Category: Religion and Spirituality

Exploring Mexican Judaism

I was shivering on that sunny warm Mexico City afternoon in March 2019.  The climate-controlled archives of the newly inaugurated Colección Centro de Documentación e Investigación de la Comunidad Ashkenazi de México (CDIJUM) were otherwise a delight…

Eusebia Cosme and El Cobre: Performing Sacred Histories

Muddy water rippled like brown skirts surrounding our small boat on the Toa River, where the river meets the sea in rural Cuba. My eyes traced the outline of the trees from the cacao farm where we disembarked, over to the

Water of Life

As I was conducting fieldwork in Brazil in 2014 for my recent book, about half the country was in the first year of a drought that would last through 2017. I was living in Juiz de Fora, a medium-sized city in the state of Minas Gerais, about three-hours inland from Rio…

Rituals of Resistance

When I first passed along the Guatemalan lakeshore to the Cofradía Santa Cruz, where Maximón spends much of the year, I was out walking. I didn’t know where I was…

A Review of The Price of Gold

English + Español
I loved to be in the Chocó. My work on a biodiversity conservation project allowed me to travel frequently to the seldom-visited northwest fringe of Colombia. The…

The Body as Layered Divinity

I am a practitioner in the Afro-Cuban spiritual-religious tradition, Regla de Ocha-Ifá. What is the tradition, you might ask? You might be familiar with Regla de Ocha-Ifá as Lukumí…

Sacred Smoke of Copal

Dozens of Mexican-American women stand in front of their computers at awkward angles. Most are muted per proper Zoom etiquette; many have their eyes closed and hands outstretched. Turning to face…

My Ancestors’ Keys

When I was a child in Havana, we lived half a block away from the Patronato, also known as Temple Beth Shalom, the Jewish community center built on the eve of the Cuban revolution of 1959. I was too young when we left Cuba to remember it…

A Quest for Contemporary Maya and Aymara Spirituality and Identity

I remember Coba, Quintana Roo, as a remote and sleepy Maya village in the 1990s, which had to be reached by a good hour-long drive on a narrow road inland from Tulum. We stayed at the Villa Arqueologica, an upscale hotel, at that time the only tourist hotel in Coba…

Picturing Calixta

My longtime friend Calixta Gabriel, a Kaqchikel Maya poet and spiritual guide had decided the time had come to unbury her past. As she revealed her history to me, I discovered

Híbridos, the Spirits of Brazil

Eight years ago, in 2013, I received an unexpected email from French filmmaker Vincent Moon, who was looking for a Brazilian partner to undertake an ambitious project: a poetic and…

In Monsieur Chouchani’s Footsteps

Monsieur Chouchani—occasionally spelled “Shushani”—is a ghost, at least allegorically. His real name might have been Hillel Perlman, or perhaps Mordechai Rosenbaum, although neither of these options is certain. His death was recorded in…

Evangelicals in Latin American Politics

In February 2006, while doing field research in Peru for the doctoral dissertation that would become Presidential Campaigns in Latin America, I attended a rally for Humberto Lay, a neo-Pentecostal

Herbs, Roots and Magical Remedies

English + Español
The evening of March 25, 1631, a woman named María de Archuleta, of about 30 years of age, was summoned by the Inquisition in Santa Fé, New Mexico. When…

Growing up Jewish in Chile

English + Español
I grew up Jewish in Chile, that long, narrow country that extends to the very tip of the South American continent. As I listen to the ebb and flow of the waves of the Atlantic where I

Mexican Yiddish and Secular Jewish Identity in Mexico

Visitors to the Casa Azul in Coyoacán, Mexico City, can walk through the house of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, admiring their collections of folk art, oddities, masterpieces, and furniture. As a student of literature, I was most drawn to their bookshelves during a visit there…

“Axé, Capoeira!”

Abby “Dendê” Rehard is a Ph.D. student in Musicology at Florida State University. Since she first encountered the sounds of the Portuguese language and samba drumming in 2010, her research interests have centered in Afro-Brazilian movement and music forms like…

A Residual Note on Weeping

One of the last things I remember doing on the Harvard campus before quarantine was to hurry down a narrow and winding staircase to the underground levels of the Fine Arts Library. I had recently learned about a Black Cuban artist named Belkis Ayón Manso…

Shamanic Tourism

Today it is hard to find someone who has not heard of the infamous hallucinogenic plant mixture called ayahuasca commonly prepared from the stems of Banisteriopsis caapi and the leaves of Psychotria viridis or chacruna. The brew, well known for its purging and visionary…

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