Afro-Cuban Myths: Yemaya and Other Orishas

A moving collection of myths and tales, Afro-Cuban Myths was first published in 1938 under the title Oh, Mío Yemayá! These stories lead readers into a marvelous and magical world: the extraordinary imaginations of Afro-Cubans. Destined to become a classic in its field, it was the first to gather a sizable sample of Cuban patakíes (myths) characteristic of the Regla de Ocha (or Santería), the most widespread Afro-Cuban religion practiced on the island. These fantastical tales represent the profound response by the Santería to some fundamental questions of popular theology and philosophy.

Rómulo Lachatañeré had to overcome prejudices that consider the religion and its associated literature undeserving of intellectual attention while he penetrated the secrecy in which black believers cloaked their beliefs and practices. They were fearful — with good reason — of attracting disdain, desecration, and persecution. The book also features an introduction by Jorge Castellanos, who has published widely on the influence of African culture on Cuban society.


Romulo Lachatañeré, author (1909 – 1952) was the first Afro-Cuban intellectual to write extensively on Afro-Cuban religious practices. Together with Fernando Ortiz and Lydia Cabrera, he was the founder of Afro-Cuban research and made it part of the Cuban heritage. His main works offer a description of Santería and fall somewhere between ethnology and literature.

Christine Ayorinde, translator, formerly at York University, Ontario, is the author of several articles and book chapters on Cuban religion and identity.

Siegfried Kaden, illustrator is a paiter and book designer living in Havana, Cuba and Munich, Germany.