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Growing Focus on Africa Opens Rift among Santería Sects

By David Ovalle

[Snip] In South Florida, Santería has often been belittled by uninformed outsiders for its exotic mysticism, ritual animal sacrifices and colorful deities such as Changó, the virile patron of drumming. And scholars point to an emerging wave of “traditionalists” as evidence of the increasing worldwide popularity of religions spun from the Yorubas.

But the growth of the back-to-roots movement has kindled infighting, widening rifts between the Yoruba faiths’ spreading branches. It’s a friction particularly felt in Miami, where Lukumi has become more mainstream since the U.S. Supreme Court recognized the religion in a landmark 1993 case.

Highly visible Miami priest Ernesto Pichardo considers many so-called traditionalists nothing more than “religious tourists,” being fleeced by Nigerians, who return with strident views that their faith is somehow more authentic.

“We have our own identity. We’ve proven ourselves in this environment,” Pichardo said. “We cannot turn our religion into a village of Yoruba practice because it cannot be reconciled in this society.”

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