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Published on May 19, 2007
This is a video I shot of some children from Los Congos de Villa Mella in the Dominican Republic. The song is among many played at burial and veneration rites honoring the dead. The community of Los Congos is comprised mostly of members from a fraternity called the Brotherhood of the Holy Spirit, which is said to have been founded in the 16th century by African slaves and people of mixed origin. Family ties, paternal and maternal, determine membership and position within the fraternity. Its members associate the Holy Spirit with percussion instruments. They have been practicing these idiosyncratic rituals for centuries. Like other Afro-Caribbean forms of Santeria in Haiti, Cuba, and Puerto Rico, these practices were originally the slaves' way of maintaining African religious traditions while ostensibly practicing the Catholicism forced onto them by the Europeans.