healthcare. The challenges faced by many practitioners in this geographical region, often referred to as the ‘Bible Belt,’ result from bias, misinformation, and lack of resources for practitioners. My ethnographic fieldwork with this community focuses on exploring the needs of the community and the challenges that practitioners face: needs that include the need for sacred space, material goods used in the ritual practices of the religion, as well as access to community ceremonies. This paper looks at the complexity of Christian and Santería relationships in the South and the need for Christians to understand the effects of colonialism and ethnocentric attitudes toward members of this misunderstood religion.
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