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As a result of Spanish colonization and the slave trade for centuries, various religious believes were introduced in Cuba.

Since then, the Hispanic and African are the two main ethno-cultural trunks of the Cuban nationality, along with other cultures (Caribbean, U.S., China and the rest of Europe), in a complex mixture of cultures.


The Spanish colonization of Cuba, introduced the Catholic religion in the island declared as the official religion. It has retained this position until today.

The Catholic Church has over 600 temples in operation, among which the Cathedral of Havana, the Cathedral of Santiago de Cuba and the Basilica de la Caridad del Cobre in Santiago de Cuba are the most popular.

Of the temples in Havana, the most outstanding ones are: Nuestra Señora de la Merced, Santo Ángel Custodio, Sagrado Corazón de Jesús, Nuestra Señora del Carmen, La Virgen de Regla, San Lázaro, Espíritu Santo. las Mercedes, in Camagüey and San Pedro, in Matanzas.

The Church is divided into eleven dioceses, three of them with the rank of archdiocese.


Havana, January 6, 1925. Diocese since 1787.

Camagüey, December 5, 1998. Diocese since 1912.

Santiago de Cuba, November 24, 1803. Diocese since 1522. (Primatial of Cuba).


Pinar del Rio, February 20, 1903.

Matanzas, December 10, 1912.

Cienfuegos, February 10, 1903.

Santa Clara, April 1, 1995.

Ciego de Avila, February 2, 1996.

Havana, May 27, 1979.

Bayamo-Manzanillo, March 10, 1996

Guantánamo-Baracoa, January 24, 1998.

The principal of the hierarchy is the Archbishop of Havana, Jaime Ortega, appointed Cardinal in 1994. Before Cube had another Cardinal, Manuel Arteaga Betancourt (1879-1963).

There are in total 17 bishops, 16 of them are Cuban and 1 Spanish. The church staff is made of over a thousand consecrated persons, of which 400 are priests.

Among the orders and congregations with the largest number of priests are the Jesuits, Salesians, Franciscans, Vincentians, las Hermanitas de los Ancianos Desamparados, Carmelitas Descalzas, Dominicas, Hijas de la Caridad, Oblatas Misioneras de María Inmaculada, Siervas de María y Misioneras de la Caridad (Madre Teresa de Calcuta).

Hundreds of young Cubans complete their studies in seminaries such as San Carlos and San Ambrosio (Havana) and St. Basil the Great (Santiago de Cuba).

The Catholic Church also has a novitiate for the training of male and female regular clergy. Religious education takes place by catechesis, and preparation for baptism, communion, confirmation or marriage.

The Catholic Church estimates that 70 percent of the Cuban population is Catholic, it publishes and distributes about 50 publications in the country.

Regla de Ocha or Santeria

Derived from the Yoruba culture, (actually Nigeria), popularly known as Santeria, based on the worship to a set of orishas (deities) with different myths and attributes. Among the most important are: Olofin, Olorun and Oloddumare. The most complex and synthesized of this expression is in the Ifa cult, whose main attribute is divination, sustained by the highest authorities of priests, the babalawos.

Several Catholic saints were identified with the orishas such as the Virgin Mary, and Santa Barbara, identified with the god Shango, Virgen de la Caridad (Oshun), Lady of Rule (Yemaya), Virgen de las Mercedes (Obatala), Santa Teresa (Oya), San Cristóbal (Agayu), San Lazaro Babalu Aye), San Antonio de Odua (Elegua), San Pedro (Ogun Arere), San Fracisco (Orunmila), St. Norbert (Oshosi).

In recent years the Yoruba Cultural Association has been legally recognized as a religious institution. It has Temples across the country, which is used by practitioners in their religious ceremonies.

An international Yoruba congress was held in Cuba in 2003", with representatives from around the world.

Regla de Palo Monte or Conga

From the people of Congo, is practiced in Cuba, called Regla Conga, Palo Monte or Palo Mayombe, all forms of religion that focus on the worship of natural forces.

Abakuá or ñañiguismo

Another expression of African origin, located in the West. It is a male secret Abakuá group.


Emerged in the U.S. and Europe as religious version of American pragmatism and empiricism philosophical. Arrived in Cuba during the 1850s, and began to diversify into various aspects, mixed with elements of African religions and Christianity.

The creation of institutions and societies, the publication of journals and other texts propelled the spread of religious expression in a few years, and attracted a big number of adherents from different social sectors in both urban and rural areas.

To the traditional rituals, these believers incorporated elements of Christianity and African religious expressions. Currently there are 450 recognized societies grouped.


it was introduced in Cuba not long ago, hampered by colonial provisions that protected the Catholic Church.

After the U.S. intervention in the war against Spain, a mass settlement of Protestant Churches began.

The first Convention of Evangelical Churches in 1902 was attended by a group of churches: Presbyterian, Episcopal or Anglican, Methodist, Quaker, Disciples, Baptist, etc...

There were other incorporations in those first 50 years of the twentieth century, supported by American missionaries, including Seventh Day Adventists, Salvation Army, Lutheran Church, Evangelical Gideon Bando, the Pinos nuevos Evangelical Convention. The last two mentioned were born in Cuba. From 1930 Pentecostalism began to arrive, which is represented by 25 churches.

Currently, they congregate in more than 900 temples and houses of worship in 1640 legally authorized, where religious services are provided. There are 52 Associations and evangelical Protestant denominations. There are more than 1500 pastors and ministers. There are 10 training seminars, the most important are the Interdenominational Theological Evangelical Seminary of Matanzas.

Greek Orthodox Church

Before the Revolution there existed in Cuba a Greek Orthodox Community, which dissolved itself in 1978. In October 2001 the construction of a temple was approved, and in January 2004 the new church was consecrated by the Ecumenical Patriarch and Archbishop of Constantinople. It has strengthened the community of believers and has grown to some extent.

Currently, they are working on the installation of the Orthodox Theological School for staff training in Latin America.

Russian Orthodox Church

In 1971 the Archbishop of Jug and Exarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Moscow Patriarchate, presided over the ceremony of laying the first stone of a Russian Orthodox church in Havana, in October 2008 the cathedral was consecrated to Nuestra Señora de Kazan.


There are 1106 orders from different lodges throughout the country, the most important are the Masonic (423), Odd-fellows Independent (211), Odd-fellows unidos (143), Knight of the Light (269), Theosophical ( 10) and Rosicrucians (4). Most of the 26,000 members are in the capital.

All have trade relations with their counterparts abroad. Own their homes, and like other religious institutions they manage a nursing home.

The Masonic Grand Lodge of Cuba is a member of the Ibero-American Masonic Confederation.

Famous patriots of Independence were members of these associations such as National Hero José Martí Pérez, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, known as the Father of the Nation and many others.


During the conquest and colonization, among the crew of the Spanish ships were the so-called "pigs" who were converted Jews, who continued the practice of their rituals with the utmost discretion.

Groups of Jews arrived to Cuba during the Spanish Inquisition, and others arrived after their expulsion from northern Brazil by the Portuguese.

In 1902, the Jewish community your formed in Cuba. A few years later they acquired the cemetery in Guanabacoa that become a Jewish cemetery.

In 1918 the Young Men's Hebrew congregation Association for the union of the Jewish communities of the country was founded. By the mid twentieth century Cuba had about 40 groups.

There are approximately 500 Jewish families, 80% in Havana.

Religious life is carried out in five synagogues. The most important is the Hebrew Community of Cuba, located in the Havana neighbourhood of Vedado. There is a Coordinating Board of the Hebrew Societies, bringing together the presidents and general secretaries of the main associations.

The community receives frequent visits from groups and delegations from abroad and travels abroad for activities organized by their peers.


In February 2007 the Islamic religion was legalized in Cuba, with 200 members and brings together believers from the Shiite and Sunni branch of Islam.
Also there are Buddhist associations, Confucianism, yoga, Baha'i and recently legalized.

Jehovah's Witnesses

The work of Jehovah's Witnesses began in Cuba in the early twentieth century (1910).

Currently in Cuba there are more than 94,000 Jehovah's Witnesses distributed in 1,289 congregations.

Their meeting places are called "Kingdom Halls."

The most important celebration of the year for the witnesses is "The Memorial of Christ’s death” In 2011, 236.584 people attended this event.

Jehovah's Witnesses are known for their work of public preaching from house to house in which everyone participates.

In the year 2011, 18.721,994 hours were devoted to this work and 169.282 Bible studies were conducted with interested people.

Cuba is a secular state, is an example of religious syncretism ranging from Christianity to Afro-Cuban traditions, to Eastern philosophies. Therefore, in the cults that John Paul II celebrated during his visit to the island in January 1998, surely there was an amalgam of Catholicism and Afro-Cuban ritual practitioners. Most Cubans; believers, government employees, and scholars agree that the Pope's visit was beneficial to Cuba.

One of the most classic examples of Cuban religious syncretism is la Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre. For some she is the Holy Mary, Mother of God, for others she is the Orisha Oshun, goddess of love, and for the majority she is the Virgin of Charity, or Cachita Mambisa, the Patroness of Cuba.

After 1959, Cuba restricted religious freedom. Many believers decided to hide their faith for fear of being discriminated against by the state. Many citizens did not practice their religious activities for fear of being identified; the parents did not baptize their children for fear of reprisals. There was an ideological offensive on society. Proof of this is that in 1971 the Archdiocese of Havana reported 7,000 baptisms, in 1989, this figure increased to 27,609 and in 1991 to 33,569.

In 1985, the State Council published a bestseller called Fidel and Religion, which was a transcript summary of 23 hours of interviews with Fidel Castro and a friar of the Theology of Liberation, called Frei Betto.

In 1985 the Office of Attention to Religious Affairs was created. The Office is responsible for ensuring the implementation and dissemination of official policy regarding religious matters, and also serves the needs and demands of religious organizations.

In the 4 th Congress of the PCC, in 1991 it was agreed to admit members of different religious beliefs as party members. The State adopted a more conciliatory position toward religion and decreased its promotion of atheism. In July 1992, the Constitution was amended and added Article 42 which prohibits discrimination based on religious beliefs.

However, after the nineties, after three decades of state atheism, Cuban society had become almost completely secularized. Now the restrictions have been eased and multitudes of people gather in churches and want to participate in various religious activities. Religious freedom means that the religious feelings of all citizens re-emerge with more strength and expand what had been hidden and repressed for so long.

That could been seen clearly in the pilgrimage of the Patroness of Cuba in 2011, throughout Cuba, where thousands upon thousands of people from different generations, races and creeds participated in the processions of Mambisa, showing their devotion to her.

Many religious institutions have training centres for the training of their ordained people and also develop social activities in hospitals and nursing homes. They perform many religious and cultural activities, some of them out of their places of worship, processions, pilgrimages, ceremonies, rituals, concerts, workshops, seminars, conferences and others.

In recent years, Cuba has received visits from world leaders of various religious organizations. In January 1998, Pope John Paul II made a historic visit, invited by the Head of State and the local church.

Also, General Secretaries and Presidents of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, cardinals and other prelates of the Vatican, Protestant leaders of different churches: Methodist, Baptist, Adventist, Presbyterian, Assembly of God Church of Christ , Jehovah's Witnesses, popular religious leaders, priests, pastors, rabbis, Yoruba leaders, academics and students of religious themes of different countries participate in assemblies and other religious events.

The island is not immune to the religious influence throughout the country, but especially of the major religious groups, such as Catholic, Pentecostal, Jehovah's Witnesses and Church of God.


© Isla de la Juventud 2011
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