“As a child, I remember thinking there’s just something not right, but then again at the same time, what could be wrong where my parents are taking me into these ceremonies and what could be wrong with what we’re doing?”
When she was a little girl, Linda Correa spent her Sunday mornings attending Catholic mass, but under the cover of night, she and her family followed a darker religion called Santeria—a cult-like practice that merges Catholicism with voodoo-type ceremonies and saint worship.
Santería is a system of beliefs that merges the Yoruba religion (which was brought to the New World by West Africans imported to the Caribbean to forcibly work the sugar plantations) with Roman Catholic and Native American Indian traditions. These Africans carried with them various religious customs, including a trance for communicating with their ancestors and deities, animal sacrifice and sacred drumming. In Cuba, this religious tradition has evolved into what we now recognize as Santería, and as a result of the ongoing Cuban and Latin American migration to the states it continues thrive here as well.
“My parents took us to these ceremonies, these prayer meetings, these séances,” Linda tells us.
Linda says the rituals were downright frightening.
“I saw manifestations,” she recalls. “I saw people possessed. It was a brief possession, but I saw just people turn ugly, people that are not normally bad. They became like these horrible people after the spirits took over their body.”
Linda and her brothers also feared their godmother and the influence she held over their parents.
“I would just compare her to like a cult leader, because it seemed like she had some control over my parents that I can’t understand. She used to be very verbally abusive to us, and sometimes she got physically abusive. My parents didn’t really do anything about it.”
When her brother Isaac was a teen, he took a stand against their godmother.
“During the ceremony, a spirit went into a lady and she became very flirtatious. She was cursing. She was very sexual. She was almost like a prostitute. My brother questioned, ‘If this is a good religion, if this is a good thing, why is she acting like a prostitute? Why is she cursing like that?’ I guess my godmother noticed that he was questioning Santeria. What she did was actually turn us against him.”
Around this same time, Isaac made a new friend. He started going to church with him and reading his Bible.
“He kept coming home and saying, ‘What you’re doing is wrong. The Bible says you’re not supposed to be worshipping idols.’”
She continues, “We were angry at him, because nobody likes to be questioned about their religion. He kind of started opening up our eyes.”
One night, Isaac came home and smashed all the family’s statues. Linda says, “I came home and I found my mom crying, because the statues were all over the floor. My brother was in a fury. He smashed all the idols on the floor, and my mom was devastated.”
After the statues were destroyed, Linda felt a shift in her family. “It was like a curse was lifted. Little by little, we stopped going to the ceremonies. It’s ironic how my parents would go to these ceremonies to obtain luck and good fortune and we had the opposite. We were living in hell.”
Linda’s family broke away from her godmother and from Santeria, but it was a few years before she was truly free. At age 20, Linda was going through a painful divorce.
“I got married, and it only lasted about five months. I was devastated. It was that point in time that I was hurting the most that I turned to God. I remember giving my life to Christ and from then on my whole life changed. He gave me strength and He changed me. I became a new woman.”
Over the next few years, her relationship with God continued to grow.
“I considered Jesus my friend. I had a hunger for God. I wanted to know everything about Him, and it was the first time in my life that I read the Bible in its entirety. I had never done that before. I just started gaining wisdom, and I wanted to just learn all about this wonderful God that delivered us from this horrible evil cult.”
Today, she has something that Santeria could never give her.
“I have peace. I have joy,” she says. “I’m not going to say I don’t have any problems, but I won’t turn to Santeria to resolve my problems. I will turn to the Bible. I will turn to my Jesus.”