Exploring West African Spiritual Traditions in Puerto Rico by Pele Voncujovi


“Through the CCCS grant, we have been able to spread our network of Santeria practitioners in both Cuba and in Puerto Rico. We have maintained these valuable connections till this day and are still in frequent contact, sharing information and learning from each other.”


My Brother Sena and I went to Puerto Rico during Spring break 2017 to explore how West African spiritual traditions are conducted there. We stayed at an AirBnb in San Juan and visited the house of Edward Craig. Edward and his wife Judy are both practitioners of Ifa spirituality in Puerto Rico, and we had the privilege of touring their shrine and getting to pray at the various different Orishas he worked with. We went in hopes to learn and compare the ways in which Orisha practices were conducted in Puerto Rico and compare them to the practices in Cuba and in Ghana. We found that Edwards practices were very similar to those done in Cuba and had many practices that somehow resembled some spiritual practices in Ghana as well. During our time in Puerto Rico, we were able to conduct rituals for our Vodus from Ghana, and in the process, we were able to show and educate the Santeria spiritualists in Puerto Rico on how Vodu rituals in Ghana are conducted. It was a great cultural exchange.

They were extremely interested and excited to learn about Vodu spirituality in Ghana and were very grateful when we shared various traditional songs with them. We also had the privilege of engaging in an hour-long interview with a Puerto Rican Masters Degree student doing research on African Spirituality and were able to give him some valuable information. During an interview with Judy, I learned a lot about the role of women in Santeria and some of the challenges and benefits they gain from it.  I personally really enjoyed going to the store to buy chickens and doves for the rituals because it greatly reminded of how we go shopping for spiritual items and animals at the end of the year at home. It was also a great learning experience to pick up various herbs and learn the various different medicinal and spiritual uses for the different herbs. This experience made me realize the resilience of Afro-Caribbeans and their determination to keep Afroculture alive and relevant. Although the prevalence of Afro-spiritual practices weren’t as high as in Cuba, the burning passion and the eagerness to learn more about African spirituality as practiced in today’s world showed me how relevant and important our documentation project is.


“This experience broadened my perspective and understanding of Santeria and how it is practiced in the Caribbean.”



I would like to extend my deep appreciation towards the CCE for the continued support for our project and for helping us achieve new limits we never imagined reaching.

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