Cuba - (North America)

Information about Cuba

110860 square kilometres
"nominally 85% Roman Catholic prior to CASTRO assuming power; Protestants, Jehovah´s Witnesses, Jews, and Santeria are also represented"
Christian (%)
Protestant (%)
Reformed (%)

Reached by Christopher Columbus in 1492, the island was occupied by Spain in 1510-1511. In 1514 the Dominican priest Montesinos preached his famous sermon denouncing the abuse of the Indians in Cuba. It had a decisive impact on Bartolomé de Las Casas, who became the Spanish conscience for Latin America and was later officially titled “the Defender of the Indians.” The first RCath diocese was created in 1518.
For more than three centuries Cuba remained under Spanish domination. The indigenous population of Cuba (Taino) had already been extinguished after a few decades. In 1762 the British conquered Havana and controlled the island from Matanzas to Mariel. Religious liberty for Prot and RCath was declared. However, in 1763 the English agreed to return Cuba to Spain in exchange for Florida. Slave rebellions (1812) and two liberation wars (1868-78, 1895-98) led to independence (1898). Cuba was constituted as a republic. In place of Spain the dominating power now became the United States, which obtained the use of the base of Guantánamo in 1934. In 1959 Fidel Castro overthrew the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista (1952-59) and established a revolutionary regime based on Marxist principles. Despite persistent American intervention and massive emigration of Cubans to the USA, the regime has continued to survive.
The RCath missionary work began in the early 16th century. Until independence in 1898 Roman Catholicism was the official religion. The Constitution of 1902 declared the separation of church and state and the freedom of worship. This was reaffirmed by Article 35 of the Constitution of 1940 and by the basic laws of the Cuban revolution of 1959.
The earliest Protestant presence in Cuba consisted of pirates and corsairs. “In 1641 many Portuguese and French, some Jews and others, Luth and Calvinists, were expelled from Cuba” (Fernando Ortiz). Following the British invasions in the 18th century, Anglican services were held in 1741. At the beginning of the 19th century, Protestant influence increased. Though open evangelistic work was impossible in this period, Protestant political and commercial representatives played a significant role, both in the struggle for the emancipation of the blacks and in the distribution of Bibles. In 1855 a civil law against Bible distribution was passed. During the 19th century, the number of foreign residents increased, and more and more Cubans sent their children abroad for university and professional training. The process of “Americanization” was facilitated by commercial interests, the importation of literature, overseas visits, and cultural influences.
Until 1880 the Protestant presence was basically limited to foreign residents. However, in 1883 the Episcopal Church was established through the emigration of black people from the USA, followed by the Bapt in 1886, the Presb in 1890, and the Advent in 1920. Today about 40% of the population consider themselves members of the RCath Church. A substantial part of the population has no connection with any church. A sizeable group adheres to Afro-American cults.


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