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The Allure of the Naza

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Part of the Analecta Husserliana book series (ANHU, volume 65)

Abstract

“The Nazarene has told me that he will take care of my friends ... The little black man of Portobelo has told me that he will take care of my friends.” So sang the late, great Puertorican salsero Ismael Rivera, proclaiming the covenant that devotees of the Cristo Negro de Portobelo — the Black Christ of Portobelo, claim to have with a 17th century Spanish colonial religious statue that resides in the Iglesia de San Felipe in Portobelo.

Keywords

Smithsonian Institution Caribbean Coast Phenomenological Reduction Divine Intervention Ritual Performance 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Naza is one of the many nicknames for the Cristo Negro de Portobelo. It is an abbreviation of el Nazareno,meaning the Nazarene. The people of Portobelo are fond of giving friends and loved ones affectionate nicknames, and the Cristo Negro is not an exception. He is also known as el Negro, el Negrito, el Cristo and el Santo. There are few individuals in the village who do not have at least one nickname. I am called Fuga Fuga.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    As a doctoral candidate at New York University in the late 1980s, I relied heavily on Don Ihde’s ideas regarding “doing phenomenology” outlined in Experimental Phenomenology, An Introduction (Albany, New York: State University of New York Press, 1986). I have combined some of his principles with the ethnographic research methods outlined by James P. Spradley in Participant Observation (Forth Worth, Texas: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc., 1980 ) in order to develop my own experimental research method. I am presently working on a paper entitled “The Research Methods of an Artist-Ethnographer” that will provide an in-depth discussion of my experimental research methodology (in Marsha Meskimmon and Martin Davies, eds. Reconceptions: New Ecologies of Knowledge ( London: I. B. Tauris Press, 2000 ).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Alfredo Castillero Calvo, “Provincia de Colon las Ferias de Nombre de Dios y Portobelo,” Suplemento Educativo Cultural, Enero 15, 1987.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Jdhe describes phenomenological reduction as “working rules or directions for the way the investigation may proceed.” By stepping back from ordinary ways of looking, the researcher will be able to see the phenomenon as it reveals itself. After suspending ordinary ways of looking, I have been able to observe the subtle behavior of devotees that led to my conclusion.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    For a very good discussion of santos, see Thomas J. Steele, Santos and Saints, The Religious Folk Art of Hispanic New Mexico ( Santa Fe: Ancient City Press, 1994 ).Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    I was told that the reason only men are allowed to change the figure is to respect the privacy of Christ, who was a man.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    The potencias are three metal objects in the shape of rays emanating from the head of the figure.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Notice also the use of the familiar pronoun tu, or te that speaks to the level of familiarity devotees have with the Naza.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    In addition to being a crossroads for humans for centuries, the isthmus of Panama has also been host to a very diverse group of wildlife. According to scientists at the Smithsonian Institution Tropical Research Lab in Panama, the diversity of Panama’s wildlife, in particular of birds and fish, is due in large part to its geographical location.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    According to Roberto de la Guardia G., and Jorge Kam Rfos in Los Habitantes del Istmo de Panama (Panama City, Panama: Editorial La Antigua, Universidad Santa Maria La Antigua, 1993), captured Africans from the following cultures and countries arrived in Panama during the colonial period: Val, Monrovia (Liberia); Mina, Bafïon (Guinea); Arara, Ewe, Fon (Benin); Congo, Cuango (Zaire); Mozambique (Mozambique); Mandinga, Jolofo, Berbesl (Senegal); Lucumf, Yoruba, Carabalf, Biafra (Nigeria); Angola (Angola); Balunta (Portuguese Guinea); Fula (Sudan); Gana (Ghana); Bula, Capi, Yolongo, Bram (Sierra Leone); Terranova (Santo Tomé); Soso (French Guinea); and Cancan, Popo, Cremonl, Casanga, Gago, Chalk.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    The Yoruba are a highly respected ethnic group with a history and culture dating to the second millennium B.C. See Babatunde Lawal, “From Africa to the Americas, Art in Yoruba Religion,” in Santeria Aesthetics in Contemporary Latin American Art, ed. Arturo Lindsay (Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1996 ), pp. 2–37.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    For a discussion of cultural encounters in the Americas, see Miguel “Willie” Ramos, “Afro-Cuban Orisha Worship,” in Santeria Aesthetics in Contemporary Latin American Art, ed. Arturo Lindsay ( Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1996 ), pp. 53–56.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    See Isabel Castellanos, “From Ulkuml to Lucuml, a Historical Overview of Religious Acculturation in Cuba,” in Santeria Aesthetics in Contemporary Latin American Art, ed. Arturo Lindsay (Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1996 ).Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    For an in-depth discussion of the role of art in a West African religion, see Babatunde Lawal, “From Africa to the Americas, Art in Yoruba Religion,” in Santeria Aesthetics in Contemporary Latin American Art, ed. Arturo Lindsay (Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1996 ).Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Unpublished note. Padre Venancio recounted the contents of this note to me in Portobelo, on 19 October 1998.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    next 21st...“ is a reference to the following 21st of October — the Feast Day of the Cristo Negro.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Spelman CollegeUSA

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