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Monday, November 27, 2006

The Sellers Of Santería Put Faith In The Internet

Nelson Carrasco works inside a cavernous Hialeah warehouse, under the unblinking figures of Catholic saints and African gods, surrounded by his stock in trade: hollowed bull's horns, cast-iron cauldrons and blocks of virgin beeswax, said to curry good fortune.

But the tools of his trade are decidedly less mystical: a sleek Compaq laptop and the Internet.

For years, Carrasco's parents catered to a clientele of local shops, or botánicas, and Santero priests who dropped in to purchase the elaborate trappings required by their Afro-Cuban religion.

Then Carrasco, a self-confessed computer geek, decided to take the family business online.

It's no surprise that even the most obscure commodity can be ordered on the Web. But the advent of online botánicas are a sign that Santería's reach is traveling far beyond Cuban exile enclaves like Hialeah and Little Havana, where brick-and-mortar versions have long been neighborhood fixtures.

''This is a religion that has been spread without missionaries or militaries,'' said Terry Rey, a professor of religious studies at Temple University. Full Story

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