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Chapter 2

Amelia Pedroso

Amelia Pedroso

Amelia Pedroso, Manchester, UK, 27 March 1999
Photograph by Amanda Villepastour

The Voice of a Cuban Priestess Leading from the Inside
by Amanda Villepastour

Amelia Pedroso was a renowned Cuban ritual singer and priestess in the Santería tradition, who generated remarkable achievements in men-dominated and heterosexual contexts, openly creating a lesbian and gay-friendly ritual house in Havana and, in the early 1990s when she was in her forties, moving into a drumming domain that specifically prohibited Cuban women—although paradoxically non-Cuban women were taught in Cuba. Pedroso formed an all-women ensemble, and toured and ran workshops in the United States and Europe. She attracted women to her, acquiring a role as an iconic activist, developing a network of students and religious godchildren, and leaving a remarkable transnational legacy following her death in 2000.

Amelia Pedroso

Amanda Villepastour: "While undertaking my masters research, I first saw Amelia Pedroso perform in March 1998 in Havana but did not have the opportunity to meet her or the other musicians in her group, Ibbu Okun. In the following year when Pedroso toured the United Kingdom, I assisted with the workshops and concerts led by Pedroso in London and Manchester, filmed her performances, and conducted a formal interview along with several informal conversations, leading to two journalistic articles in Straight No Chaser and Glendora. As the UK orisha religious community was and is small, and I had been studying Cuban and Nigerian bata drumming since 1996, Pedroso took an interest in my work and experience. Our new friendship was fleeting due to geographical distance and Pedroso’s death soon after her UK visit."

Yemayá Reso

"Yemayá Reso" [.mp3], prayer for Amelia Pedroso's own oricha from the CD Emilio Barreto presents Santisimo.

For more information, see Barreto's website:

Santisimo can be downloaded at

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