Quite a few Cubans are interested in the so-called Letter of the Year, which is already part of the popular imaginary as a tradition of the year that is born and this month in particular.
Regarded as “the most important religious event carried out by babalawos (highest priests) both in Cuba and in Nigeria, although in different dates”, the so-called Letter of the Year is already circulating on the island.
Not only in the hands of religious people, but curiosity also moves many to approach these predictions that are added to the traditions of each year that begins in the largest Antillean island.
Renowned ethnologist Natalia Bolívar, interviewed in 2011 for television show “Con 2 que se quieran”, explained that The Letter of Year is a prediction, usually highly accurate, that is read out through the Odu (tool or religious script that morally guides people through life) of the letter that is drown out, with prophesies, prayers, ruling deities, what will happen to you, what diseases will affect the most in the new year, what earthquakes and earthly problems will take place in the Universe, and recommendations...”
Natalia Bolívar herself, in the article “El legado africano en Cuba” (The African Legacy in Cuba), published in 1997, recalled that Santería (Afro-Cuban Religion) in Cuba has its origins in the slave town councils, and the first reference to such town councils dates back to 1568.
It was in late 19th century that black Sama and Lautan, of Yoruba origin, preceded by André Petit, who knew how to group and synthesize different African beliefs in a single proposal, founded “Regla de Ocha (worship of saints) or Santería”, Bolivar refers.
The slaves had camouflaged some Catholic saints with their “orishas” (deities) and incorporated spiritism practices that, coming from Haitian influence, settled in Cuba’s eastern region.
It’s come a long way since then to the present day, and currently, the headquarters of the Yoruba Cultural Association of Cuba houses the Odu drawing out ceremony conducted by the most skilled babalows of the country, who have been doing this uninterruptedly since its onset.
According to the Board Members of the Yoruba Cultural Association in Cuba, our country is the nation where cultural traditions of Yoruba religion are best treasured. Such religion was brought to our island by slaves who came from Africa —most of them belonged to the Yoruba ethnic group.When the 19th Century was coming to an end, the Letter of the Year emerged.
Babalawos from different religious branches existing in the country began to meet and carried out the stipulated ceremonies, which concluded on January 1st.
Throughout the IFA Oracle — divination board — the readings made by those Babalawos, who belong to different religious branches from all over thecountry led by the Yoruba Cultural Society in Cuba and the Cuban Council of the High Priests of Ifa, result in the Letter of the Year.
The Letter of the Year offers guidance, recommendations that we should follow during the year to avoid and overcome obstacle and difficulties.
As *CubaSi* and other mass media published, the Letter of the Year *“Ifa for Cuba and the World”*, released to the national and international media at the headquarters of the Yoruba Cultural Association in Cuba, highlighted that the Deity governing the 2018 is Yemaya along with Eleggua; so the flag this year will be half white, half blue, with black touches.
The Letter of the Year recommends not holding a grudge for things in the past and learning to forgive; to behave morally and socially, to control the excessive consumption of alcoholic beverage as well as to protect the environment and avoid domestic violence at all costs.
According to Dr. Beatriz Marcheco Teruel, from the National Center for Medical Genetics, a research carried out by professionals aiming at characterizing the Cuban population structure noted that 72 % of the Cuban population genes come from European ancestors, 20 % from African ancestors, and 8 % from American native ancestors.
African-origin genes were detected 7 % in white people, 25.5 % in mixed-race people, and 65 % in black people. “We did not find any individual whose genetic information were 100 % of European or African origin,” detailed the researcher.
Such statistics confirmed Fernando Ortiz’s statement when he said our culture is a saucy mixture. In this context, the Letter of the Year did not go unnoticed for believers or unbelievers. In Cuba, everything comes from Mother Africa.
*CubaSi Translation Staff*