The Story of María Towá

There is very little known about our religious history in Cuba. Unfortunately there are persons of note that have contributed greatly to our religion in Cuba and are not mentioned nor lauded for such contributions. One such person is María Towá. María Towá is considered historically to be the "Queen of the Lukumis". She was, at the time, the only true Lukumí that could read or write. She was in our tradition a female Oriaté at the time as well. One of her many contributions to our religion is that the reason our priests have the ability to kill an animal (i.e. pinaldo or cuchillo) is because of her. During the time of the early 20th century, the only persons allowed to sacrifice were the Acho Oggun. Acho Ogguns were those individuals consecrated in a ceremony allowing them to sacrifice. As the story goes, there were 3 principle Acho Oguns in Havana at the time. Those Acho Oguns were : Felipito "Ogun Bi", Remigio "Ogun Toyé", and Ñengo "Ogun Ladé". The tasks of these men were exclusively perform rituals at every function, whether it was a consecration , religious ceremony etal., these were the ones who had the exclusivity in these acts. Santeros and babalawos alike could not perform the ritual because it was an exclusive only to an Acho Ogun.

At the same time, the person who reigned in Havana was María Towá. She was in charge of what ceremony was to be performed, how it was to be performed etc. She told the Acho Ogun that they would have to perform the consecration ceremony upon her head so that she may be able to perform the ritual. She had accentuated this fact by saying that if they didn't do this they would not be able to perform any ceremony in Havana. Since she had control of the Lukumi community in Havana the point struck home. The men conceded and performed the consecration, which was directed by none other than María Towá.

After the ceremony, María began consecrating others as Acho Oguns, thus relieving the original Acho Oguns of their monopoly. In conclusion she was the person who is credited with the ability to give pinaldo or cuchillo, which in turn gave the santero and babalawo the license to perform these rituals which are sacred in our religion.

A person of reknown, Oba DiMeyi, writer of many books and recognized authority in the Lukumi tradition, came to Havana in order to consecrate Nicolas Angarica, another famous personage. Upon his arrival to Havana, he visited María Towá and she told him that his consecration in Havana was not recognized and he would not touch the head of Nicolas Angarica unless he did Ocha in Havana. this would mean that he would do Ocha twice (something unheard of at that time and of course this time). Oba DiMeyi conceded and made ocha twice. He is known as Oba DiMeyi but his name in reality is Oba BiMeyi (Twice a King).

Another interesting story came about when Ña Mariana, another Lukumisa, consecrated in Obá directly, tried to consecrate a woman of poor means and mentally challenged. This woman was named Teresa. María Towá said that Obá should not be done directly and on ignorance to this warning Teresa's mental condition worsened. After this incident, Obá was no longer consecrated directly to any person. This last Obá was performed in 1942, 3 years prior to the drums of Añá being taken to the cathedral of Havana and blessed by Cardinal Artiaga that same year.

Ms. María Towá 's singular contribution on the part of the Acho Ogun etal, was the unification in Cuba between persons of our religious tradition. And further she established a standard of practice on the island as well that is followed to this day.