Practitioners of Santeria, most notably Ernesto Pichardo, the South Florida priest who won a landmark Supreme Court decision sanctioning animal sacrifices, say the complaints -- and official reaction to those complaints -- come from a misunderstanding of his religion at best, outright bigotry at worst.How to respectfully address this one...
Neighbors said that while they respect [Coral Gables resident Noriel] Batista's right to practice his faith, they wish he would not be so public about it.Say, don't Catholics publicly drink blood and eat flesh every Sunday? Maybe I'm making a fallacious comparison, but maybe it's just that santeros are more direct about the sacrifices they make.
''I just think they should do those things away from neighborhoods, where there are no kids and nobody can see those things,'' said Ricardo Celiz, a sports anchor for Univisión's Spanish-language broadcast network, TeleFutura. His family, including two small children, lives four houses away.
''And definitely I don't want them to see any dead animals at that house,'' he said.
The tensions are understandable as second- and third-generation adherents, most of them from Cuba and other Latin countries, move up the economic ladder and out of the old neighborhoods, said Miguel De La Torre, author of Santeria: The Beliefs and Rituals of a Growing Religion in America.
The popularity of Santeria, also called Lukumi, among non-Latins is another factor -- notably black Americans embracing their African roots, he said.
''There is a fear that is rooted in racism,'' said De La Torre, an associate professor of ethics and director of the Justice and Peace Institute at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver. 'This religion is practiced by Latinos, or people of African descent. It's an element of `Oh, look at these primitive people sacrificing animals.' ''
Those fears echo the early days of the religion, which arose as African slaves in Cuba masked their religion from colonial masters by masking their orishas, or gods, with the faces of Catholic saints.
''For some people, moving up the economic or social ladder means assimilation, putting away the old religion,'' he said. 'But then you have a generation that says, `I will live in an upscale neighborhood, but I will also have my santos, thank you very much.' '
And I just couldn't help it with the song lyrics. Sorry.