CUBA: RELIGION, STATE AND CULTURE - Студенческий научный форум

XI Международная студенческая научная конференция Студенческий научный форум - 2019


Соловьева Е.С. 1
1Владимирский государственный университет имени А.Г. и Н.Г. Столетовых
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The dominant religion of Cuba is Christianity. According to the Roman Catholic Church, 60% of the inhabitants of the country are its followers. However, Christianity on the Isle of Freedom is in most cases modified by the traditions of the African Yoruba people, brought to Cuba during the slave trade. As a result of the synthesis of the Catholic provisions and the African cult, several variants of a peculiar religious trend, called Santeria, were formed [1]. Followers of this tradition prefer to be called Lukumi, and perhaps this syncretic religion is most common among Cuban society. On the island there are several other religious areas with a smaller number of followers, as well as a considerable percentage of the atheistic population.

According to the Roman Catholic Church, 60% of the population of Cuba is Catholic, of which only 5% attend Mass regularly. However, according to an independent study by the Pew Research Center, 59.2% of Cubans are a total proportion of Christians, including all denominations. Catholicism played an important role in the history of Cuba from the moment when in 1492 a few days after arriving in the New World, Columbus Island was discovered. Colonization began in 1511[2]: Conquistador Diego Cuellar founded the Catholic Church in Cuba with the first priest, Bartolome Casas, known as the "protector of the Indians." Since then, the Catholic religion in Cuba has become the faith of most of the people who inhabited the island.

However, after Fidel Castro came to power in 1959, restrictions were imposed on church activities and even the Christmas holidays were banned. After the end of the Cold War, the atheistic principles set forth in the Cuban constitution were eliminated [1]. Catholics got the opportunity to join the party since 1990. Christmas became a national holiday since 1998, and in the same year Pope John Paul II made an official visit to Cuba, meeting personally with Fidel Castro. In 2012, Benedict XVI also visited the island and became a guest of Fidel and Raul Castro.

Also in Cuba, there are other branches of Christianity. The Protestant religion in Cuba was introduced by the British in 1741 and especially spread after the conquest of the western part of the island by the British in 1762. Since the 1990s, the era of church growth in a state called the Great Awakening, the number of Protestants has increased significantly and by 1998 reached 400,000 active followers, compared with the 500,000 Catholics attending the service. In recent decades, the country has witnessed a rapid growth of Evangelical Protestants, whose membership today is estimated at 5% of the total population, including Baptists, Pentecostals, Presbyterians, Anglicans, Methodists and Lutherans. Other Christian denominations are represented by the Greek Orthodox Church, the Russian Orthodox Church, and the marginal movements of Jehovah's Witnesses and the Mormon Church.

Cuba is the cradle of such a phenomenon as Santeria - the interweaving of Christianity, West African and some Indian religious traditions. During the 16th and 19th centuries, many Lukumi (Yoruba) slaves, originally from West Africa, were brought to the island to work on sugar plantations. They were distinguished by a special diligence and gentle disposition, because their number amounted to about 34% of the total number of slaves in Cuba. Religion Santeria developed from the cult of these tribes, mixing at the same time with elements of Christianity, which allowed the slaves to maintain their traditional beliefs and practice the practice of Catholicism. For example, «La Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre» (Our Lady of Mercy) is the Catholic patron saint of Cuba, is considered its symbol and is highly esteemed by the population of the island. Santeria, it was related to the African goddess Ochun, whose day now coincides with the important Cuban feast of Our Lady of Mercy on September 8. Another example: variants of this religion are practiced by the Palo Monte and Abakua sects, who spend most of their pseudo-Catholic liturgy in African languages. According to a US State Department report, up to 80% of the island’s population, one way or another, uses the services of people practicing Santeria, be it consultation, divination, healing, or divination [3].

Religion "voodoo" came to Cuba from Haiti, and its followers are primarily migrants from the island of Haiti. This religion has a rich cultural history and an interesting combination of creeds from other religions. As a spiritual tradition, "voodoo" appeared in Haiti during the French colonial slavery. “Voodoo” is a more or less intact African religion, and its Christian elements are part of the colonial heritage. Voodoo religion originates from Dahomey (north coast of the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa) and the Congo (Congo River basin and the Atlantic coast in western Central Africa). In both regions, there was a long process of changing religions, caused by the fact that no tradition was considered orthodox and was thus capable of flexible adaptation. The population of the Congo considered themselves Christians. In Dahomey, the basics of Christianity were also familiar. Life on the plantations forced the rapprochement of people from different parts of Africa [4]. Slaves began to worship not only their own gods, but also gods from other religious traditions. They unified and changed the rituals of various tribes, as a result of which various religious groups combined their teachings and created a new religion - “voodoo”.

Cubans trace Jewish origins to Marranes (anusim), Spanish and Portuguese Jews forcibly converted to Christianity, who came to the island as colonists or corsairs. However, few of their descendants practice the Jewish religion in Cuba today. More than 24,000 Jews lived on the island in 1924, and a large number immigrated to the country in the 1930s. But after the communist revolution of 1959, 94% of Jews left for the United States and other countries, and in Cuba in 2007 there were about 1,500 members of the Jewish community, mainly in Havana. Since then, several hundred more immigrated to Israel.

Islam is not yet a large religion in Cuba. At one point in the country, about 1,500 to 2,000 students from Middle Eastern countries, mainly from Pakistan, were concentrated. In 2001, the Assistant General Secretary of the Muslim World League (MWL) arrived on the island for talks on the Cuban authorities' permission to create an Islamic organization that would support the Cuban Muslim community. Also, the purpose of the visit was to obtain a permit for the construction of a mosque and a center for the dissemination of Islamic culture. According to a 2009 report from the American Pew Research Center, there were 9,000 Muslims on the island, who made up 0.1% of the population. As of 2012, most of the nearly 10,000 Cuban Muslims were converted Islamists. As of July 2015, the Foundation for Religious Affairs of Turkey opened the first prayer building for Cuban Muslims, and also financed the construction of the first mosque in Cuba.

In addition, according to spiritual beliefs, 0.1% of the inhabitants of the state are distributed among the followers of Hinduism, Buddhism, and some neoreligions. The faithful community of the Chinese people accounts for 0.2% of the total population of the island. It should be added that 18.0% of Cubans declared themselves agnostic, while 5.1% said they were atheists.

List of references

1.«International Religious Freedom Report 2009: Cuba». US State Department. October 2009. Retrieved 16.03.2019

2. Cuba to Reject US Aid, BBC NEWS, Sept. 11, 1998, (discussing Cuban rejection of U.S. aid); Anita Snow, Cuba Welcomes US Aid Offer, Associated Press, Nov. 9, 2001 (discussing past rejection of U.S. aid)

3.Cuba: Catholics Fill Churches Amid Climate of Official Tolerance, INTER PRESS SERVICE, Apr. 13, 1995; Victoria Gaitskell, Pope's First Visit Fuels Catholic Revival in Cuba But Age-Old Worship of Santería [sic] Is Also Rising, TORONTO STAR, Dec. 27, 1997, at L22.

4. Oliva, Enrique Lopez. «Religious reawakening: stirrings in Cuba». «Religious reawakening: stirrings in Cuba». The Christian Century 111.29.

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