The focus of my anthropology senior thesis is on the Traditional Yoruba Religion of La Regla de Ocha, also known as Santeria, the ways community has been formed within it, and why people attempt to find agency in it. I explore the initial desires new practitioners have when beginning their involvement with the religion in order to asses if these reasons were rooted in a desire to expand and connect within a familiar cultural community, or were they driven by political reasons, notably within pro-Black movements. My first chapter focuses on the role and importance of botánicas and their providers in building a interconnected urban community, as I argue that they are a multifaceted tools of community outreach and building for the ever-growing population of Latino and Afro-Latino migrants in urban areas that are subjected to cultural and social isolation. Since Regla de Ocha was birthed during times of colonization and the outward social oppression of Black individuals, the relationship Black individuals have with the faith has been complicated. My second chapter explores this relationship between the Black diaspora in America and their own desires to join the faith by doing a case study on The Kingdom of Oyotunji African Village in Sheldon, South Carolina and the Africanization movement that birthed it, along with other modern examples of Black unification under the religion. I argue that Black individuals intentionally join these spaces driven by the want to connect with other Black individuals and embrace common African ancestry. Ethnographic interviews were used from previous studies on La Regla de Ocha and the impact of botánicas in New York City to provide testimonies of individuals’ experiences and insights with finding agency in the faith.
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