No Somos Negros: Brujeria and the Integra on of Black Iden ty in the

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No Somos Negros: Brujeria and the Integra on of Black Iden ty in the
No Somos Negros: Brujeria and the Integra/on of Black Iden/ty in the Dominican Republic What is Brujeria? Brujeria is an eclec2c religious prac2ce emphasizing a belief in God and spirits, that like many other religions, assist, reward, or punish humans. It is oBen referred to as syncre2c because it derives from European Catholicism, Taino rituals, and African Santeria. During the 2me of enslavement, colonizers prohibited Tainos and Africans from prac2cing their religion. As a way of resistance, slaves assigned each saint with a deity whose characteris2cs matched so they could praise their dei2es without being punished. Why Brujeria as the Cultural Prac2ce? It has been preserved throughout history in the Dominican Republic, it incorporates all aspect of Dominican life; food, dance, music, and skin color. In addi2on, it is one of the most socially accepted cultural prac2ces with African influence in an otherwise Eurocentric country. Methodology I chose to do field work in Dominican Republic and two loca2ons in New York; the Bronx and Washington Heights. In the Dominican Republic, I visited Villa Mella, La Vega, Bani, and Constanza. I conducted in-­‐depth interviews at the sites and aWended events where I both par2cipated and observed the fes2vi2es. In New York I did several informal interviews and more observa2on at special events. Literature Review Anthropologists and sociologists discourse on cultural prac2ces being a means for construc2ng ci2zenship and determining authen2city among those ci2zens. Throughout many places in La2n America and the Caribbean we see cultural performance-­‐ dance, music, religion, etc-­‐ as a way to integrate the forgoWen African past of its people. OBen 2mes this African past has been rejected by poli2cal powers throughout history as is the case in the Dominican Republic. The rejec2on of African-­‐ness is used to create the racial and ethnic “other,” first perpetuated through the government, then enforced throughout society. I argue that cultural performance can renego2ate na2onal iden2ty by the integra2on of a Black iden2ty. “We are black, face it. Africans are Black and we are African so we are Black. That is why those who embrace it prosper, because you do not know where you are going un=l you know where you have been. You can deny it in public, but you would be denying yourself.” -­‐Belkis Gil, Sociologist and Bruja Data Analysis Through my interviews in Dominican Republic I found consistent links between what it means to be Dominican and Brujeria. My informants all noted to the fact that you cannot have one without the other, even if one is not devout or a prac22oner of Brujeria. The literature and the research supported and contradicted each other at 2mes. Cultural performance is effec2ve in understanding and crea2ng a unique ethnic experience and Brujeria is the way it is achieved in the Dominican Republic. However, to say that the cultural performance can challenge na2onal iden2ty in a poli2cal or historical sense is simply not the case. While African iden2ty is certainly not ignored socially, there is s2ll a constant need to dis2nguish from the Hai2ans. Furthermore, those who are accep2ng their African iden2ty are not necessarily aware they are changing the way they nego2ate their ci2zenship so perhaps cultural performance does not serves as explicitly . integra2ng black iden2ty