In a quest for roots as well as authenticity, African-American followers of Santeria (aka Lukumi) and related religious groups with roots in the Yoruba tradition are traveling in increasing numbers to Africa. But their attempt to adjust practices to what they have seen in Nigeria has created friction among such practitioners in the U.S., reports David Ovalle in the Miami Herald (March 28).
Those looking for answers in Nigeria have been helped by the spread of the Internet to connect with like-minded people and to discuss their beliefs. They feel that a lot of knowledge was lost during the forced migration to the American continent and subsequent times of slavery and meet Nigerian priests eager to share with them what is missing and how they can promote Yoruba culture. Such seekers often ask to be (re)initiated, either in Africa or in America.
Such returned devotees tend to engage into debates and challenge how other people are practicing this faith in America. In contrast, those who cling to practices as developed in America feel that they are better adjusted to American environment and that it makes no sense to restore African Yoruba practices. Scholars remark, on one hand, that Santeria as it exists today is largely a product of the 19th and 20th centuries with African roots.
On the other hand, there are no standard practices even in Africa. On their original continent, old tribal faiths also feel the pressure of modernity and Evangelical dynamism. Some Nigerian high priests welcome the interest expressed by Yoruba groups of believers on the American continent and consider them as crucial for keeping the beliefs alive.