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Accepted Paper:

The Secreto on the Internet: Santería as a virtual experience for spiritual learning  


Marta Pons Raga (University of Barcelona)

Paper short abstract:

The different uses of the Internet among the santeros in Barcelona turns this religion into a conflictive scenario. Overcoming the preservation of the secrecy, Santería is consciously produced by some practitioners as a learning path, whose virtuality becomes the cornerstone of the religious truth.

Paper long abstract:

The structural heterogeneity that characterizes Afro-Cuban religions turns the different uses and appropriations of the Internet into plural, complex, and also conflictive scenarios.

After conducting a long term research in Barcelona and its surroundings, I stress that one of the main conflicts which Santería practitioners face up with in the current context of religious transnationalization revolves around the confronting regimes of visibility of the religious secrecy (secreto) on the Internet.

Two epistemological premises will allow me to analyze in depth this conflict. First, we must conceive these religions as a synergic field in constant recomposition. Thus, the structural creativity of their practitioners has framed the visibility of the religious secrecy as a groundbreaking practice with regards to what is deemed as the traditional trend. And second, we need to understand this religious creativity in the context of what I propose to call virtual individualism. On the one hand, the centrality of contemporary subjectivity has given rise to new religious imaginaries related to holistic spiritualities that allow for and facilitate understanding the religious path as a personal one of growth and learning. On the other hand, this religious path requires sharing it as an individual experience on the Internet, especially on social networks such as Facebook or Instagram. Thus, overcoming the preservation of the secrecy, Santería is produced, consciously and voluntarily by some practitioners, as a spiritual and personal learning path, whose virtuality becomes the cornerstone of the religious truth.

Panel P064
Ethnography of Sacred Communities: Shifting Horizons of Online Religiosity