Peter Dunbar

I must weigh in with ethnomusicologist Maurea Landies on her side of the welter of opinion about what this film represents. I recognize in Juan a possibly initiated person in the Regla de Ocha, or Afro-Cuban orisha worship. Though he claims to know things that are secret, and thus things that we cannot know ourselves, I can see Juan does not show evidence of basic training in the Regla de Ocha. Now, he is not unique in this. Many initiates are untrained, for a variety of reasons. But most initiates will know, and are proud to say, who initiated them, who initiated their initiators, and have others who were present at the time to affirm their claims. We do not hear of this in the film.

Gage Averill makes the statement "...yo soy hechicero challenges many stereotypes about Afro-Cuban religion (Santerķa or the Regla de Ocha), including those of some of its advocates, reminding us that Santerķa, like Catholicism or Buddhism, has many regional and personal-idiosyncratic variants."

I have to question if Juan represents a personal-idiosyncratic variant, or a pastiche of notions about spiritual praxis that is common amongst the untrained. Also common amongst them is a claim to be a medium. One witnesses the attitude, "I don't need training, I've got a direct line to the healing power." I also don't understand why Gage Averill was intrigued at the "mediated use of music in ceremonies." John Amira is a great player and the sound track, in part, features authentic Havana-style bata, but it does not relate to the action in the film in any ritual way. If a priest is trained, and that training will include knowing a repertory of sacred song in lukumi, they can be sung by the people with an accompaniment of hand clapping, or drumming with conga drum and shekeres. This ritual integrity is an essential for there to be healing, because it is the active, conscious participation of the community makes the connection between the heavenly realms and the earthly one that is central to the African paradigm.