Religion in Cuba: Not What You Think
Posted: 02 April 2008 02:38 PM   [ Ignore ]
Administrator
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  992
Joined  2005-11-19

By Circles Robinson

My wife and I walked into the Nuestra Senora del Carmen Church located on Infanta Street in Central Havana, Cuba just as the 6:00 p.m. Mass on Easter Sunday was beginning on March 23rd.

Unlike what some people might imagine, the atmosphere was similar to that in any other Latin American Catholic Church. The doors were open, there were no police in sight and the worshippers of mixed age were relaxed and at ease. I greeted a former news agency co-worker who was in one of the back rows.

There was one important difference, though. Instead of a packed congregation in predominantly Catholic countries, the church was no more than 75 percent full.

We took a good look around the beautifully adorned baroque church inaugurated in 1927 with its main and side altars and attractive art work including the painted tiles, mosaics, ceiling and wall murals, and the spectacularly decorated hard wood pulpit.

At the beginning of the Mass, the officiating priest, whose accent seemed to be from Spain, spoke of the festive nature of the anniversary, remembering the resurrection of Christ as, “the most important day on the Catholic calendar.” He also reminded people that their contributions would go to projects “in the hands” of Cardinal Ortega, mainly to make repairs on churches in the different parishes.

Neither my wife nor I practice a religion but it was not the first time we’ve walked into a place of worship in Cuba to observe the atmosphere. We have also gone to ceremonies of the Afro-Cuban “Santeria” religions (originating out of a blend of West African religion with Roman Catholicism so as to make it appear back then to their Catholic slave owners that they were converted to their master’s religion).

The Afro-Cuban religious influence is readily visible on the streets in dress and accoutrements. People initiating into the religion wear all white from head to toe for three months or longer. Different colored necklaces and bracelets as well as scarves, hats, umbrellas etc. also have their significance. Driving percussion music that often spills out into the streets sometimes accompanies religious ceremonies along with sensual, improvisational dance.

Our neighbors and co-workers belong to a mixed bag of religions. Others are agnostics or atheists.

A look at the 2007-8 telephone book white pages for Havana shows 129 “Churches and Places of Worship” listed. These include: Catholics, Baptists, Adventists, Methodists, Episcopalians and Pentecostals. Santeria, mostly conducted out of homes, has many followers while there are small numbers of Jews and Muslims.

We also have friends and acquaintances participating in programs of ecumenical faith based civic organizations that work along with local government institutions to confront social problems such as alcoholism, drugs and domestic violence with an emphasis on raising awareness and consciousness among the population.

SEPARATING ROLES

Read the rest of the article here

 Signature 

Cuba consulting services

Profile
 
 
Posted: 11 June 2008 08:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
30 to 49 posts
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  31
Joined  2008-01-24

I have been to many Catholic Churches throughout the world, although they have similar service, there’s always this one unique thing that distinguish that worship from the rest.  But hey, personally, the religious atmosphere in Cuba is not really that quiet different from other places.

 Signature 

—Check more of my experiences at http://travelbargainhunters.ning.com/

Profile
 
 
Posted: 11 June 2008 09:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
Administrator
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  992
Joined  2005-11-19

What’s different about religious services in Cuba?

 Signature 

Cuba consulting services

Profile
 
 
Posted: 12 November 2008 04:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
10 to 29 posts
RankRank
Total Posts:  22
Joined  2008-11-12

Dear Mr. Robinson, I enjoyed reading your take on religion in Cuba. May I try to put some more realistic percentages on things? I think I can do this with an except from my book Nature’s Ancient Religion (328 pages) 16.95

http://www.amazon.com/Natures-Ancient-Religion-Orisha-worship/dp/1440417334

Chapter Five:
Santeria Minus The Saints:

I always get a chuckle when I look at Cuba’s
religious statistics. The official religion of Cuba is
Atheist. The Catholics claim that the island is 90%
Catholic. I’m here to tell you that I have a more
realistic opinion.

The island’s religion is confusing to
say the least, but it is important because it fills in
many of the blanks. Let’s assign some realistic
percentages. While Judaism was in Cuba at one time,
it is now almost nonexistent. Israel worked out an
exodus with the Cuban government, and now it is
complete. There are Jews in Cuba, but they are less
than .01%. We will unceremoniously lump them in
the “other” category. The other category will be set
at 2% and that is quite generous. Atheist is, of
course, different from agnostic, but let’s lump the
two together with Protestants and make it 10%. This
leaves 90%. The 90% is complex because it is
shared by two religions, Catholicism and Orisha
worship. In order to accurately divide the two, we
need to examine these in detail. Pure Catholicism is
30% of the 90% and shrinking.

Why it is shrinking is interesting. Mainly, it is
suffering from the same problems it has encountered
all over the world. Recent scandals certainly haven’t
helped, from the fiscal to waiting for the next story
on priests molesting youngsters to appear. The
church is overextended. There is a strong marketing
strategy by its Protestant cousins. Not choosing a
Latino as Pope certainly didn’t help them either.
Hispanics are by far the largest ethnic group in the
church, and why they didn’t choose a Latino Pope is
a mystery to every marketing expert in the world.
Sure, the Pope is qualified, and the right hand man
of the previous Pope, but that doesn’t change the
fact that it was a huge blunder.

The other pure religion is Afro-Cuban and it is
hard to put a name on it, some call it Orisha
worship, some call it IFA, Yoruba, or some just call it
Afrikaans. More correctly it is called Lukumi, although
I am not sure where the word originated. This book is
about my journeys to Cuba and my involvement in
this religion, and the remarkable story of how this
came about. Believe me, I’m not going to harp like a
preacher, or try to sell you on this religion. One
simply cannot talk about Cuba without making it part
of the story. Music, dance, history, and culture all
stem from it. There are many misconceptions about
this religion, or maybe we should borrow from
Hinduism and call it a “way of life”. It is the sixth or
seventh largest religion in the world, with followers
of about 175,000,000. You will see it sometimes
listed as one hundred million, yet 175,000,000 is
more accurate. The reason 175 million is more
accurate is because it is often combined with
Catholicism and, more importantly, its adherents are
claimed by the well organized Catholics.

The Catholics aren’t the only organized religion to claim
Orisha worships as followers; Islam also does its
claiming in Africa, as do the Protestants and other
religions. Orisha worship isn’t organized to promote
or protect itself, not yet anyway. Just as Orisha
worship is claimed and fragmented in Cuba, it is
claimed and fragmented worldwide. It is an ancient
religion, and because it is poorly documented, it is
hard to prove its exact age. Hinduism is recognized
as the oldest religion, with the Vedas dating over
4000 years. This makes Hinduism more than twice
as old as Christianity and Islam. Orisha worship
could well be as old as or older than Hinduism. This
chapter is about anthropology as well as religion. I
put pure Orisha worship at 15% of the 90% in Cuba,
and growing rapidly. Growth might not be the right
word, it is more a realignment.

The other 55% of the 90% is a combination of
Catholicism and Orisha worship, called Santeria.
African slaves brought Orisha worship to Cuba on
Spanish slave ships, just as they brought it to Brazil
on Portuguese ships, or to the Caribbean on French
ships. In fact, all through the New World, slaves
brought Orisha worship. The reason it was combined
with Catholicism was to hide it from the slave
owners, who were all Catholic in Cuba. Particularly
from the 1600s through the end of slavery in the
1860s, this deception was important for Orisha
worship’s survival, and in many cases the slave’s
survival. As we know, Catholicism in those days was
much like Islam is today. Islam calls anyone who
isn’t a member of their faith an infidel, and the goal
of Islam (according to the Quran) is to purge the
world of non-believers. In those days, Catholicism
had the Inquisition; those who refused to convert, it
burned at the stake as heathens or heretics. Slaves
were ordered and expected to convert, or face
persecution and / or death. Therefore, slaves
synchronized their Orishas with Catholic saints, who
were worshiped openly, and the slaves worshiped
their beloved Orishas privately. This combination still
exists today in the form of Santeria.

  Another reason that Catholicism is shrinking in
Cuba is because freedom of religion has now
emerged in Cuba, thus there is no reason to combine
Orisha worship with Catholicism. Freedom of religion
is a recent development in Cuba. In fact, my first
year there, 1994, was the first year since 1960 that
Christmas trees and decorations were permitted. It
took several years for the Cubans to start celebrating
Christmas openly, yet even some Cubans to this day
are reluctant. If we look at Santeria and break it
down, it is about 80% Orisha worship and 20%
Catholicism.

 Signature 

My Cuba books are found here Havana: My Kind of Town and Nature’s Ancient Religion

Profile
 
 
Posted: 12 November 2008 07:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
Administrator
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  992
Joined  2005-11-19

CubaKing,

Thanks for posting. You are obviously an expert in your field I look forward to reading more excerpts from your book.

 Signature 

Cuba consulting services

Profile
 
 
Posted: 01 March 2009 04:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
less than 10 posts
Rank
Total Posts:  9
Joined  2009-02-28
Publisher - 12 November 2008 07:48 AM

CubaKing,

Thanks for posting. You are obviously an expert in your field I look forward to reading more excerpts from your book.

i am a Yoruba as were all of those in my fam back in the day. However many have chosen santeria which is an offshoot of CATHOLICISM which many Afro Cubans practice. i refuse to be tied down by religious dogma esp when it is man made so i simply accept that there is a power greater than myself..and keep the candles burning..

Peace

 Signature 

Withoutacountry..Sin pais

Profile
 
 
Posted: 01 July 2009 08:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
less than 10 posts
Rank
Total Posts:  5
Joined  2009-07-01
MILAGROS - 01 March 2009 04:13 PM
Publisher - 12 November 2008 07:48 AM

CubaKing,

Thanks for posting. You are obviously an expert in your field I look forward to reading more excerpts from your book.

i am a Yoruba as were all of those in my fam back in the day. However many have chosen santeria which is an offshoot of CATHOLICISM which many Afro Cubans practice. i refuse to be tied down by religious dogma esp when it is man made so i simply accept that there is a power greater than myself..and keep the candles burning..

Peace

Well said Milagros. I agree.

Profile