In a recent interview, Dr. Lyn Di Iorio spoke to the New York Daily News about Afro-Caribbean religions in literature today and about her first novel, Outside the Bones [see previous post New Book: Lyn Di Iorio’s “Outside the Bones”]. Here are excerpts:
As Afro-Caribbean culture has become more accepted among Caribbean Latinos and non-Latinos in the past decade or two, a number of books by Latina authors have come out in which the religions and spiritual practices related to Santería, palo monte and vodú play an important and positive part.
The latest of these is the just-released novel “Outside the Bones” by Lyn Di Iorio. The book is narrated by Fina, a Nuyorican woman known as the neighborhood bruja (witch), who does trabajitos or fufú, practical spells to solve her neighbors’ problems. [. . .]
“Although it’s often practiced by the same people, palo is not the same as Santería,” said Di Iorio. “It’s a rough magic that people resort to when they’re desperate.” Di Iorio said her interest in palo monte started after she consulted a santero in Puerto Rico following her father’s death from lung cancer in 1996. “As I left the reading, I saw this cauldron,” she said. “I asked Don Remedios what it was, and he said, ‘Ese es el muerto, me trae en un patín’.” (“It’s the dead one, he’s hassling me,” said the priest.) This was Di Iorio’s introduction to a central item in palo practice, a nganga, a cauldron containing bones and other ritual objects to represent the spirit of someone dead, who is conjured by the palero to “work” and achieve the results requested by the supplicant. “For me, the nganga was a very powerful metaphor about searching for your origins,” said Di Iorio.
The religion was brought over by Bantu-speaking African slaves and practiced first by runaway slaves in Cuba and then brought to other parts of the Caribbean, said Di Iorio. First Spanish, and then U.S., colonizers suppressed these religions as “primitive” and as a means for slaves to organize revolts; the Catholic Church condemned them as witchcraft. So practitioners often kept their rituals underground, even as every Latino neighborhood boasted a botánica, a store selling candles and other supplies for ceremonies.
Di Iorio is a literature and creative writing professor at City College, but her book is not a treatise on Afro-Caribbean religion. Instead, it has aspects of a mystery novel and a gothic ghost story. [. . .] To demonstrate the rising popularity of fiction that deals with spirituality, Di Iorio will appear with Dahlma Llanos-Figueroa on a panel titled “Magic & Mysticism in Latino Writing” on Oct. 28 at Hue-Man Bookstore, 2319 Frederick Douglass Blvd., in Harlem. Llanos-Figueroa’s novel, “Daughters of the Stone,” tells the story of five generations of Afro-Puerto Rican women from slavery to the civil rights movement. Also participating in the panel will be Marta Moreno Vega, founder of the Caribbean Cultural Center and an Afro-Puerto Rican scholar and arts worker who was one of the first to organize exhibits and scholarly discussions on santería and similar religious practices. Her 2004 book “When the Spirits Dance Mambo” discusses her initiation into santería/lucumí.
Di Iorio also will do a reading of “Outside the Bones” on Oct. 24 at 7 p.m. at Barnes & Noble, Broadway and 82nd St. The event is free, but an RSVP is required at firstname.lastname@example.org.\
[Many thanks to Sophie Mariñez for bringing this item to our attention.]
For full article, see http://www.nydailynews.com/latino/2011/10/12/2011-10-12_santeria.html?page=1