With the settlement of Cubans in the United States, particularly after the 1959 Revolution, the Orisha religion developed in New York, Miami, Chicago, and other cities. A series of mass migrations of Cubans to South Florida transformed Miami into the center of Cuban culture in America. The orishas accompanied their worshipers across the Florida Straits, just as they had joined earlier worshipers on the traumatic journey from West Africa to Cuba.
Cuban exiles to Miami.
The earliest wave of Cuban exiles to Miami consisted mainly of middle to upper class whites. For the most part, this sector of Cuban society was either alien to Afro-Cuban religions or consulted diviners only in times of crisis. The new stresses created by the exile experience in Miami led many people to turn to the Orisha religion, given its emphasis on practical solutions to everyday life and its extensive networks of mutual aid.
In 1980 close to 125,000 Cubans arrived in South Florida during what was known as the “Mariel boatlift.” This massive exodus included people from all strata of Cuban society, a significant number of whom were Orisha practitioners. The Mariel boatlift and more recent migration have played an important role in reinvigorating the Orisha community and its artistic traditions in Miami.
Over the years, people of many other cultural backgrounds have become Orisha practitioners. Though Orisha worship is now an integral part of the American religious landscape, it is still often misunderstood and subjected to negative stereotypes. Such misunderstandings are a legacy of years of colonial denigration of African cultural traditions.