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Society of the DeadQuita Manaquita and Palo Praise in Cuba$
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Todd Ochoa

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780520256835

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520256835.001.0001

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(p.1) Introduction
Society of the Dead

Todd Ramón Ochoa

University of California Press

This book is about insignificant experiences, fleeting events, and minor intimacies felt at the limits of our reason. It traces the Kongo-inspired society of affliction called Palo and its practitioner-teachers in Havana. These men and women instruct their initiates in forms of thinking that celebrate the fleetingly visceral apprehension of the dead as the basis for knowledge and action. Palo is a craft of working with the dead to transform the fates of the living. For this reason, it is widely feared in Cuba as a form of witchcraft, a tag that practitioners of Palo do not reject. It is as much the art of crafting matter into fatefully powerful substances, as it is a narrative art that creates shapes of hope and fear from the silences that pervade our everyday lives. Despite the considerable air of dread that surrounds it, Cubans of all sorts are drawn to Palo when their immediate prospects seem to sour and despair enters their lives.

Keywords:   witchcraft, affliction, Palo, Palo practitioner-teachers, Havana

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