The Yoruba people, of which there is at the present time more than 25 million, occupies the western South corner of Nigeria, by all the edge of Dahomey and it extends until he himself Dahomey. At the east and the north, the Yoruba culture arrives at its limits in the Niger river. Nevertheless, ancestral cultures directly related to the Yorubas bloomed to the north of Niger (Map). The archaeological discoveries and the genetic studies indicate that the ancestors of the Yorubas can have lived in this territory from prehistory. Archaeological evidences indicate that a society proto-Yoruba with high technological and artistic levels, was living to the north of Niger in the first millenium on ours was, and they already had knowledge of the iron.
The Ifa theology raises that the creation of the humanity occurred in the sacred city of Ile-Ife, where Oduduwacreated mainland of the water. Much later a unknown number migrated towards Ile Ife. In this point the western ones were sinergized with African Eastern and some hypotheses cradles in the similarity of the Egyptian sculptures and the found ones in the city been of Ife, indicate that the originating Yorubas can descend from the Oduduwa of Egypt and that these founded the first kingdoms. The Yorubas called themselves the children of Oduduwa.
These Yoruba city-kingdoms comprised of more than 25 kingdoms, all of them centralized. Of all of them, it is Ile-Ife, the universally recognized as most important. Is believed that its foundation dates from year 850. His eternal rival, the kingdom of Oyo, to the northwest of Ife, was based approximately towards the 1350 DC. The Oni (king) of Ife and the Alafin de Oyo still are considered as Yoruba kings and they respect them in Nigeria by the people. Other important kingdoms were Itsekiri, Ondo and Owo in the Southeastern, Ekiti and Ijesha to the northwest and the Egbado, Shabe, Ketu, Ijebu, and Awori in the southwest.
The Portuguese explorers discovered the Yoruba cities and their kingdoms in century XV, but cities such as Ife and Benin, among others, have been in their sites by hundreds of years before the European arrived.
The kingdom of Oyo was based with the aid of the Portuguese arms. At the end of the 18th century takes place a civil war in which one of the sides obtains the support of the Fulani, that in year 1830 took control of the control of all the Oyo empire. The Fulani invasion pushed many Yoruba towards the south where the towns of Ibadan and Abeokuta were based. In 1888, with the aid of a British mediator, Yorubas and Fulanis signed an agreement by which they regained the control on its earth. In 1901 Yorubaland it is colonized officially by the British empire, who settle down an administrative system that maintains great part of the structure of Yoruba government.
During all these years Ife maintained its vital importance like sacred city, cradles of the Yorubas and it bases of its religious thought. Until recently time, the Yorubas was not considered to themselves like a single nation. Rather they were considered like citizens of Oyo, Benin, Yagba, among other cities. These cities considered the inhabitants of Lakes and Owo, for example, like foreign neighbors. The Yorubas kingdoms not only fought against the Dahometans, but also to each other. The Yoruba name was applied to all these people related linguistically and culturally by its neighbors of the north, the Hausas.
The typical old Yoruba cities, were urban centers with farms to his around that they extended by dozens of miles or more. Oyo and Benin were founded by kings of Ife or their descendants. Benin directly obtained its ritual knowledge of Ife, and the religious system of Ifa divination expanded from Ife not only through all the Yoruba territory, but that reached to everybody. A system of common Yoruba beliefs dominated the region from Niger, moving towards the east to the Gulf of Guinea in the south.
It was not by accident that the Yoruba culture expanded through Atlantic until America. Hunters of European slaves captured million of African violently and they sent them in overloaded negreros boats towards America. Wars for slaves began from the kingdom of Dahomey against some of the Yorubas kingdoms, and similars wars between such Yorubas, took these wear prisoners as slaves available for their transportation towards America. Yorubas slaves were sent to English, French, Spanish and Portuguese colonies in the new world, and in a great part of these places, the Yorubas traditions survived with great force. In Cuba, Brazil, Haiti and Trinidad, the religious rites Yorubas, beliefs, music and myths are enthroned to the present time. In Haiti the Yorubas was called Anagos. Haitian religious activities gave an honor place to the rites and Yorubas beliefs, its pantheon includes numerous deities of Yoruba origin.
The slavery in the United States was very different from other colonized regions. The language and the culture of these captives were cruely eliminated, where the African received the capital punishment generally to exert their practices.
In Cuba, it happened a process of mixing of the Yoruba religion with the catholic, giving rise to a new system, known as Rule of Osha or Santería, that is the one that with more force has extended to Latin America, the United States and Europe. This resurgence in popularity and interest of the adaptation of Yoruba and Ifa with the catholicism, arrived at the United States through the Puerto Ricans in the 40 s and the 50 s (which previously had received it from Cuba) and soon in the 60 s with the flow of Cuban refugees.
In Cuba, the pantheon of the Yorubas deities has survived intact, next to a complex of rites, beliefs, music, dances and myths of Yoruba origin.