This story was shot in Havana during a night of Bata, a drum ceremony for Oshun. I was there with my godmother Aconcha, a wonderful artist, and she’s also part of the Cuban Santeria. She’s on the 3rd page, far right.
The Bata took place at her friend’s house in Playa, a neighborhood in West side of Havana. Musicians were called and I was positively surprised to see they were all young musicians. I learned that Santeria was still a very lively and well anchored tradition in Cuba and not only a kind of elder occupation/religion… The host of the ceremony, Mercedes, is a girl-of-saint of Oshun, goddess of sensuality and clear stream. The color Oshun is yellow; so everybody was asked to wear some yellow clothes, or at least something yellow. I only had a guayaba, the traditionnal cuban white shirt, but that was okay. The goddess layed on an improvised altar (a porcelain elephant!) and was drapped in yellow silk.
Neighbours and friends gathered there in this little appartment, chanting and dancing, and of course drinking rhum, which added to enthusiasm! At a moment, there was a break and all the (yellow) cakes and biscuits were shared between the participants and the goddess. Soon an joyful hum gained volume.
In front of the altar was a little saucer with a bell and some bank notes and coins. Most people when entering the appartment, had a prostration in front of the altar, gived some money and ring the bell, silently asking some help or making a vow.
After the break, the chanting and dancing resumed, maybe a bit more enthusiastic, thanks to the rhum! My godmother chanted and played the drums, invoking the saints to bless all the assistance. An old lady who was until now sitting on her chair got up and started to dance with her plate still in hands, she was really possessed by the rythm, even if not in transe.
After few hours, the ceremony ended and people went but a little group stayed, still playing music and drinking rhum. A friend of my godmother asked me if I wanted to drink a “HaHaHa”, when I asked what was that kind of drink, he said “It’s a Cuba Libre !” Then we both went “Hahaha!”