I first met Pedro Abreu in 2001. David Brown had been telling me about him for a few years at that point and when David introduced us, I immediately understood David’s fascination.
The first time we met, Abreu outlined his whole history in the religion. He was born in Los Sitios in Centro Havana. He had a prenda from the African-inspired Regla de Congo from a young age, but he had not really believed in religion. In 1975, he received Asojano-Afimaye in Havana from Matilde Sotomayor—Asoninque, the famous Asojano priestess who worked with Pilar Fresneda—Asonsíperaco. The famous Ñica Fernández—Onojome and Victor—Quemafo were also there.
On February 20, 1992, Abreu made Asojano-Afimaye at the Cabildo Arará Sabalú Nonjó in Matanzas City. It had been 36 years since anyone had made Asojano there, but his godmother María Isabel Reyes—Asonsímeneco did have Asojano made direct as tradition required. At itá he given the oricha name Asonyanye, after the famous Havana priest known as El Abuelo (even Abreu does not know his real name). When Asojano spoke through Ifá, as he does in this lineage, he came with the sign Ogunda-Iwori. Abreu immediately added that this sign includes the proverb “El árbol que se podre retoña” (the tree that is pruned sprouts back again).
While Abreu did not go on about the implications of the proverb, he did recount the slow dissipation of both the Havana lineage and the Sabalú Cabildo in Matanzas. In Havana, Pilar Fresneda’s cabildo had been in the hands of Ofelia de Pogolotti, an Ochún priestess who used information to continue to honor Asojano. In Matanzas, the famous Michaela Ruiz had left things in the hands of Mayito, whose son Oscarito was now in charge. But neither Mayito nor Oscarito were Asojano priests. Abreu also traced the other towns where Arará folks lived: Perico, Jovellanos, Máximo Gómez, and Agramonte. But as he put it, “Much has been lost there.”
In this gentle, almost indirect way, Abreu positioned himself as the reblossoming tree of the Arará worship of Asojano, and in fact, it’s true. To date he has initiated at least 29 people directly to Asojano and he has given Asojano to thousands more. Like Afimaye, Abreu's vitality and charisma have motivated many people to work together in ceremonies large and small.
(Thanks to David Brown for the great portrait of Pedro.)