Religion in Cuba has a rich history, with a blend of African, European and indigenous beliefs. Influenced by the influx of new people groups and a tumultuous political history, Religion in Cuba is best viewed by the significant periods of change it has undergone.
Before the arrival of the Spanish, the indigenous Taíno people had a complex religious system that involved worship of a variety of deities, spirits and ancestors. They believed in an afterlife and practiced various rituals and ceremonies to honor their gods and ancestors. Their religious practices were closely tied to their daily lives, agriculture and the natural world worshiping a variety of deities and spirits.
Cuba and Catholicism
When the Spanish arrived in the 16th century, they brought with them Catholicism, which became the dominant religion in Cuba as European diseases and the effects of colonialism caused a dire reduction in the Taíno population.
During the colonial period, the Catholic Church was the main religious institution in Cuba, and it played an important role in the lives of the Cuban people. Many churches were built throughout the island, and the Catholic Church was involved in education and social services. However, the Catholic Church also supported the colonial government, which led to tensions with the Cuban people.
In the late 19th century, Protestantism began to spread in Cuba, with the arrival of American missionaries. Protestantism appealed to many Cubans who were disillusioned with the Catholic Church and the Spanish colonial government. Protestant churches were established throughout the island, and they played an important role in the struggle for independence from Spain.
Communist Cuba and Religion
After the Cuban Revolution in 1959, the government began to restrict the activities of religious groups, including the Catholic Church. Many priests were expelled from the country, and religious schools and institutions were closed. However, in the 1990s, the government began to relax its restrictions on religion. Today, the dominant religious affiliation is Catholicism, with a significant number of Cubans also practicing Protestantism.
Santería and Catholicism in Cuba
Santería is a religion with roots in West Africa that has been practiced in Cuba for centuries. It is a syncretic religion that blends elements of Catholicism with traditional African beliefs. The religion was brought to Cuba during the transatlantic slave trade, and it evolved over time as slaves from different African regions were brought together and forced to adopt Catholicism by their Spanish colonizers.
In Santería, Catholic saints are often syncretized with African deities, and the two religions are intertwined in ways that can be difficult to understand for outsiders. Santería has been a source of controversy in Cuba, with some people viewing it as a form of witchcraft and others embracing it as an important part of their cultural heritage.
Religion in Cuba Today
Religion in Cuba has undergone significant changes in recent years. Although Cuba is officially an atheist country, the government has allowed more religious freedoms. Many Cubans turn to religion for guidance and comfort, with churches and religious communities playing an important role in Cuban society. However, religion still faces certain restrictions in Cuba, with the government closely monitoring and regulating religious activities.
Despite these challenges, religion continues to hold an important place in the hearts and minds of many Cubans with Proclaim Cuba’s ministry taking a prominent position in supporting the Cuban people. Through the work of our Equipping Centers, we are providing tangible goods and spiritual resources to give healing and hope as Cubans continue to struggle amidst difficult economic conditions.