Photographs Accompanying This Report
C.I.B. YEARLY REPORT 1995 [Miami-Dade County Florida Police Department]
C.I.B. - March 1995 - Intelligence Review
The Supreme Court ruled that the City of Hialeah ordinances against the ritual
animal sacrifice in the Santeria church was unconstitutional and that practitioners
of this religion were entitled to conduct their ceremonies as prescribed by their
African traditions and customs. Blood sacrifice, the worshipping [worshiping] of
the sacred stones and the ritual use of herbs and plants characterize Santeria as
a true African-American syncretism that grew out of West African Yoruba traditions.
SYNOPSIS OF THE SANTERIA RELIGION
by Det. Amy Godoy and Raphael Martinez, MA, MS. Ed.
Santeria is an Afro-Caribbean religion which is becoming more widely practiced in North American as immigration continues from Latin America and specifically Cuba. The rituals of this religion are bizarre by conventional western standards and often result in reports of criminal activity or lead police to presume that a criminal act has been committed. Police Officers investigating alleged criminal actions by practitioners of these religions should be familiar with the meaning and potential relevance of religious artifacts and cult practices.
SYNOPSIS OF THE SANTERIA RELIGION
By: Detective Amy Godoy and Rafael Martinez, MA, MS Ed.
Photographs Compliments of Dr. Charles Wetli and Rafael Martinez
Detective Amy Godoy
Ms. Godoy has been with the Metro-Dade Police Department since 1984. She worked as a police officer for the Kendall and Doral districts until 1987. She was subsequently assigned to the Community Affairs Bureau and the Child Exploitation Unit. Her current assignment is with the Criminal Intelligence Bureau. Ms. Godoy helped facilitate training in Ritualistic Crime Investigation which is offered by the Dade County Medical Examiner Department and the Metro Dade Police Training Bureau.
Mr. Rafael Martinez, MA, MS Ed.
Mr. Martinez is Coordinator and Director of Training and Substance Abuse Prevention for the Metro-Dade County Department of Human Resources. He is also a training consultant for numerous local, state and federal law enforcement agencies including the Dade County Medical Examiner's Department, the US Drug Enforcement Administration and the Metro-Dade Police Training Bureau. Mr. Martinez is the senior instructor of the Ritualistic Crime Investigation Course. He has co-authored numerous professional articles on Santeria and related subjects.
SYNOPSIS OF THE SANTERIA RELIGION
By: Det. Amy Godoy and Rafael Martinez, MA, MS Ed.
Santeria is an Afro-Caribbean religion which is becoming more widely practiced in North America as immigration continues from Latin America and specifically Cuba. The rituals of this religion are bizarre by conventional western standards and often result in reports of criminal activity or lead police to presume that a criminal act has been committed. Police officers investigating alleged criminal actions by practitioners of these religions should be familiar with the meaning and potential relevance of religious artifacts and cult practices.
Origins of Santeria
Santeria is a religion popular among Hispanics in general and Cuban-Americans in particular. Like other Afro-Caribbean cults practiced in Miami, such as Haitian Voodoo, Obeah and Brazilian Candomble, it blends African religion with some aspects of Christianity. The Spanish, French and Portuguese introduced African slaves to Christianity and, partly as a compromise to ensure cultural survival, the slaves depicted the various African deities with facsimiles of Roman Catholic saints (a phenomenon known as syncretism). The gods and goddesses of Santeria are of West African origin, specifically of the Yoruba culture of southwestern Nigeria.
The beliefs and rituals of Santeria
According to the beliefs of Santeria, each person is born under a particular guardian saint (Orsha) that must be worshipped [worshiped] throughout life. The guardian saint is central to all rites and magic performed in Santeria. An essential part of those rituals involves the use of herbs, roots, flowers and plants. Most of these and other religious paraphernalia may be purchased from stores called "botanicas" which are found throughout Dade county.
Most formal Santeria rituals also require the use of sacrificial birds and animals. Each of the saints is ‘fed' his or her favorite food or sacrifice. The blood of roosters, turtles and goats is the most common offering. Birds such as pigeons, canaries and hens are used in rubbing rituals where the practitioner is cleansed-the evil supposedly passing from the victim to the animal.
Santeria practices or magic are most often used as a strategy to resolve conflicts both within and between persons. Through a set of symbolic rituals, practitioners are believed to achieve relief from various forms of emotional, social and physical disabilities. Practiced within the bounds of non-medical and psychic healing, which is generally the case, Santeria is a neutral or benevolent magic religion. Santeria does not promote malevolent or criminal activities, but it does have a component of malevolent sorcery that is often used by criminal individuals for their own purposes. Santeria does not have a specific moral code such as found in Judeo-Christian religion and, as such, is amenable to enhancing the criminal enterprises of those who may use its magic for personal protection and good fortune. Drug dealers, for example, are often found with elaborate statues and other depiction of Santeria in their homes or hideaways. The god of hunting and owner of traps (Ochosi), for example, is often honored by Latin criminals in order to avoid incarceration or to obtain release from jail, or ward off the police.
Ritual Sites and Houses or Worship
Ritual sites of Santeria practices reflect the objects of worship and purpose of the ritual-essential information for police investigators who suspect criminal activities. A general overview of the organizational structure and beliefs of these practitioners is essential to an understanding of these religious accouterments.
Priests and priestesses in the Santerial religion are known as "santeros" or "santeras" and high priests are known as "babalawos". Both men and women can become initiated into this religion. The order of the high priest or "babalawo" is only reserved for males. These practitioners specialize in divination to predict the future and interpret significant omens in the consultant's life.
The Santeria practitioners organize themselves under what is known as "casa de santo" or literally ‘house of saint'. Each new initiative in the religion is sponsored by a "padrino" or "madrina (‘godfather' or ‘godmother') who is responsible for teaching the newcomer the "secrets" of the religion. This same godfather/godmother has numerous other individuals that have become full-fledged practitioners under his/her guidance as well as individuals who have consulted them once or twice for minor problems (such as love magic, prosperity, minor health problems, etc.).
The estimate of how many individuals practice Santeria in the United States varies. Authors such as Migene Gonzalez-Wipler (1973, p.10) have placed this number at over one hundred million practitioners in the Americas. Other more conservative estimates place this number in the hundreds of thousands in the United States. Conservative estimates for the South Florida area point to about 10 to 15 percent of the Hispanics being either full-fledge practitioners or "dabblers" in Santeria rituals. It must be mentioned that many followers of this religion maintain strict secrecy regarding their religious involvement. A good index of the popularity of Santeria is the number of botanica stores found throughout Dade county. Currently, there are approximately 60 botanicas catering to the needs of Santeria followers in the greater Miami area.
Afro-Cuban Santeria (Yoruba) Mythology
To the Santeria practitioners, religious mythology plays a major role in adding logic and depth to the symbolic nature of their practices.
Understanding the myths and legends of each god or goddess is essential in determining what animals or foods are offered, what colors are associated with the deities, what ceremonies are conducted on particular days of the week, the specific dances performed, and a host of other details pertinent to the religion. It is important to point out that these myths and legends are real and meaningful to the members of this religion.
The following is a description of the most popular Orishas:
Also known as Echu, is the guardian of the crossroads. All rituals are first begun by invoking Eleggua. He is known to punish those who do not respect him. He is a restless god, and for his own amusement causes much annoyance to mortals. It seems that even among the other deities, he is a bit of a practical joker, though at times not very funny. The colors of Eleggua are red and black. His numbers are 3 and 21.
He is considered the creator of the world. The father of all the Orishas and the god of peace. His color is white and the numbers are 8 and 16.
Queen of the seas and goddess of motherhood. She is depicted as a virtuous mother, prudent, intelligent, and at the same time warm, human and happy. Her colors are blue and white and the number is 7.
Goddess of love and lust. She is depicted as being sensuous, witty and wicked. She is also the goddess of rivers, lagoons and gold. Oshun represents all things sweet, beautiful and voluptuous. Her colors are yellow and gold and the number is 5.
God of virility and strength, also of thunder and lightning. Above all he is representative of unbridled sexuality. There is no deity more vehement nor energetic. His color is red and white and the numbers are 4 and 6.
The god of all things made of iron and mineral. A warlike god. He is symbolized by machetes, picks, shovels, hammers, and any object made of steel or iron. His colors are green and black and the number is 7.
God of illnesses and seer who can look into the future. His colors are purple and brown or purple and yellow and the number is 17.
He is the god of hunters and spell casters. He is also known as a god of justice. He is frequently associated with the police, the jails, and the legal system. His color brown and beige and the number is 3.
Santeria is a religion readily encountered among Hispanic populations in the United States. It is important for police officers to remember that this religion by itself does not foster overt criminal activity. However, the religion is often used by criminals to foster and further their criminal enterprises. Also devotees often feel they are protected by the deities and may therefore act in rash and unexpected ways that could endanger the safety or life of a police officer.
Police officers often encounter ceremonial sites in homes in the course of serving warrants or conducting other unrelated investigations. Depending on local ordinances, there may be violations related to animal cruelty due to ritual animal sacrifice. Recent U.S. Supreme Court (reference case) ruling has allowed for the ritual sacrifice of animals that does not involved animal torture or cruelty.
"Santeria: A Magico-Religious System of Afro-Cuban Origin", Martinez, Rafael, MA, and Wetli, Charles V., MD, The American Journal of Social Psychiatry, Volume II, Number 3, Brunner/Mazel, Inc., New York, NY, 1982.
Santeria: African Magic in Latin America. Wippler-Gonzalez, Migene, New York: Anchor Books, 1973.
Illustrative cases selected from: Wetli, CV and Martinez, R: Forensic sciences aspects of Santeria: a religious cult of African origin. Journal of Forensic Sciences 26(3): 506-514, 1981.
A mulatto Cuban man died from multiple gunshot wounds after being chased by another Cuban man. The victim was clad in pants and sport shirt covered with multicolored glitter, which was also found in his shoes. In his possession was a small gold-plated tack hammer and a gold-plated flashlight. Background investigation revealed the victim was a practitioner of Santeria and would often wear shoes of dissimilar colors and eye glasses with one dark and one clear lens. Three days earlier he had threatened to cut off the head of his eventual assailant and offer it to the saints. This later proved to be the actual motive for the shooting.
Comment: The defendant was found guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced to 20 years in prison. The case emphasizes that the threats and beliefs of this cult are regarded seriously and there is at least the potential for homicide. Also, violent retaliation is feared by those who would betray some of the secrets of Santeria or intimidate santeros.
A 42-year old Cuban man was a primary defendant in a celebrated drug conspiracy trial. He visited his madrina (a Santera godmother) one evening for a ceremony to cleanse his spirit. A dice throw indicated the trial would not go well for him. Shortly after midnight he was dressed all in white and left alone in a room as a concluding or transitional phase of the ritual. He was found dead the next morning.
Comment: A postmortem examination was performed, and his death was attributed to a cardiac dysrhythmia secondary to hepertensive [hypertensive] cardiovascular disease. Although the death is regarded as natural, practitioners of Santeria may well attribute supernatural powers to the death. Thus, the ceremony to cleanse the spirit implies appeasement to a particular Orsha. The failure to satisfy or appease the Orsha may result in punishment, such as bad luck (the trail for drug smuggling) or death. The dice throw was a divination ritual. However, it is more likely that coconuts or seashells were used for this instead of actual dice.
Ritual animal sacrifice and the U.S. Supreme Court: the case of the Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. vs. the City of Hialeah
The U.S. Supreme Court decided on the constitutionality of the City of Hialeah ordinances prohibiting the ritual sacrifice of animals in the Santeria Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye, headed by Mr. Ernesto Pichardo who is an initiated high priest of the religion.
The Supreme Court ruled that the City of Hialeah ordinances against the ritual animal sacrifice in the Santeria church was unconstitutional and that practitioners of this religion were entitled to conduct their ceremonies as prescribed by their African traditions and customs. Blood sacrifice, the worshipping [worshiping] of the sacred stones and the ritual use of herbs and plants characterize Santeria as a true African-American syncretism that grew out of West African Yoruba traditions.
Photographs Accompanying This ReportEND Document