Havana People

Dance & Santeria

Chango: God of Thunder

Chango (or Shango) is one of the Orishas in the Santeria and Yoruba culture of Cuba, passed on to the next generation aurally as well as through traditional song and dance. Remember that salsa did not spring up out of nowhere – it’s origins come from much deeper roots which are the traditional dances to the saints.


Due to this there are some variations in his story, but most commonly he is described as a King that ascended and become one of the Orishas. He was a powerful and violent rules with many battles under his belt, his reign was said to come to end when his kingdom was destroyed by lightening.


Each Orisha is attributed with unique personality traits that sets each one apart, Chango is influenced by his Kingly nature from when he was human, the only saint who has been through death, he is very relatable to his followers for his human traits. He is proud and is sometimes quick to anger like a storm, but he also exudes masculinity, virility and charm with the ladies. It only makes sense that Chango has control of thunder and fire.


His human weaknesses for women is also seen after he ascends as a god, and there are many stories resulting from his passionate adventures with the other goddesses/Orishas. He had three wives including popular saints Oshun, Oya and Oba.


He is a formidable warrior and some of the traditions says that Ogun (another great warrior) is his direct rival, probably because it is said that Chango stole the wife of Ogun (Oshun) for himself.

Chango thunder god Orisha santeria

Costume and Colours

His passionate nature is reflected in his colours – RED and WHITE. 


Chango is also adorned with a beaded necklace and is often depicted in his regal costume and wearing a crown representing his kingship.

The battle axe is his weapon of choice and often represented with a wooden version.

Chango's Dance

As you can see in the movements of the Chango, he uses big and aggressive movements that make him appear large, you can see his passion for battle and dominance. His dancing is calling to the lightening, demanding it to strike against his enemies, when he extends his arm to the sky and strike downwards, the Bata drum is emphasising the moves and making the impact sounds giving you the feeling of the strike. 

Also inside the dance you can see the representative moves of Chango as he puts on his kingly clothing and crown, and highlighting that masculinity and virility. 

Remember that the music is improvised and each change of the drum pattern changes so do the movements and intentions of Chango.  

Nowdays Chango dance moves are still used, especially in Cuban Salsa. Below you can see the king of Cuban Salsa, Maykel Fonts dancing on stage with the musicians Maykel Blanco Y Su Salsa Mayor, see if you can pick out the moves of Chango and the other Orishas.