Catholics, Chango, Culture, El Fangito, Luisa Aldea, Mesta, Moors, Music, Nigerian, Puerto Rico, San German, Santiago Apostol, St. Peter, Vigigantes, Yorubans
Originally Posted six years ago on one of my other blogs.
(Multiculturalism, good, bad or indifferent?)
Man invents frontiers and borders for himself. If he would just stop there it would be one thing; but he doesn’t. He attempts to imprint his frontiers and borders on others.
Maybe these cultural differences that we talk about are actually good for us. Men, women, beings; they all must have Something (capital S intended) to believe in. Maybe it isn’t the “Something”, maybe it is the strength of the belief that really matters. The “Something” could just as well be “something.” It does not have to be a deity. Possibly it is a belief that the human race, collectively, will keep adding to instead of subtracting from this earth. When the atheist believes strongly that there is no god, then the strength of his belief is as valid as one who does believe. How many gods can exist? Maybe One. Possibly more. Or none?
My words above intend to raise the following question. Is the strength of a belief as good as the belief itself? If two people have two different belief systems can they live with each other, next to each other, and get along? Or must they imprint their beliefs on the other until they “win?” Is it better for each to hang on tightly to their own beliefs and yet be able to utilize the good they find in the other’s beliefs to enhance their own?
The circular argument that I offer has to do with the small village of Loiza Aldea, Puerto Rico. Prior to defining Loiza Aldea I am required to take you back to Iberia and Africa in previous times.
In Spain the miraculous appearance of St. James the Apostle (Santiago Apostol) is a legend. The embattled Catholic Militias had fought for centuries to displace the Islamic Moors who had captured Andalusia; the southern section of the Iberian Peninsula (el Andalus). This miraculous appearance of Santiago Apostol gave the Christian militias the will to fight. After five hundred years the Moors were driven out.
Subsequently, but definitely not in a just manner, these militias became controllers of the Catholic sheep raising cartel. Their common name was the Mesta. The farmers in el Andalus were severely misused by the cartel. The Mesta was allowed to herd and drive its sheep wherever it wished. Farm crops were overrun and destroyed by the sheep.
Compensation was not required to be paid for the damage. The famished and desperate people migrated from Spain by the thousands; many of them establishing their new homes in Puerto Rico.
In Africa, shortly thereafter, Nigerian Yoruba Tribes were decimated by Islamic slave traders. Some of these slaves were brought to Puerto Rico to work the farms.
Eventually the class gap between rich and poor Spanish immigrants grew wider. Many poor Spanish families squatted on the swampy lagoons of Carolinas east of Old San Juan. This squat village became known as El Fangito (the swamp). Over the years some of these families were joined by Yoruban families. The people of El Fangito were eventually forced to move. Their own government destroyed their homes that rested on stilts above the muddy lagoons. About the same time escaped slaves and freemen had previously migrated to Loiza Aldea where a Native Indian (Taino) compound existed.
The native Taino had, as their queen, “Yuiza.” The Yoruban population had, as their warrior god, “Chango”, who had fought the Islamic slave traders. The Spanish had, as their patron, “Santiago Apostol.”
Each July in Loiza Aldea a ten day festival is held to commemorate the victory of Santiago Apostol. But the borders and frontiers are in voluntary disarray. The local people voluntarily take on the persona of the “Vijigantes”; the Islamic slave traders. These locals dress in colorful and blousy costumes with frightful masks made of coconut shells. Multiple images of Santiago Apostle, Queen Yuiza and warrior Chango share the streets with each other.
St. Peter, patron of the local church, also holds a prominent place. The flag of Loiza Aldea is flown with its multi-cultural simulacrums of the yellow Yoiza River. Meanwhile the bells of the church of St. Peter also appear on the flag.
God and metaphysical thought remain ignorant of borders or cultural frontiers in Loiza Aldea. They remain unaffected by the time or space that the ancestors of the local people occupied. Yet their God (a trinity of Spanish, African and Caribbean cultures) is now one, or if you prefer, One.
Across the small island of Puerto Rico other cultures developed. People believed strongly, no matter whether they belonged in an agricultural area, a devout Catholic area or the new metropolitans that were emerging.
On the opposite corner of the island from Luisa Aldea was a city that had been transplanted in the 1600’s; San German. Originally it was located on the southern coast of Puerto Rico; near the Phosphorescent Bay. After being pillaged several times by pirates the village made a decision. They packed their belongings and several religious artifacts that had been salvaged. With a strong belief in God they hauled their treasures fifteen miles through mountainous jungles to their new San German. The town remains a devout Catholic center.
All of these cultures of Puerto Rico remained strong in their individual beliefs. None of these cultures imposed on each other. Rather, they set an example of what was good in each culture. Those who wished to adopt another culture, partially or whole, did so. Those that did not; did not. Today these cultures live in harmony with each other.
Governmental politics are another matter.
But I must leave politics behind in order to visit a more beautiful place.
I will not bore you with more of my own words. I now allow you to see the history of one of the most beautiful and cross-cultural peoples of the world: PUERTO RICO!
The History of Loiza Aldea
The Festival of Santiago Apostol; 1949
The Festival as it was in 2006
The Culture and Music of the Farmers in Puerto Rico; 1930
Today and Yesterday on the opposite corner of the island; San German