A few years ago, I had the opportunity to visit Venezuela. At that time, it was easy to move around the country so it seemed like a great idea to go hunting for amazing beaches. On one occasion I moved further than planned from the sea to look for a sacred mountain and I had then I discovered this mystical place.
Venezuela’s Santería originated in Sorte, a mountain in the state of Yaracuy. There, its followers worship spirits that mix Christian and African influences with the indigenous customs of the region. The most amazing thing of all is that, on that mountain, it is said that the spirits descend to the earth.
When I heard this, I didn’t think twice. I just needed someone from the area to help me understand Santeria. Soon I got the contact of a shaman who allowed me to witness one of his rituals.
The ceremony exceeded my expectations. The “descents” are raw demonstrations of faith. We were next to an altar full of images of saints and surrounded by dozens of burning candles. The highlight, however, was a man in a trance: it was in him that the spirits were possessing to speak with us.
It was very intense and exhausting and the next morning we resumed our trip feeling depleted. It was then when my little santero miracle happened. I came across a food stand under palm leaves. There was only one plate on the old chalkboard: the cachapa.
I have never been so thankful for food. That modest local specialty, made with simple ingredients, had the ability to awaken the soul. Just what I needed. A corn cake piled with a generous portion of Guiana cheese and the juicy crumbs of a roasted pork leg. Its vivacious flavor saved my life. That humble delicacy made me feel the earth again under my feet. That was how, out of curiosity, I discovered spiritism and the lifesaving cachapa.
That same stuffed corn cake is now on Anita’s menu. Our version based on that day, at least. As simple, delicious and miraculous as the one that crossed my path in Sorte.