Thursday, September 28, 2006

Part-2: We protected our ideas without weapons

"La Mala Lengua" / Cuba / a warning to those who tell

We preserved our ideas without books and we protected our ideas without weapons.

The concept of secret fraternal orders was not foreign to Africans.
In a hostile new world; secrecy was survival. The art of secrecy had already been ritualized for Africans. Males and females each had their clandestine rites of passage. The traditions of sacred societies such as the: Sacred Grove, Oro, Ogboni, Poro and Ikuma were well established before the slave trade.
Long before contact with Europeans; the Africans held to the principle that the truly sanctified should be guarded, concealed and secluded. The dense landscape of the tropics made it easier for Africans in the Caribbean to sequester their religion and their true identity. Of the colonial masters; it was the English who most actively prevented and prohibited Africans to openly congregate. The Portuguese and Spaniards were at times more negligent in preventing mass gatherings of Africans. The historical result is that in both Cuba and Brasil, the two most populous colonies, enslaved Africans were more able to establish places of worship. Mandatory convertion to Catholicism created the pretense that allowed for the practice of the syncretic "Santeria" and Candomble. However, the negligence of the Iberian colonizers cannot be confused with sanction and liberty. Both the Portuguese and Spanish were as ruthless as the English, Dutch and French; as the historical record provides.
The need for secrecy as the rule for preservation of the most important icons was persistent among all enslaved Africans. Only the initiated could be entrusted with the important task of preserving the wisdom of the ancestors. As it was in Africa, so it was in the Americas;not everyone or anyone was entitled or vested in the sacred. Eventually, the immutable bonds of cult members was the foundation for revolts and rebellions.