Rodriguez demonstrates faith, wearing white for year

By Sofi Kerpan

Since June 20, 2009, Yasnai Rodriguez, Div. 031, has worn just one color (or lack thereof)—white. Her favorite color is pink.

As a member of a Yoruban religion called Santeria, Rodriguez is currently partaking in a year-long commitment that entails wearing all-white clothing, a white hat, and skirts on a daily basis.

“It is like a promise that I make for the religion. It is one of the things that we have to do when we are initiated,” Rodriguez said, “It shows my faith.”

June 20 will mark the formal admission of Rodriguez into her religion, complete with a celebration. She will then be able to practice the religion independently and pass it on to others.

Consistent with most religious color symbolism this initiation values white as the color of virginity, purity, innocence, and cleanliness. It also helps to preserve family traditions.

“It is a religion my family has been a part of for a long time…I have grown up in the religion and have seen my family go through the same thing, so it was just a matter of when it would be my turn,” she said.

Originating in West Africa over 6,000 years ago, notably Nigeria and Benin, the Yoruba religion spread as slavery took many ethnic Yorubans to the New World. Different regions developed their own versions of Yoruban religion. It flourished in Brazil and Caribbean islands, including Cuba, where the Rodriguez family first adopted it.

“We believe in God, we just have different names for him,” Rodriguez said. “We have similar beliefs to Catholicism.”

Major doctrines of Santeria are contact with the divine saints (called orishas), destiny, reincarnation, and appreciation of nature. Rodriguez is very open to talking about this and the pledges she has made, in most cases.

“My religion isn’t as uncommon as many think. When I am asked about it I am happy to answer questions, I just don’t like when people already have a [preconceived] idea about me or my religion. Many people are ignorant and show no respect for other people’s cultures and beliefs, which upsets me,” she said.

Fortunately, Rodriguez’s friends have been very supportive of her initiation, but others remain less friendly.

“There are some people who stopped talking to me completely [this year],” she said.

Despite this, Rodriguez remains devoted to her promise. It hasn’t been much of a challenge for her, yet it carries heavy meaning.

“This year has gone by so fast that I think I could [do this forever],” she said. “It is something I will never forget.”

With just under five months to go, she knows what she will wear on June 21.

“JEANS!! I haven’t worn jeans in forever,” she said.

Until then, she will continue her promise with dedication and selflessness. However, she points out that she is also a normal teenage girl.

“I do everything other people do. I just [have to] wear white for a year.”