Folk religions such as Santeria and the cult of Maria Lionza are growing in popularity in Venezuela. This rise of Santeria can be put down to an influx of Cubans. Former President Hugo Chavez provided Cuba with subsidised oil in exchange for qualified doctors and other skilled people, who brought their beliefs with them.

Santeria Venezuela
Federico Parra/AFP
Santeria Venezuela
An image of the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez is displayed with idols of deities in a temple in the Sorte mountains in YaracuyFederico Parra/AFP

Santeria originated among Yoruba slaves transported from west Africa to the sugar plantations in Cuba. Forbidden to practice their own religion, they incorporated the slave owners' Catholic practices into their rituals.

Followers of Santeria practise animal sacrifice, and go into a trance to communicate with their ancestors and deities.

In Caracas, shops have sprung up selling live chickens and goats destined to be sacrificed in Santeria rituals. The blood of sacrificial lambs is drunk straight from the jugular at initiation and healing ceremonies.

Santeria Venezuela
Federico Parra/AFP
Santeria Venezuela
Federico Parra/AFP
Santeria Venezuela
Federico Parra/AFP
Santeria Venezuela
Federico Parra/AFP
Santeria Venezuela
Federico Parra/AFP

Along with Santeria, Venezuela is home to a sect surrounding the indigenous goddess Maria Lionza.

Believers flock to the mountains of Sorte in Yaracuy, west of Caracas, for spiritual cures. A CBS report described how they are given a tea-like drink and made to chew a cigar, which forces them to vomit; this is seen as the first stage in the healing process.

They are then led into a stream and rubbed with herbs and rum and then made to lie on a flat rock surrounded by candles to expel the evil spirits.

Santeria Venezuela
Federico Parra/AFP
Santeria Venezuela
Federico Parra/AFP
santeria venezuela
Federico Parra/AFP
Santeria Venezuela
Federico Parra/AFP