With the recent normalization of US-Cuban relations, many families in Cuba and the United States have a newfound hope in being reunited soon. It is also expected that improved relations between the two countries will usher in an era of new found prosperity for Cuba, akin to what China experienced after Deng Xiaoping and Richard Nixon made similar commitments. Because Cuba has been under an iron curtain for most of our lives, the island nation, only 90 miles from American shores, remains a mystery for many Americans. It is my intention to unveil some of that mystery through the study of one fighter’s nicknames, Hector Lombard.
Hector Lombard is a Cuban-Australian fighter and Judo Olympian who some are calling the Mike Tyson of MMA. He has had at least three nicknames: Shango, Lightening and now Showheather. To understand the evolution of these nicknames and their context in the journey Lombard has made as a fighter, one must understand his heritage. Hector Lombard is a native of Matanzas, a city known as the "Athens of Cuba". Known for its rich poetic tradition, Matanzas was home to such writers as Bonifacio Byrne, Carlos Pio Uhrbach and Jose Jacinto Milanes. More importantly, Matanzas is also the repository of a rich African tradition which has survived both slavery and hispanization. This no doubt was the inspiration for Lombard’s first nickname: Shango.
According to Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr, 11.2 million Africans "survived the Middle Passage and landed in the New World, and of that 11.2 million, only 450,000 came to the United States." The rest became slaves throughout Latin America. Yes, more African slaves were sent to Latin America than were ever sent to the USA! In fact, when people often think of “Latin music”, they forget that Merengue, Bachata, Punta, Cumbia and Salsa all have their origins in the music and dances of these Africans, in their percussions, polyrhythms and call-response style of singing. The conga drum does not come from Spain.
Being both a Latin American country and an Afro-American country, Cuba has retained much that is genuinely African, such as Abakua, an the initiatory men's fraternity with roots in eastern Nigeria, the Rumba and, in one case, folk songs sung in a language that can be traced to a remote village in Sierra Leone. Another expression of the West African tradition in Latin America, which has thrived in Matanzas, is Santeria.
Santeria is a fusion of Yoruba religion with Roman Catholicism. Just as Capoeira fighters in Brazil hid their martial art in the form of a dance, Africans in Spanish colonies, like Cuba and Puerto Rico, hid their gods and goddesses by equating them with Catholic saints. The Christ Child became identified with Elegua, St. Lazarus became identified with Babalu and St. Barbara became identified with Shango. As the patron deity of the old Oyo Empire, Shango is none other than the Yoruba god of thunder and lightning. This is a very fitting name for Hector Lombard, whose physique looks like something from a comic book and who's 19 of 34 wins have come in the form of some very brutal knockouts. When Hector Lombard took the name of Shango, he was doing nothing less than equating himself with the warrior spirit of an old African empire and the thunder and lightning personified by one of its chief deities. Upon coming to the UFC, Hector Lombard changed his name to Lightening, which still retained the lightning storm connotations of Shango.
Today, Hector Lombard is an Australian citizen, residing in the USA; he goes by the moniker of Showeather. Earlier this year, he had this message for his Facebook fans:
"I will be known as Hector "Showeather" Lombard. Through any ups and downs, through any injuries, wins or losses, I will always show up and do my best. I will always continue to fight THRU ANY WEATHER."
From Shango to Lightening to Showeather, the monikers of Hector Lombard show the natural evolution of a man, as he travels from one stage of his life to the next, while retaining the core essence that makes him who he is. Cuba, Australia, the United States, through great times and bad, Hector Lombard's nicknames all share the common elements of the danger, power and chaos inherent in lightning storms. Whether he is raining down on his opponents, or whether he is enduring the trails inherent in his profession, Hector "Showeather" Lombard will look to bring the thunder on January 03, 2015, when he faces UFC veteran, Josh Burkman, at UFC 182.
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