The streets become sacred through the practice of religious traditions in public spaces. Given Miami’s diverse population, expressions of worship and symbols of various religions are seen across the city’s streetscape. In some religions, elements of the natural environment hold a special meaning, and spiritual practices like purification rituals, offerings, and requests for help are performed in outdoor settings. Some practitioners, whether alone or in a group, make use of bustling public spaces as a platform to share their religious beliefs with people from a variety of faiths. From large organized gatherings to small acts of devotion, Miamians contribute to the city’s street culture by expressing their spirituality in public.
La Purisima and La Griteria
Miami’s Nicaraguan community celebrates La Purisima, a religious holiday honoring the patroness of Nicaragua, the Virgin of the Assumption. From November through January, celebrants host parties where guests recite the rosary and sing to the Virgin. In December, people gather in the streets at a celebration called “La Griteria” or “The Shouting,” held on the Sunday closest to December 7th. Altars are constructed outside homes, churches, and stores throughout the neighborhoods of Little Havana and Sweetwater, and participants roam from one altar to another singing to the Virgin and receiving paquetes (packages) of food and presents. The celebration is open to all, regardless of ethnicity, and is a significant aspect of local Nicaraguan culture.
Griteria audio recording. 1991.
Recording of Purisima songs sung during the Griteria celebration in Sweetwater.
From the collection of HistoryMiami Museum.
At busy transit centers and on neighborhood sidewalks in Miami, religious practitioners share their beliefs with the general public through street preaching or by distributing pamphlets. Different from communal acts of worship in private spaces such as churches, temples, and mosques, street preaching is a public form of worship that allows individuals to expose their specific worldview to passersby of different beliefs. For some Miamians, including Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons, preaching or missionary work is expected of all devotees. For others, a spiritual calling and sense of personal duty inspires street preaching and the public expression of religious beliefs.
Video interview with Roger Yupanqui. 2018.
Street preacher Roger Yupanqui shares his inspiration and motivation, and preaches to passersby at Government Center.
Produced by Xavi Medina. English Transcript available here.
A Ceiba is a type of tropical tree that grows in Miami. Symbolic in the cosmologies of various religions, the tree is a significant part of Orisha worship, the Afro-Cuban religion also known as Santería or Lukumi. The Ceiba is considered an axis mundi, or a point that connects the earth to the heavens, and is associated with specific deities called orishas. In Orisha worship, divination is a means for practitioners to identify the practices and offerings they should perform to express gratitude to or request help from the orishas. Offerings may be deposited in oceans, forests, rivers, and elsewhere, including around a Ceiba, to ask for health and prosperity or to resolve problems and request favorable outcomes.
Recreated Orisha Offerings (left to right)
Offering to Eleguá.
The trickster deity associated with the crossroads, Eleguá in some incarnations lives in the Ceiba tree. Offerings reflect his colors—white, red, and black—along with candy and toys that represent his childish character. He uses a curved branch, called a garabato, to remove obstacles and clear the path for practitioners.
Offering to Changó.
Changó is the deity of thunder and fire and is often honored at the Ceiba tree because of his connection to the ancestors. An offering can include cinnamon and apples in groupings of six, the number associated with the deity.
An offering called an adimu can be made to mutiple orishas by including fruits and items associated with different deities in the pantheon. An offering is typically in a basket or on a white plate.
Offering to Yemayá.
The goddess of the ocean, Yemayá brings water to the roots of the Ceiba. An offering to her can include pomegranate and mangos in bunches of seven, a bowl of water, and items featuring her colors of blue and white.
Offering to Obatalá.
Obatalá is the father of the orishas and is associated with the Ceiba’s connection to the heavens. A white candle, symbolizing purity, along with pears and soursop in bunches of eight or two bunches of four, are examples of offerings to him.
Offering to Aganjú.
Associated with the Ceiba’s connection to the earth, Aganjú is the god of volcanoes, earthquakes, and the powers underneath the earth’s surface. His offering can include plantains or bananas in bunches of nine.
Recreated offerings made by Niurca Marquez and Yoleise Salomon.