Cuba’s Santeria Priests See Unrest in 2010

Paul Haven, Comcast News, Jan. 2, 2010

A panel of Afro-Cuban priests are predicting a year of social and political unrest, struggles for power, treachery and coups d’etat, and they say the world will see the death of an inordinate number of political leaders in 2010.

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“The older generations should pass their experience on to young people because times change, and the younger generation is better prepared,” said Victor Bentancourt, one of the island’s leading Santeria priests, or babalawos. “Time is growing short” for such a change.

The priests announced their forecast following a secretive New Year’s Eve ritual in which they performed religious chants and sacrificed chickens, goats and other animals.

A rival Santeria group, which enjoys official sanction from the government, came out with its own predictions later Saturday, saying 2010 would be a year of improving health.

Santeria, which mixes Catholicism with the traditional African Yoruba faith, is followed by many people in Cuba, where about a third of the 11.2 million population is of African descent.

The ceremony in Cuba is one of several New Year’s religious traditions in Latin America. Indigenous shamans in Peru last week performed good-luck rituals for peace in 2010, asking for eased tensions between Venezuela and Colombia and for President Barack Obama to normalize U.S.-Cuba relations.

Mexico’s “Brujo Mayor” or “Great Witch” is scheduled to announce his predictions on world events and celebrity affairs on Monday, and Venezuela’s Santeria priests are expected to make their own New Year’s predictions.

Cuba’s communist government has tolerated Santeria and other religious practices for years, though it long denied religious leaders official recognition. In the 1990s the government began to allow greater religious freedoms, and today even some members of the Communist Party openly practice Santeria.

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The priests said their religious ceremony revealed 2010 to be the year of Baba Eyiobe, a Santeria sign that means “double salvation,” as well as the divinities Obatala and Oya.

According to Santeria teachings, Obatala is a female divinity responsible for the creation of human beings, as well as the patron of reason and intelligence. Oya is the goddess of storms and wind, as well as ancestral spirits.

In 2009, the priests predicted a year of conflict between neighboring countries and warned of the necessity to foment respect within families.

Another priest, Lazaro Cuesta, stressed that Santeria does not teach that the year end predictions are fated to occur, and that there is still time for the world to avoid the unrest and conflict forecast in the ceremony.

“The future is in all of our hands, from the youngest child to the most powerful leaders,” he said.

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