Mystery author, Vinnie Hansen, has a new book out, Black Beans and Venom, which I had the chance to pre-read (loved it!). It’s a classic mystery with taut elements of suspense, but what really fascinated me about it was the descriptions of Cuban Santería. After my hoodoo research, anything remotely related to voodoo tends to catch my eye. (Note: While voodoo and Santería both share Afro-Caribbean and Catholic elements, they are two different religions). So I asked Vinnie to share a bit about what she learned.
The Santería influence shows up all over Cuba. In 1992 Cuba revised its Constitution removing references to the country as Marxist-Leninist, opening the door for a resurgence of religious worship. Along with strictly Christian religions, Santería has grown in popularity since that time. One can see initiates dressed in white walking the streets of Havana or Trinidad.
When my husband and I went to Cuba in 2010, we visited a Santería church in Trinidad where we could see the complicated mix of Catholicism and beliefs imported from Africa with the slaves. The patron saint of Cuba, La Virgen de la Caridad, Our Lady of Charity, is linked to the orisha Ochún, a goddess of love and dancing represented by the color yellow.
Along with religious freedom, Cuba has begun to allow some private business. One flourishing industry is the renting of rooms in houses—casas particulares—to tourists. We stayed with families during our entire three-week trip. Tucked into one living room corner, a black saint stood on a pedestal, surrounded by offerings of rum, cigars, and flowers.
Drumming is also an integral part of Santería celebration and has provided the clave beats we often associate with Cuban music.
In my book, one of the main characters visits a babalao, or babalawo—a high priest. For this scene I had to rely on my friend’s first hand experience, right down to the sacrificed goat and pigeon on the altar.
No one wants P.I. Carol Sabala to take the case. Her boss is apprehensive about an illegal investigation in Cuba. Carol’s boyfriend worries about her physical safety. But the client is rolling in dough, the office has unpaid bills, and Carol chafes under the mundane tasks assigned to her.
In Old Havana, Carol sets off to track down Megan, the client’s missing daughter, who is battling metastasizing cancer and running from a sociopathic boyfriend. Struggling in the exotic world of the island, Carol races to find Megan, before the disease or her ex-boyfriend kills her.
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About the Author
Author of the Carol Sabala mysteries, Vinnie was a 2013 Claymore Award finalist for Black Beans & Venom, her seventh book in the series. She’s also written many published short stories.
Retired after 27 years of teaching high school English, Vinnie lives in Santa Cruz, California. Discover more at http://www.vinniehansen.com, Goodreads, Facebook, and misterio press.