The Kingdom of Kongo and Afro-Cuban Saints

Sunday, January 4, 2015: 11:30 AM
Bryant Suite (New York Hilton)
John K. Thornton, Boston University
Afro-Cuban religion is a widely discussed topic among anthropologists and folklorists, as well as scholars of the history of religions.  But it is rarely discussed historically, and particularly its African roots.  This presentation will examine one particular stream of African root, that is the contribution made by the Christian Kingdom of Kongo to the universe of saints that fit into many elements of Afro-Cuban religion.  By examining the specific religious blending that had taken place in Kongo over the three centuries before the main build-up of the African population of Cuba (following 1770), this presentation aims to show that Kongo slaves led the way in presenting a particular form of Catholic Christianity which allowed Africans of other nations, to connect to.  While the synthesis of Catholic saints and Yoruba gods is best known in this Cuban religion, the guiding role of Kongo has not been fully explored or elaborated, and this paper intends to do that.
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