Tumba Francesa & Tumba Haitiana (English Version)

Frater Vameri



Haiti and Cuba are very close neighbors. Therefore, it is not surprising that intense exchanges between these two territories have taken place over time. The migration of Haitians to Cuba, in particular, occurred very intensely in two moments - while Haiti was experiencing its revolutionary state and later, in the first half of the 20th century, when they were called on as labor. There is a significant difference in the reception of these two groups. The first, generally called "French" was better accepted, the second, already identified as "Haitians", in turn, was the target of strong prejudices.


These numerous immigrants from Santo Domingo and Haiti organized what are known as the Tumba Francesa societies . The name seems to refer to something sinister, but in truth, tomb is a type of drum and dance. The use of drums (in 3 ) and bells in these groups refer to Haitian Vodou , but the Tumba Francesa is, for all intents and purposes, interested in making music. This, of course, is not able to eliminate the influence of Vodou in these societies. On the contrary, since music and dance are structural elements of Haitian Vodou. It happened then, that in the Tumba Francesa, elements of different rites and ways of doing Vodou will be amalgamated.


Tumba Francesa societies , however, have become more than just dancing groups. After the troubled Cuban independence, at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, many slaves found themselves without assistance and the Tumba Francesa assumed the role of mutual assistance. Similar to what happened in the Cuban Cabildos . It is evident that in this spirit of mutual assistance, bonds like kinship develop and that religious rituals are mixed. Of these, perhaps the most striking is the funeral, which involves not only solidarity, but also the execution of a Misa Espiritual.


It should be remembered that it is in Cabildos that Palo Monte is formed. We might think that the Tumba Francesa societies would also act as granaries for their own religiosity, but it seems that what happened was the insertion of Haitian Houngans and Mambos in Palo Monte houses , where these traditions were crossed . From this mixture came Palo traditions called Tumba Haitiana and also Tumba Francesa or even Rama Haitiana .


It is known, for example, that Haitians were known in Cuba for their great powers of witchcraft, as Lydia Cabrera tells us . Thus, we can even suppose that Haitians were invited by local brujos to join their rituals, forming new manifestations.


This was a brief introduction to some Haitian influences in Cuba and we can clearly see that Vodou is immersed in these interactions. In the future, I hope that we will be able to discuss more directly the direct consequences of this on religiosity.

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