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Lydia Sanchez mural Yemayá: Depicts Afro-Cuban religion that slaves brought to West

Cuban artist Lydia Aguilera Sanchez, recently visited the Twin Cities to create a patio mural and present her artwork at Victor’s 1959 Café, an authentic Cuban bistro at 38th and Grand Av. S., owned by Victor Valens. Cuban artist Lydia Aguilera Sanchez, recently visited the Twin Cities to create a patio mural and present her artwork at Victor’s 1959 Café, an authentic Cuban bistro at 38th and Grand Av. S., owned by Victor Valens. The artist said she noticed a blank business wall on a building across the street from Valens’ restaurant and asked would it be possible to paint a mural on the wall. The result is a mural depicting Yemayá, a deity in the Yoruba (Nigeria) religion, which slaves brought to the New World. Their descendants, in Cuba and elsewhere still observe the religion today. It is known as Santeria.

Aguilera shared her perspectives on African-Cuban culture in a brief interview at the Public Policy Forum KFAI broadcast last Monday. Part of the culture is this religion which includes many deities and symbols that were transported to Cuba by African slaves. The symbols, over time, were transformed. Images from Catholicism, patron saints, for instance, were changed by the slaves to become the deities and symbols of the traditional religion. A common practice of the colonizing Spaniards was to erect statues of holy images, she said. Consequently, the prominent religious figure, Yemayá, reflects Africans putting African images and symbols in place of images given them by the Europeans.

Sanchez has dedicated a great deal of her time and energy exploring Cuban history and culture. “In Cuba we have a foundation that writes about all the slaves coming to Cuba. A Black writer now directs the foundation, whose purpose is to maintain and keep records of these things.” Sanchez’s art has been a key part of the foundation replacing misinformation with the truth. On the importance of art to record culture, Sanchez said “I’ve been able to say more through my art than I have in any other form.” She said there needs to be more space for public art. “If there’s no space, they don’t know you,” she said.

Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-MN) just returned from a trip with The Elizabeth Glazier Pediatrics AIDS Foundation to South Africa where a method of combating AIDS has proven to be very productive.

The foundation has been focusing on providing pregnant women who are HIV infected the opportunity to have their children born free of the virus. At clinics women are informed in large groups on the general importance of prenatal care. They are then individually counseled and offered HIV testing. Those who test positive receive from the foundation, for less than 80 cents, Aparrifin a drug which they take during labor and which is administered to the newborn. The results to date are that over 90 percent of the children born to these mothers do not contract the HIV virus, a highly significant progress in a continent where 4.7 million people are carriers.

Commenting on President Bush’s pledge to help Africa with its AIDS crisis, Congresswoman McCollum said, “The president signed the policy into law. The second step is providing the dollars to make that policy reality. I don’t want to settle for 2 billion dollars next year. I want the full 3 billion dollars that we promised for the next five years to be there. If we can get the drug therapy there, they will use it. They will be successful.” She also said it’s important for Senator Norm Coleman and Senator Mark Dayton to support the initiative. “Then, we have to have President Bush realize promises are meaningless unless we back them up.”

Kemit Circle is a women’s health firm operating under the premise that when women are healthier all people are healthier. LaVonne Moore, who recently spent time in Ghana, is a specialist with Kemit Circle and works with organizations, communities and schools to address women’s health with cultural competence. Reflecting on her trip, she says, “One of the things that stood out was the issue of ancestor worship. It’s about respect and not idolatry.” Offering a

September 1, 2003
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