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Religion in Cuba

Cuba’s religious experience is in many ways tied to its politics. During the colonial period the population was converted to the Catholic faith. However, elements of the tribal religion practised by the African slaves survived. Though officially Cuba is an atheist state today, most people practise a religion that is a syncretism of Christianity and the tribal faith that came with the Yoruba and Lucumi tribes. Originally the African slaves concealed their orishas, divine beings that control the individual’s life, behind Catholic saints. But somewhere along the line the overt and the covert merged into a religious practice that is more a way of life than a formal religion. Most Cuban homes have shrines dedicated to these orishas. A very important part of religious life are the male priests called sanateros who act as mediators between the divine beings and the mortals who depend on their goodwill.

There are a significant number of believers in Christianity, especially after the visit of the Pope in 1998. Christmas has since been declared a holiday and the government shows some signs of allowing religious practice. There are also a number of Jews in Cuba.


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