It’s not needed to know anything about Puerto Rico or the practice of Mesa Blanca because author Hector Salva covers relevant history and culture so that the reader, no matter their background, can follow. Topics covered include which cultures and spiritual traditions influenced Espiritismo, general beliefs of its practitioners, specific spirits found in the practice, healing methods and the etiquette of attending a misa or service in a spiritual center.

Espiritismo, also known as Mesa Blanca, was once practiced by 90% of Puerto Ricans. Its origins lie with spiritism, the practice of communicating with the dead that was concurrently widespread in the mainland USA and Europe. However, in the context of Puerto Rico, these practices mixed with other traditions from the Taino population of the colonial era to the imported ideas of Allen Kardec, to the rites of Catholicism and the influences of immigrant Cubans.

Hector Salva grew up within the practice of Espritismo. He tells the story of how Espritismo came into being in Puerto Rico, was practiced widely and later persecuted by the Catholic Church and even the US government. He describes a longing to take up again the practices of his relatives and ancestors not just by him but by many other Puerto Ricans who find comfort and meaning in this tradition.  Interspersed between a methodical description of these practices, Salva shares his personal childhood stories observing his relatives and participating in la obra at spiritual centers.

Highly informative and recommended for those who seek a true understanding of Espiritismo as practiced on the island.

~review by Larissa Carlson
Author: Hector Salva
Weiser Books, 2022
pp. 222, $ 18.95