Pilar Fresneda—Asonsiperaco

In the early 20th century, the legendary Pilar Fresneda—Asonsiperaco carried the dynamic traditions from the Cabildo Arará Sabalú Nonjó in Matanzas to Havana City. The stories about Fresneda are many. Some say she was born in Africa, consecrated to Asojano-Alua, and came to Cuba at age seven. Others say her mother was freed from slavery in Africa, and still others claim it was her father who was African-born. Some say she went to Havana as a child, and others claim it was much later. Similarly, some say she was 80-something when she died, but her son El Bate said she was 102 or 103 when she died.

As Arará elder Milagros Sequiera Palma tells it, Fresneda left the Matanzas cabildo in a conflict over the emerging community in Havana. Fresneda wanted to carry the cabildo’s sacred drums to Havana to play at a drumming ceremony, but cabildo powerhouse Michaela Ruiz would not allow it. Fresneda then sponsored the creation of new set of sacred drums, and these were recognized by the Matanzas drums and drummers as legitimate.

A capable and charismatic priestess, Fresneda worked closely with her goddaughter Taurina Montalvo—Enujere, serving the babalawos of Havana and initiating hundreds into the secrets of Asojano Arará. In fact, her children Bartolo and Victor were both active babalawos in Havana.  Matilde Sotomayor—Asoinque sang when they played the Arará drums, which were played by Victor—Quemafo. Together they built a new Arará cabildo in Havana until Fresneda joined the ancestors in the early 1960s.

Matlide Sotomayor

(Thanks to David H. Brown for images of Pilar and Matilde, and for the info on Bartolo and Victor.)


  1. Thanks to David H. Brown for images of Pilar and Taurina, and for the info on Bartolo and Victor.

    The second picture is labeled as Matilde--should it be labeled as Taurina? Or is this text here the one in error?

  2. Thanks for the catch, Ian. This is the challenge of not having an editor before publishing and of trying to multi-task. Fact is I was also looking at a picture of Taurina as I was finishing this post up.
    Thanks again.

  3. Magnificent summary friend I belong to the branch there was arara majino that comes from pilar fresneda his name in the saint it was asonsiperapo

  4. ase o, por favor esa no es taurina es matilde sotomayor, estoy a la busca de una foto de taurina pues nada mas había una en su casa de pogoloti y todo eso fue botado, me dijo matildita,hija de matilde, y la hija de la chata que alguien iba a traer una foto, yo espero me dejen sacar una copia, pero de seguro esa es matilde, yo viví en casa de taurina montalvo onu ere, safalu

  5. Hola Hugo,
    Indentifiqué la foto como Matilde Sotomayor con su nombre debajo de la foto, así que estamos de acuerdo. ¿Puede compartir una foto de Taurina? Seguro que la interesaría a muchas gentes. También sus experiencias en la convivencia con ella y los otros mayores.


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