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Reviews of Afro-Cuban Myths: Yemaya and Other Orishas

“Rómulo Lachatañeré’s “Oh, Mío Yemayá!” originally published in 1938, was a pioneering attempt to transcribe twenty-one deistic myths (or patakíes) of the Regla de Ochoa into intelligible Castilian. Overcoming the view of African culture as inferior, prevalent in Cuban society of the time, as well as the erosion of the myths brought about by their transculturation and the risk of ‘whitening’ Afro-Cuban folklore, the collection has become an essential volume in the study of Cuban ethnology, alongside the works of Ortiz and Cabrera. Christine Ayorinde’s lively translation, the first appearance of “Oh, Mío Yemayá!” in English, avoids over-Anglicisation at all costs and pays attention to the flowing, oral style of the original. In particular, the formulaic phrases that end many of the tales prove surprisingly rhythmic in English. With Jorge Castellanos’s introduction outlining the socio-cultural significance of Lachatañeré’s work, a glossary of Afro-Cuban terms and accompanying illustrations, “Afro-Cuban Myths: Yemaya and Other Orishas” provides the Anglophone enthusiast with an attractive primer on the central mythology found in Santería.”

British Bulletin of Publications

“Most of the myths are quite brief. Although they are no more graphic or gruesome than uncensored Greek and Roman myths, these uncensored Afro-Cuban fables (just like original Greek, Roman, and many other myths) are emphatically for mature readers only. “Afro-Cuban Myths” includes stories of taboo subjects such as a son submitting to the incest of his mother, and tragic tales such as a wife who sacrifices her ears for her husband yet is then rejected for compromising her beauty. The black-and-white illustrations perfectly complement this recommended addition to mythology shelves.”

Midwest Book Review

“A collection of myths from the Yoruba branch of Afro-Cuban religions, the Spanish original of this book (1938) was a pioneer publication in the field. Lachatañeré interviewed a practitioner of the most widespread Afro-Cuban religion; taking special care to maintain the oral style in the development of the stories, he reveals the freshness of the narrator’s perspective as he outlines the cosmological fabric created by the encounter of the African people with the Catholic religion. The book includes stories of important deities that will help the reader understand the conceptual world of the believers. Those interested in learning about Afro-Cuban music, art, and poetry will find in this translation an introductory manual to the language, certain foods used in ceremonies, and the role of divination and figures such as the trickster. Jorge Castellanos, a scholar who has published widely on the influence of African culture on Cuban society, provides an introduction that places the author’s work in its social and cultural context. The volume includes a short glossary and a selection of songs and prayers dedicated to the deities. Summing up: Recommended. General readers.”

— O.B. Gonzalez, Choice