Some of the material in is restricted to members of the community. By logging in, you may be able to gain additional access to certain collections or items. If you have questions about access or logging in, please use the form on the Contact Page.
Cultural appropriation, a highly debated topic, has deep roots in the Latin American and Caribbean context. Rather than a one-way process, appropriation affects both those taking cultural elements for their own ends, and the groups whose practices and cultures are appropriated. My thesis analyzes how Afro-Cuban religions, more commonly known as “Santeria”, were appropriated by American popular entertainment and revolutionary government programs starting in 1950s 1960s. Additionally, I interrogate how these appropriations affected how Santeria practitioners and Afro-Cuban performers constructed their identities through music and performance. Using musical recordings from Lucumi religious ceremonies and popular songs that reference the different orishas (deities) of the Lucumi that were preformed both by US and Cuban artists, I compare how different groups of people represented the orishas and the Santeria to suit their own internal agendas. Program notes and performance videos of the Conjunto Folklórico Nacional, a group established in the Revolutionary Cuba to promote Cuban culture, are also examined to determine how the state functioned as a presenter of Afro-Cuban culture while simultaneously erasing active Santeria practitioners. As well, I analyze how Afro-Cuban performers like Celia Cruz utilize Afro-Cuban religions in their songs to reflect a sense of Afro-Cuban pride. This project utilizes theories by scholars Josh Kun, Thomas Turino, Katherine Hagerdon and Peter Sigal to examine the sources which include belief structures of the Lucumi religion and its music. The thesis seeks to understand how outside processes affect the construction of identity as manifested through artistic and religious expressions. I argue that songs and their performance have an intrinsic ability to either reiterate or defy one’s social and cultural place in society.