High priest figure

In part because of the ties linking New York City to the Caribbean, the New York Times periodically covers the influence that the African-influenced religion called Santeria wields both in New York and in the Caribbean, in particular Cuba.

This story from about a decade ago is a good example, and offers a good overview of the religion and its history:

Published: Monday, January 27, 1997

The recreation room is thick with cigar smoke by late afternoon. Three drummers frantically pound sacred drums, enticing worshipers to crowd around and step to the pulse. A singer chants insults in an African language, hoping to anger the santos, or deities, into appearing.


Suddenly, a woman draped in white shudders violently. Her eyes glaze, then roll back into her head. She reaches for her forehead as if to soothe it, all the while twirling low to the ground, round and round, massaging the intricate rhythms of the drums. Yemaya, the deity who symbolizes the sea and masquerades as the Virgin Mary, has finally come into the room. Yemaya has possessed her.

Read the entire article here.