While we were in Puerto Rico we found a fine antique shop and went in. The American expats had owned this shop since the nineties and had a beautiful selection of art and antiques. We had been to a museum and had seen a display of Santera figures including the one above, and I wanted to buy a Santera if I could. Santeras are old religious icons made by the indigenous people of Puerto Rico after the arrival of the Spanish. The Catholics wanted the natives to become Christian and insisted that the figures be Christian. The natives pretended to give in, but instead they crafted figures that bore a resemblance to their own deities. Then, when they used these figures in their religious practices they were making both themselves and the Spanish happy.
The figure we bought is a Madonna and Child carved from wood. She is wearing a velvet robe and has some kind of natural hair. The child is also wood and is wearing cotton clothing. The paint is slightly chipped, but otherwise the condition is excellent. The dealer told us that the figure dates from about 1860.More information on Santos Figures