Ufahamu: A Journal of African Studies
The Vitality of Yoruba Culture in the Americas
- Author(s): Udo, Emem Michael
- et al.
How did Africans create homes for themselves and maintain ancestral practices after being forcefully taken across the Middle Passage as enslaved people into various regions of the New and Old Worlds? In the Americas, they found themselves in a place clearly distinct from African cultural and geographical landscapes and were forced to adapt to strange climates and contend with alien cultures unfamiliar to those of their homeland. Rather than being completely steamrolled by colonial pressure, however, Africans of various ethnicities actively contended with the diverse influences of the colonial context. Such practices have, in turn, shaped the continued cultural diversity of the Americas to this day. This paper explores the diffusion and vitality of Yoruba culture, in particular throughout the nineteenth century in Brazil, Haiti, Cuba, and Trinidad and Tobago, where Yoruba forms of religion, Roman Catholic sensibilities, and indigenous cosmographies formed hybridized spiritualties and worldviews. This paper interprets historical evidence alongside secondary sources and contemporary cases in order to evaluate how the conjunctural forces brought about by slavery, colonialism, and inter-culturation occasioned the formation of Yoruba Atlantic and Afro-Latinx religions such as Candomble, Santeria, and Voodoo, as well as Orisha practices. This paper also examines how such spiritualties and worldviews have contributed to the complex social and cultural composition of the Americas in the modern world. It pays special attention to the conflictual and creative energies surrounding cultural diffusion and cross-cultural migration. Although various African ethnicities were brought across the Atlantic, Yoruba cultural practices have survived with a sustained intensity.