What can an outsider ever hope to understand about "Santería," the widespread but little known constellation of Afro-Caribbean religions and cults which are mysterious by their very nature? In an attempt to unlock the mysteries of this mixture of Christianity, Yoruba religion, and spiritism (and others as well) the producers are drawn to Juan Eduardo Núñez, a Cuban refugee who came to the US in the 1980 Mariel boatlift.

The viewer meets Eduardo in his inner sanctum, a South Jersey backyard garden shed in a subdivision near Atlantic City: Eduardo enters numerous trances; a gunshot victim seeks treatment; Eduardo, possessed by a spirit named Miguel, tells us that he was captured as a slave in 1490; a young woman seeks romantic advice; Eduardo's wife, a Pentecostal, tells us that her husband is an instrument of Satan.

48 minutes
Spanish with English subtitles
DVD (NTSC)
$300 (Institutional price)

Yo soy hechicero views the subject on its own terms. It captures the intensity and confusion of the producers' own experience as welcomed outsiders at a variety of spirit possessions, animal sacrifices, love advice, healing, ancient songs and chants, and mythic storytelling, as well as everyday events that surround the ritual. It is an unusually intimate look at a community full of tumult, not just economic and physical, but spiritual as well.

While almost entirely in Spanish, the video is accessible to an English-speaking audience. Large, easy-to-read subtitles make often esoteric Cuban dialects comprehensible, yet the viewer is able to hear the original language throughout. It is presented entirely without "expert" narration.

Screenings
American Folklore Society
Rutgers University / Camden
College of New Jersey, Trenton
Artists' Television Access, San Francisco
University of Southern California, Visual Anthropology
2nd Annual Pennsylvania Statewide Latino Coalition
Athens International Film and Video Festival
Society for the Scientific Study of Religion
Taller Puertoriqueno, Philadelphia
Religious Research Association
San Francisco State University
Bilan du Film Ethnographique
New College, Sarasota, Florida
Chicago Latino Film Festival
Dallas Video Festival
Drexel University

opinion

Because of the producers' intimate access to a little-known world and their willingness to present the subject on its own terms, yo soy hechicero is able to provide an unprecedented glimpse inside the contemporary practice of Afro-Caribbean religion.

Colleges and universities have added this video to their collections for classroom and research use by students and faculty in a number of disciplines, including anthropology, film, African studies, ethnomusicology, sociology, art history, religion, Latin American studies, and modern languages.

We would like to thank the many educational institutions that have purchased the video for their support of this ongoing documentary project.

Edited at Medical Broadcasting Company, Philadelphia.
Audio mix: Scott Lehrer, Passport Recording, New York.
Post-production support: Clark Production Associates, Bethlehem.
Percussion: John Amira, courtesy
White Cliffs Media.

 

FreeCounter