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Religion in Cuba, diversity of beliefs.
One of the wonderful treasures of Cuba is its religion. On the island there is a diversity of beliefs, all mixed, all separately, all influenced. Each one expresses its own belief, since there is freedom backed by legal and social force.
In general, Cuba is a Catholic country with great influence on the beliefs bequeathed by Africans. In fact, Catholicism is highly modified and influenced by syncretism.
Catholics according to studies make up 60 percent of the population, this being the most professed religion. Eleven percent identify with African beliefs, five percent Protestant, which include Baptists, Pentecostals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh-day Adventists, Presbyterians, Anglicans, Episcopalians, Methodists, Quakers, and Lutherans.
Other smaller groups include the Greek Orthodox Church, the Russian Orthodox Church, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Bahais, and Mormons.
They coexist without the need for disputes or discrimination, even when each one tries to defend the truth. Above all the deities reigns The Blessed Virgin of Charity of El Cobre, Patroness of Cuba, with a beautiful sanctuary built in her name and which receives thousands of visits a year from locals and foreigners seeking her blessing.
Before 1959 Cuba had a deep religious life, always with Catholicism at the forefront. All the festivities were celebrated according to the calendar, with Christmas being widely accepted.
However after that date everything changed. There was silence and absence in the churches for many decades, the government itself silenced the faith. Despite this, people did not stop believing, it cannot be said that there is an atheistic population in Cuba.
Religious syncretism in Cuba was the product of cultural exchanges between the various peoples who interacted as a result of slavery. It was between the years 1801-1865 when the greatest arrival of slaves to Cuba occurred.
Customs, culture and ideologies were taken away from them and therefore they were forced to somehow rescue their traditions. They were forbidden to practice their religion, they were forced to revere the Catholic saints, so they began to name them as their own idols.
If you want to know them all, we invite you to listen And what do you want them to give you, from Caballero del Son Adalberto Álvarez, a living sample of this process.
Yoruba or Santeria.
Santeria arose and developed from the traditions of the Yoruba, African blacks brought to Cuba from the process of slavery. It mixes elements of Christianity and West African beliefs and as such made it possible for slaves to retain their traditional beliefs while practicing Catholicism.
Oshún, The Blessed Virgin of La Caridad del Cobre is a virgin mambisa.
Cachita, Patroness of Cuba.
The Virgin of Charity of El Cobre, Our Lady of Charity or Cachita, has been the Catholic Patron Saint of Cuba since 1916, highly revered by the Cuban people and constitutes a symbol of the island.
It has its day in the liturgical calendar on September 8 and its sanctuary is located in El Cobre, in Santiago de Cuba. There thousands of people visit her, pray to her and fulfill their promises after being cured of an illness or having achieved some important goal in their life.
These promises can range from offering candles or flowers, a person’s hair or clothing, medals, kneeling down the long staircase or walking barefoot from the City of Santiago to the sanctuary, approximately 24 kilometers.
This sanctuary has been visited by three Popes: John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis in 1998, 2012 and 2015 respectively.
The Mambisa Virgin.
Another of its facets is to appear as the mambisa Virgin because throughout the independence deeds, the Cubans entrusted themselves to her. They say that her image that presided over the second altar in the Santo Tomás church in Santiago de Cuba was taken to the bush and then returned to its place.
It was precisely the veterans of these wars who asked the Pope to declare her patron saint of Cuba. Many of these men went to pay their promises to El Cobre and to thank for the healing of their wounds.
In Santeria, Charity is syncretized as Oshún. The important religious day of “La Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre” is celebrated annually by Cubans on September 8 and also that of this deity.
Queen of the fresh waters of the world, streams, springs and rivers, she personifies love and fertility and she turns to her for help in monetary matters.
Its color is yellow and its metal is bronze. Oshún’s dance is sensual, she shakes her arms to ring her bracelets and emphasize her charms. As she dances, she asks men for sex and asks for honey, she looks over her nose at those around her.
Of the Yoruba religion, the most popular Orishas.
Eleggua: Guardian of the ways, is the one who is first invoked before any ritual begins and its colors are black and red. He punishes those who do not revere him, his numbers are 3 and 21.
Obatala: Creator of the world, father of all the orishas and god of peace. His numbers are 8 and 16 and it is attributed the color white. It is syncretized with Las Mercedes.
Yemayá: Queen of the seas and protector of mothers. He is syncretized with the Virgen de Regla, his number is 7 and its colors are blue and white.
Oshun: Her colors are yellow and gold and its number 5, queen of rivers, lakes and gold. She is syncretized with the Virgin of Charity.
Chango: He is syncretized with Santa Barbara, his colors are red and white. God of virility and strength, he represents sexuality and his numbers are 4 and 6.
Oggun: Represented with machetes, hammers, or other instruments made of iron and metal. God of iron and minerals, he likes war, his colors are black and green and his number is 7.
Babalú Ayé: He syncretizes with Saint Lazarus, he is the God of disease, protector of the sick and animals and has the power to see the future. His colors are violet and carmelite, its number 17.
Oyá: She is syncretized with the Virgen de la Candelaria and Santa Teresita. Goddess of lightning and hurricane force winds, receives the dead at the entrance to the cemetery. Her number is 9 and her color is Carmelite.
These are just some references to the Cuban religion. When you visit Cuba you can visit different sites that will show you the richness of the culture. Some places of interest are El callejón de Hamel, the Sanctuary of the Virgen del Cobre, El Rincón, La Virgen de Regla.