Historical and Ancestral Origins
Son music has roots in Yoruban sacred music which originates from Nigeria. African based religions arrived in Cuba around the late 1500s during the inception of slavery (Hodges 35; Leymarie 10). Its folkloric tradition is surrounded by mysterious rituals, burnt offerings and animal sacrifices to the Gods. In those days, Afro-Cuban slaves circumvented Catholicism, the new religion imposed upon them, by melding with their own to give the appearance of having assimilated Catholicism (Díaz; Hodges 18-19; Leymarie 12).
The slaves did not relinquish their culture; they substituted the names of their African gods with the names of the Catholic saints. For example, Obatalá became the Creator, God Himself as monotheistic religions describe this all-encompassing spiritual guiding force. Their god of war Changó was renamed Santa Bárbara or Saint Barbara. Yemayá, the sea goddess became the Virgin of Regla, an outlying suburb of Havana. Their native prayers were translated from Yoruba to Spanish; which later evolved into a liturgical language called Lucumí, a Cuban dialect of Yoruba.
This paper explores how the Cuban Diaspora has formed connections and forged a new identity around music, meanwhile reinforcing the resiliency, adaptability, creativity and autonomy of the Cuban people in the midst of crisis and uncertainty. Arts and culture are not just forms of entertainment, but messengers and affirmations of culture and spirituality. These are all manifestations of a collective identity, which becomes personal. Popular music acts as a conduit that people filter their own experiences through. Throughout Cuban history, patterns of travel and emigration have molded the identity of the people and defined generations (Gleason 113).