While conducting research, Hearn lived for one year each in two Santería temple-houses: one located in Old Havana and the other in Santiago de Cuba. During those stays he conducted numerous interviews: with the historian of Havana and the conservationist of Santiago de Cuba (officials roughly equivalent to mayors in the United States), acclaimed writers, influential leaders of Afro-Cuban religions, and many citizens involved in community development initiatives. Hearn draws on those interviews, his participant observation in the temple-houses, case studies, and archival research to convey the daily life experiences and motivations of religious practitioners, development workers, and politicians. Using the concept of social capital, he explains the state’s desire to incorporate tightly knit religious groups into its community development projects, and he illuminates a fundamental challenge facing Cuba’s religious communities: how to maintain their spiritual integrity and internal solidarity while participating in state-directed projects.
Adrian H. Hearn, an anthropologist, is an ARC Future Fellow at the University of Sydney.
Also included in the volume is Avellaneda's Autobiography (1839), whose portrait of an intelligent, flamboyant woman struggling against the restrictions of her era amplifies the novel's exploration of the patriarchal oppression of minorities and women.