Sacred Inheritance

Diego Luis

“Afro-Cuban cosmologies, from Lukumí to Abakua, have historically faced repression on the island. During the colonial period, these spiritualities emerged in enslaved communities as adaptations of West African beliefs in a Catholic society with Caribbean materialities. During much of the past century, these religions remained largely underground and are still sometimes referred to only as “initiation rites” in order to escape scrutiny. The recent, hemispheric efforts to recognize and celebrate Black history have, in many ways, heightened public interest in Afro-Cuban culture. This year’s first ever Bienal international art festival in Matanzas (May 2019) involved the city’s many Black communities in the festivities. Accompanying the displays of art were initiatives to educate Black neighborhoods like La Marina and Pueblo Nuevo on the centrality of their histories and cultures to global human heritage. Accordingly, the festivities incorporated public displays of Afro-Cuban spiritual practices and active conversations about the importance of these religions as unifying elements in Cuban history. The inclusivity of this year’s Bienal in Matanzas was unprecedented. This series expresses the intensity, diversity, beauty, and religiosity of Afro-Cuban performance and dance.”





An all-women group of dancers and drummers pays homage to Cuba’s patron saint, La Virgen de la Caridad de Cobre during the closing of the Bienal art festival in Matanzas.


A procession to Oshún leaves an offering in the Yumurí River.


A dancer opens himself to spirits during a rumba at the Callejón de Hamel.


The Afro-Cuban Barrio de la Marina commemorates the Bienal art festival in Matanzas with a rumba.


Diego Luis is a PhD Candidate in history at Brown University. His photography has recently appeared in The Tischman Review, Glint Literary Journal, About Place Journal, december, and West Texas Literary Review.