The meaning behind the song “Santeria” by Sublime

The meaning behind the song "Santeria" by Sublime songs

Sublime-Santeria is a well-known song that Bradley Nowell wrote. This popular song was one of the songs in the band’s popular and self-titled album, released just a few months after the passing of Bradley Nowell. The album became a massive success, thanks to the publicity surrounding Brad’s death, plus the quality of the song itself was on another level.

Santeria quickly rose to the top among the many iconic hits. The song became one of the songs that defined the public perception of the band’s music. It’s a song that’s still considered the best summertime classic, especially with a few cold beers on the beach.

However, before we jump in into the meaning of the song, let’s have some facts about the song.

Facts About Santeria

  • The song was written by Bradley Nowell, who was the band’s frontman vocalist. However, he tragically passed on at just 28 years. His death resulted from a heroin overdose in San Francisco while touring with his band, the sublime.
  • While speaking to a music website, a former sublime bassist named Eric Wilson claimed to have written the music. According to him, Bradley would later add the lyrics to this song.
  • The production part was handled by Paul Leary and David Kahne, who are American record producers.
  • Santeria was then released officially on January 7th, 1997, with the song being the band’s second single from their third album, titled Sublime. Sublime was also the final album for the band.
  • Initially, the track was just an instrumental song known as “Lincoln Highway Dub.” It was featured in the band’s 1994 studio album known as Robbin the Hood.
  • The song did well in that it managed to appear on the U.S Billboard Hot 100. It was number 43, while in Canada, it settled at number 90.
  • It’s also important to note that the word Santeria only appears once in the tune’s lyrics.
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With this in mind, let’s dive in and understand the meaning behind the sublime-Santeria song and how it relates with the current society. 

What is the meaning behind the song “Santeria” by Sublime

Santeria is a Spanish word that simply means the way of the saints. The term is based on a religion focused on worshiping saints. A practice that’s most common in Panama, Brazil, and Cuba, among other countries. It’s also believed that California also has Santeria followers keeping in mind this is where the band originates from.

The song’s title offers a Hispanic theme, giving us a memorable opening of what it entails and the meaning behind the music. The narrator is in pain, having lost his love to another man, and hopes to win her back through whatever means.

The narrator uses two words commonly used within the Chicano culture: Sancho and Heina. According to the slang dictionary, Heina is a term that evolved from a Spanish word meaning Reina, which refers to a queen. However, contradictions suggest that the word is supposed to be spelled as “hiena,” a Spanish name for a hyena. This might be true, keeping in mind that Bradley was found of using dirty Spanish slang terms while writing his songs. 

If so, then Brandley is referring to his unfaithful girlfriend as a dog-like animal that’s not worth any respect.

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On the other hand, Sancho refers to a gentleman who steals another gentleman’s woman. Therefore, the song’s lyrics describe Bradley’s thoughts running wild while imagining things he’ll do to get revenge on the Sancho character and win back his love, Heina.

This song maintains laid-back and playful energy, with Bradley conceding at the end.

Does the Song Have an Official Music Video and Cover Songs?   

Yes, the music has an official music video that was directed by an American film director McG. However, Brandley Nowell isn’t featured in the official music video as it was shot after his tragic passing in 1996. Nevertheless, his dog, which was named Lou Dog, was featured in the video. During the video shooting, the dog bit an American actor, Tom Lister Jr, on the lip. The actor acted as Sancho, the man responsible for stealing the narrator’s love, Heina.

Due to the song’s popularity, it got many covers, including one by an American artist, Post Malone, who did the cover while in a Brisbane concert in Austria in 2018. Other well-known artists who also did the song’s cover include Megan Washington, Jack, and AVAIL.


The song simply tells a story of a young jealous ex-boyfriend planning to get revenge on the man responsible for stealing his girlfriend. He finally decides to find a new lady. However, he still intends to use violent force if he comes across Sancho. In the song’s lyrics, Bradley says he’ll stick the barrel straight into Sancho’s throat if they ever meet. People always feel bad when something is taken from them; some can even harm others to retrieve what belongs to them.

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Lyrics “Santeria” by Sublime

I don’t practice Santeria, I ain’t got no crystal ballWell, I had a million dollars but I’d, I’d spend it allIf I could find that Heina and that Sancho that she’s foundWell, I’d pop a cap in Sancho and I’d slap her down
What I really want to knowAh, baby, mmWhat I really want to sayI can’t defineWell it’s love that I needOh, my soul will have to wait ’til I get back and findHeina of my ownDaddy’s gonna love one and allI feel the break, feel the breakFeel the break and I got to live it up, oh yeah huh
Well, I swear that I, well I really want to knowAh, baby, what I really want to say, I can’t defineThat love, make it go, my soul will have to
Ooh, what I really want to say, ah babyWhat I really want to say, is I’ve got mineAnd I’ll make it, yes, I’m going upTell Sanchito that if he knows what is good for himHe best go run and hideDaddy’s got a new .45And I won’t think twice to stick that barrel straight down Sancho’s throatBelieve me when I say that I got something for his punk ass
What I really want know, my babyOoh, what I really want to say is there’s just one way backAnd I’ll make it, yeah, my soul will have to wait
Yeah, yeah, yeah

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