Brief Timeline of Santeria
Selections taken from Miguel A. De La Torre's Santeria:  The Beliefs and Rituals of a Growing Religion in America (2004:  181-188)

This information is intended only as a point of historical reference and is not my original work.

Year Event
~ 500 City of Ilé-Ife is settled.
~ 1000 The Yoruba migrate to the western coast of Africa, to an area which will eventually be known as southern Nigeria.
~ 1000 The Yoruba people begin to establish kingdoms, one in the savannah (northern Nigeria) and one in forest (southern Nigeria).  The Yoruba sacred culture begins to develop at Ife, which serves as the seat of the Yoruba kingdom through the 1600s.  Also, the city of Benin is established in the rain forest area of southern Nigeria.
~ 1350 The Oyo kingdom is established by Oranmiyan who, according to tradition, was a son of Oddudúa [brother of Obatalá, an important orisha].  By the 1400 Oyo establishes a hegemony over the other Yoruba kingdoms which lasts through the 1800s.
1448 The Catholic Church provides its blessings to the Portuguese who begin to import slaves from African west coast, bringing the first African slaves to Europe and introducing Christianity to the region.  By 1472, Portuguese traders Ruy Seqira and Fernando Gomez visit the Bight of Benin, trading their goods for slaves.  Eventually, a slave-trade alliance with the kingdom of Benin is made, which continues to gain prominence with the introduction of European weapons.
~ 1500 Ilé-Ife begins to lose political power to the Oyo kingdom, although it retains its supremacy as a religious center.
1511 The first African slaves are brought to Cuba from the island of Hispaniola (present-day Haiti and Dominican Republic) to replace the decimated native population.  These first African slaves brought the orishas with them to the island.
1598 The first African cabildo, formed by members of the Zap nation, is established in La Habana.
~ 1650 - 1700 As the Benin kingdom wanes, the Oyo kingdom becomes a powerful military state thanks to its cavalry, funded with money from the slave trade.
1789 The Spanish Crown decrees the free trade of slaves in Cuba.
1790 State interference with the restriction of the cabildos' affairs in Cuba begins.
1815 The Atlantic slave trade becomes centered on the expanding sugar and coffee plantations of Cuba and Brazil.
1817 - 1835 Oyo erupts in civil war as rivals contend for the throne.
1820 The Owu and Egba civil wars begin , lasting throughout most of the century,  Slave raiding flourished as a means to raise funds for the acquisition of firearms for the war effort.  One of the tactics employed in this war was the total destruction of a vanquished town and the enslavement of the town's population en masse.  This practice would end the worship of a particular orisha in Africa, while installing a large following of the orisha in Cuba.  This was the case with Ochosi, divine hunter identified with all of the forest's wildlife.
1865 Last official slave ship docked in Cuba, although the practice unofficially continued until the mid-1880s when slavery was finally abolished.
1870 Spain adopts the Moret law, which commits to the gradual abolition of slavery in Cuba.
1877 The Spanish colonial government beings to suppress cabildos, fearing the could become a source for insurrection.  By 1884, the Good Government Law will forbid all cabildos from meeting or organizing festivals.
1880 - 1886 Slavery in Cuba is gradually abolished through a tutelage program serving as an eight-year transition period; however, two years ahead od schedule, Spain totally abolishes slavery.
1882 Cabildos in Cuba are required to obtain a license, which is renewable on an annual basis.
1888 Cuba passes a law prohibiting the formation of "old style" cabildos.
1910 Black Cubans who fought for independence create El Partido Independiente de Color (The Independent Party of Color) to force the government to consider seriously its rhetoric of racial equality and provide equal opportunity in power, employment, and services.
1912 Cuban blacks' protest against structural racism is label a race war.  Thousands of black Cubans, mostly unarmed, are deliberately butchered by white Cubans, mostly for "resisting arrest."  Yet no trace of the rumored uprising has ever been found:  no cache of arms was ever discovered, no demonstration occurred outside the province of Oriente, no white woman was ever raped or cannibalized (contrary to newspaper accounts), and no destruction of valuable property occurred.  Even so, thousands of white Cuban volunteers were given arms and paid by the government to rove across the nation putting down the revolt in any way possible.
1919 A brujo (witch doctor) craze sweeps Cuba as mass lynchings occur, fueled by rumors of santeros and santeras kidnapping white children in order to use their blood and entrails in religious practices.  These reports begin to circulate after a white girl is found dead, presumably cannibalized by brujos.
~ 1940 The term Santeria begins to be used as a pejorative term by the Catholic clerics to describe the religious practices of the Yoruba in La Habana, Matanzas, and the surrounding areas.
1940 Persecution of Santeria in Cuba wanes.
1946 Francisco (Pancho) Mora (who changes his name to Ifa Morote) migrates to the United States.  He is believed to be the first U.S. santero to establish an ilé and practice Ifa divination in New York City.  The center of orisha activies develops in the Upper West Side with Rendezvous Bar on Lenox Avenue and the Illuminada beauty parlor being popular meeting places for believers.
1954 More initiates the first santera in Puerto Rico.
1959 Walter King (who changes his name to Oba Osejiman Adefummi I) travels to Matanzas, Cuba to be intiated into Santeria, becoming the first African American to be fully ordained.  Upon returning to New York he establishes the Chango Temple,  incorporating it as the African Theological Archministry.  By 1960 he moves the temple to Harlem, renaming it the Yoruba Temple.  Also in 1959, Oba Serigman and Christopher Oliana, two African Americans, travel to Haiti for ordination.
1959 Fidel Castro succeeds in his revolution against dictator Fulgencia Batista.
1959 - 1973 Approximately 451,266 Cuban refugees, who could be considered "political exiles," cross the Florida Straits for Miami.  Although mostly from the upper and middle economic class of the pre-Castro Cuba and predominantly white and educated, some were followers of the orishas.  With them, the orishas are reintroduced to the United States - reintroduced because when the orishas first came with the African slaves, they were effectively eradicated by the slave masters.
1961 Merecedes Noble (who changes her name to Oban Yoko) is credited with ordaining the first Cuban santera in the United States, Julia Franco.  Until now, Cubans wishing to be ordained had traveled to Cuba for the rites.  Yoko went on to establish a casa de santo (house of saints) in New York City to serve as a permanent home for the ordination of devotees.
1962 Persecution of Santeria in Cuba resumes.
1964 Mora is credited with holding the first public Santeria bembe in the United States, attracting over three thousand people.
1971 The final declaration of the first National Congress on Education and Culture in Cuba states that juvenile delinquency is partially caused by "religious sects, especially of African origin."
1980 Mariel Boatlift brings over 120,000 Cubans to the United States, who unlike the predomintantly whiter refugees of previous years, are mostly of a darker skin pigmentation and of the lower economic social levels.  Forty percent of these refugees are biracial.  A large portion of them are followers of Santeria.
1980 - 1985 An increased interest in Santeria develops in Cuba due to the number of black Cuban soldiers returning from Angola.  Persecution of Santeria wanes.
1887 Ernesto Pichardo opens the church La Iglesia Lukumi Babalú Ayé in Hialeah, Florida, the first Cuban-based Santeria church.
1992 The United States Supreme Court rules that the practitioners of Santeria have a constitutional right to sacrifice animals in connection with their rituals.

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©2005 - Jennifer Ellerman