Religion in Cuba
In Cuba, there is a wide religious freedom which is expressed not only in documents with legal force but also with the existence of a wide and diverse religious universe, in which Cubans practice and organize their beliefs giving birth to multiples and varied religious organizations and institutions.
The constitution of Cuba, approved by popular plebiscite in 1976, with 97.7% of the votes and modified in 1992 unanimously at the National Assembly of People´s Power (unicameral parliament composed by 614 representatives of all sectors from society), establishes, in five of its articles the separation of the Church from the State and laical character of the State-including the school- the equality of all religious manifestations before the Law and the right of all citizens of Cuba to practice the religious cult of their preference, to change their beliefs, or to have none (few constitutions in the world include this). The laical condition of the State is a traditional element in Cuba.
Such constitutional principles have their roots in the independentist tradition of Cuba, period during which four Constitutions of the Republic in Arms where approved; two of them established the separation Church- State. This was also embraced in the republicans Constitutions of the neocolonial period, in 1901 and 1940. The State does not finance any religious institution neither intervenes in their domestic functioning.
Article 1. Cuba is an independent and sovereign socialist state of workers, organized with all and for the good of all as a united and democratic republic, for the enjoyment of political freedom, social justice, individual and collective well-being and human solidarity.
Article 8. The state recognizes, respects and guarantees freedom of religion. In the Republic of Cuba, religious institutions are separate from the State. The different beliefs and religions enjoy the same consideration.
Article 39. b) education is a function of the state and is free of charge. It is based on the conclusions and contributions made by science and on the close relationship between study and life, work and production.
Article 42. Discrimination because of race, skin color, sex, national origin, religious beliefs and any other form of discrimination harmful to human dignity is forbidden and will be punished by law.
The institutions of the state educate everyone from the earliest possible age in the principle of equality among human beings.
Article 43. The state consecrates the right achieved by the Revolution that all citizens, regardless of race, skin color, sex, religious belief, national origin and any situation that may be harmful to human dignity:
- have access, in keeping with their merits and abilities, to all state, public administration, and production services positions and jobs;
- can reach any rank in the Revolutionary Armed Forces and in Security and internal order, in keeping with their merits and abilities;
- be given equal pay for equal work;
- have a right to education at all national educational institutions, ranging from elementary schools to the universities, which are the same for all;
- be given health care in all medical institutions;
- live in any sector, zone or area and stay in any hotel;
- be served at all restaurants and other public service establishments;
- use, without any separations, all means of transportation by sea, land and air;
- enjoy the same resorts, beaches, parks, social centers and other centers of culture, sports, recreation and rest.
Article 55. The State, which recognizes, respects and guarantees freedom of conscience and of religion, also recognizes, respects and guarantees every citizen's freedom to change religious beliefs or to not have any, and to profess, within the framework of respect for the law, the religious belief of his preference. The law regulates the state's relations with religious institutions.
During the 4th Congress of the Cuban Communit Party (PCC), celebrated in 1991, it was agreed to eliminate any interpretation of the Statutes of the Party prohibitig any vanguard revolutionary to be admitted to the Party because of his relegious beliefs. Today, several religious men and women from different religions are member of the Cuban Communit Party.
All religious institutions and organizations develop, with total Independence and autonomy in relation to the State, their social activities, the training of their personnel, the appointment of their hierarchy, their movements within and out of the country, hold relations with foreign institutions and personalities, meet with delegations and invitees, organize events. There´re institutions which have members at international religious structures. All these without any kind of limitations.
Likewise, they determine whether their personnel participates at the bodies of popular representation, even at its highest level. That is the case of three Evangelic pastors, one Presbyterian, one Bbaptist and an Episcopal, as well as a babalawo or Ifá pastor, President of the Cultural Yoruba Association of Cuba, who, by popular election, are members of the National Assembly of People´s Power. Laymen/women from the Catholic Church and other religious manifestations are members of the state power bodies and the mass political organizations.
The religious institutions own their facilities, including their temples. In the country, there´re several publications from religious organizations; an important part of these are registered at the Registry of Publications of the Cuban Book Institute.
Many Cuban religious institutions have centers to train their personnel (seminars) which they carry out with full freedom and without limitations to select the personnel to their studies. Hundred Young Cubans also complete their training in foreign seminars and universities. The Catholic Church also has novitiates for the training of their regular male and female clergy (from orders or religious congregations)
Religious institutions and organizations carry out social activities, among them are the management of hospitals and foster care homes for the elderly, having the collaboration and support of the State, and they maintain relations and frequent contacts with foreign counterparts or the ecumenical bodies that embrace them.
They also celebrate religious or cultural activities, some of them outside their cult places, like masses, cults, processions, pilgrimages, ceremonies, rituals, concerts, workshops, seminars, congresses and others.
They carry out activities for recreation, education or religion, in accordance with the resources and own methods, like catechism, Sunday or Saturday schools, courses, group debate of religious documents.
During the last ten years, world leaders from different religious organizations have visited Cuba.
In January, 1998, Pope John Paul II made a historic visit, invited by the Chief of State and the local Church.
Other religious personalities have visited our country: Oni de Ilé Ifé, spiritual leader of Yorubas; Great Rabbi of Israel, Meyer Lau; Emilio Castro, Konrad Raiser, Samuel Kobia and Olav Fykse, all Secretaries of the World Council of Churches (CMI) during different periods, as well as the current moderator of that organization Walter Altman; leaders from the Latin American Council of Churches, like Julio Murray and Nilton Giese; from the Latin American Episcopal Council and the Conference of Churches of the Caribbean.
Also, the Secretaries General and Presidents of the United States National Council of the Churches of Christ with special relevance to the visit carried out in 2011 by a delegation presided over by Michael Kinnamon; Cardinals and other prelates from the Vatican, like Dominique Mamberti, Secretary for Relations with States, who visited Cuba in 2010 during the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the relations between Cuba and the Holy See; high level members of religious communities of the Catholic Church, world leaders of Protestant and Evangelic churches, from Methodist, Baptist, Adventist, Presbyterian, Assemblies of God, among others, as well as Jehova Witnesses, renowned religious personalities, pastors, priests, Rabbis, Yoruba leaders, Muslims and Buddhists, academics and scholars from different countries who´ve participated at congresses and scientific events on religion, such as the International Meetings on Social-Religious Studies organized by Cuban academics.
During the first years of the Cuban Revolution, religion has been dedicated a particular politic attention. In 1985, the Office of Attention of Religious Affairs (OAAR, in Spanish) was created, attached to the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party.
The Office is in charge not only to see after the application and promotion of the politics related to religious affairs and the adjustments derived from the contextual changes but also to take care of the demands and needs of the religious organizations.
It´s responsible for the good relations Church-State. The Office also gives political attention to the different fraternal associations.
In each province and municipality, there´re PCC officials in charge of the attention of the religious affairs in coordination with the OAAR.
The Office has relations with state structures from other countries with similar functions and it attends events related to religious issues.
The issues related with the judicial recognition and the legal functioning of the religious and fraternal institutions and organizations are looked after by the Division of Associations of the Ministry of Justice.
Religious in Cuba
The distinctive characteristic of the religious beliefs in Cuba is the mixture of multiple creeds and manifestations. None of them in particular characterize the Cuban people.
This fusion, which is the most extended form of religious practice in Cuba, qualified by renowned anthropologist Don Fernando Ortiz (1881-1969) as cultural transculturation, and known as religious syncretism, was formed mainly on a juxtaposition of elements of the Catholic religion, brought by Spanish conquerors and colonialists and the African religions brought by slaves.
Religious beliefs and practices are characterized by the spontaneity and the lack of systematization, with a relative autonomy of organized religious systems. This form identified as popular religiousness, is evidence and result of the cultural mix and synthesis that formed the Cuban nationality.
With the “discovery”, conquer and colonization, Spaniards imposed to native Cubans their civilization, language, culture and catholic religion, in an accelerated process aiming at dominating them.
Up to 1898, when the Spanish-Cuban War ended and the United States of America intervened in the conflict and frustrated the ideals of sovereignty, independence and social justice, the Catholic Church in Cuba was Spanish. Even Bishops were appointed by the Crown in exchange with the exclusive right to evangelize in the country, where no other religious institution was allowed, in accordance with the Constitution of Cadiz of 1812.
During the Republic (1902-1958) with a majority of Spanish priests and nuns, the Church had two Archdioceses, Havana and Santiago de Cuba, and 4 dioceses, Pinar del Rio, Matanzas, Cienfuegos and Camaguey. This structure was in correspondence with the six provinces at that time.
The Church is composed by eleven dioceses, three of them with rank of archdiocese. The figure of greater hierarchy is the Archbishop of Havana, Jaime Ortega Alamino, appointed Cardinal in 1994. Cuba had another Cardinal, Manuel Arteaga Betancourt (1879-1963).
Havana, January 6, 1925. Diocese since 1787
Camaguey, December 5, 1998. Diocese since 1912.
Santiago de Cuba, November 2, 1803. Diocese since 1522
Pinar del Río- February 20, 1903
Matanzas- December 10, 1912
Cienfuegos- February 10, 1903
Santa Clara- April 1, 1995
Ciego de Ávila- February 2, 1996
Holguín- May 27, 1979
Bayamo-Manzanillo- March 10, 1996
Guantánamo-Baracoa- January 24, 1998, coincided with the visit by the Pope John Paul II
There are 15 Bishops: eleven residential, 2 auxiliaries and 2 in retirement. Fourteen of these are Cubans, one is Spanish.
The ecclesiastic personnel is made up by 1,200 consecrated individuals, among them are priests and male and females members of 99 religious congregations and orders (28 men and 71 women). The consecrated personnel is composed, mainly, by foreigners from 40 nationalities: Spain, Mexico, Canada, Colombia, Italy, Dominican Republic, India and others. There are 500 priests.
There are more religious orders than before the triumph of the Revolution.
Among the orders and congregations with a greater number of religious men are the Jesuits, Silesians, Franciscans and paulists; among religious women are Sister of Charity, Missionaries of Charity, Dominicans, Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Servants of Mary and the Savior of Saint Bridget.
The Conference of Catholic Bishops of Cuba, the Conference of Religious Cubans, episcopals, archdioceses, dioceses, parish and lay commissions are fully active.
The Catholic Church has more than 600 active temples, among them the Cathedrals of Havana and Santiago de Cuba and the Small Basilica, the National Sanctuary of Our Lady of Charity, where the Virgin in the Bay of Nipe was found in 1512 and who´s considered for many Cubans as the Patroness of the nation.
Among the temples in Havana are: Our Lady of Mercy, Saint Angel of Custody, Sacred Heart of Jesus, Our Lady of Carmen, the Virgin of Regla and the Diocesan Sanctuary of Virgin of Charity, consecrated as Small Basilica in 2011. Churches of great beauty are Meredes in Camaguey, and San Pedro in Matanzas.
The formation of priests in Cuba is carried out by the seminars San Carlos and San Ambrosio in Havana, and San Basilio Magno in Santiago de Cuba, which also have novitiates. During 2012, there were inaugurated new and large facilities for Seminar San Carlos and San Ambrosio; President of Cuba, Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, attended the opening ceremonies. The religious education of laypersons (children and adults) is carried out through the catechism, in preparation for baptism, communion, confirmation or marriage.
The Catholic Church in Cuba still owns a psychiatric hospital and some centers to care for the elderly which also receive a budget provided by the State. Likewise, nuns of diverse religious orders carry out a valuable social labor in State health institutions, and a center for children with physical and mental limitations)
The Church issues and distributes in the country around 50 publications in diverse formats.
Relations with the Holy See
Diplomatic relations between Cuba and the Vatican were established in 1935, and have been uninterrupted since then.
Relations are at Embassy level on the part of Cuba and Apostolic Nunciature on the part of the Holy See.
A significant moment of these relations was the meeting between the Cuban President Fidel Castro and Pope John Paul II, on November 19, 1996, when the Cuban President reiterated the invitation to the Supreme Pontiff to visit Cuba.
Organized during 1997, the visit by Pope John Paul II was carried out on January 21-25, 1998. Both the Cuban and Holy See authorities, like the international press recognized that the visit by the Pope to the Island was a complete success.
Hundred thousands people and high level government authorities attended the masses by the Supreme Pontiff in Santa Clara, Camaguey, Santiago de Cuba and the Revolution Square in Havana.
The Pope condemned the Neoliberalism and its social consequences, as well as “the restrictive economic measures imposed from outside o the country, which are unjust and unacceptable ethically”.
Several Vatican authorities, from religious orders and congregations, and other ecclesiastic association, have traveled to Havana. At the same time, the Catholic Church is represented at the Latin American Episcopal Conference (CELAM, in Spanish) and at other regional and international institutions.
In April 1969, the Cuban Episcopal conference condemned the Blockade the United States Government imposed to Cuba. In 1992, it rejected again, in a statement, this criminal measure against our country.
In March, 1986, the National Ecclesiastic Meeting of Cuba was closed which provided new guidelines to the work of the Church in the social context promoted by the Revolution. In 1996 and 2006, the 10th and 20th anniversaries of this event were celebrated.
In November, 2005, during the 7th anniversary of the establishment of the relations with the Holy See, Cuban Bishops, the Apostolic Nuncio and other leaders of the Church held a meeting with Commander in Chief Fidel Castro Ruz.
In July 2007, it was celebrated CELAM´s XXXI Ordinary Assembly, with the presence of Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences of Latin America and the presidency of that regional organization. During the meeting, a new directing board was voted and Monsignor Emilio Aranguren Echeverría, Bishop of the diocese of Holguín was elected member.
Priest Félix Valera, diocesan (1788/1853), renowned precursory of Cuban independency ideas, is in a process of beatification. Cuba´s Order for the National Culture was named after him since 1981.
To celebrate the 400th anniversary of the finding of the image of the Virgin of Charity, the Catholic Church carried out a pilgrimage starting on August 8th, 2010 in Santiago de Cuba and concluding on December 30, 2011,with a mass at the Port Avenue in Havana. This peregrination lasted 16 months and covered 29,978 km.
Protestant and Evangelic Churches
In the decade of 1880, native Cubans who emigrated to the United States, where they became Protestants, later returned to Cuba and started their sermons, despite these were not legally authorized. Many of these missionaries were related to the independency movement.
Among the most renowned protestants within Cuba´s independency movement were Joaquín de Palma, Pedro Duarte (Episcopal); Agustín Santa Rosa (Episcopal), executed in 1873; Luís Ayestarán y Moliner, executed in 1870; Evaristo Collazo (Presbyterian); Manuel Deulofeu (Methodist).
After the US intervention in the war against Spain, Protestant Churches began to spread massively in Cuba. The first missionaries were relegated to secondary levels in this first phase of missionary offensive in which the religious element was articulated in a subtle strategy of cultural penetration that promoted the American way of live model.
The first Convention of Evangelic Churches in 1902, evidenced the presence and work of a group of Churches: Presbyterian, Episcopal, Anglicans, Methodist, Quakers and Baptist.
There were another incorporations to the national religious scene through out all the neocolonial republic, among them, the Adventists of the Seventh Day, the Salvation Army, the Lutheran Church, Jehovah Witnesses, Gideon Evangelic Band, Evangelic Convention Pinos Nuevos, among others. The last two were born in Cuba to later spread to other parts of the World. Since 1930, Pentecostal Church arrived to Cuba and it´s currently represented by 25 churches.
Currently, there are more than 900 temples and hundreds places legally authorized. Some publications foretell the active religious live.
In Cuba, there are 54 Protestant and Evangelic denominations legally recognized. 60% of them concentrate in Havana. 25 Churches are Pentecostal.
Thousand pastors, ministers and co-pastors work in these Protestant and Evangelic denominations.
There are 10 historic seminars for theological training, among them are the Evangelic Seminar of Theology of Matanzas, which has extended itself to diverse regions of the country. Leaders from around 14 denominations are trained at this seminar. Other religious institutions instruct their personnel at diverse biblical institutions.
Some of these Churches manage foster-care homes for the elderly which also receive financial assistance from the State.
The Cuban Council of Churches (CIC, for its initials in Spanish) is the main ecumenical body in our country. It groups 27 churches as full members, 12 ecumenical organizations, 8 fraternal members and 3 observers. Year 2011 marked the commemoration of the 70th Anniversary of its establishment in 1941 through activities held throughout the national territory. The closing service ceremony held in Havana’s Episcopal Cathedral was attended by Cuban Present Raúl Castro Ruz.
December 25th, Christmas Day, is a national holiday in which Christian denominations celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.
Greek Orthodox Church. (Dependant on the Ecumenical Patriarch and Archbishop of Constantinople).
Before the Revolution, there was a Greek Orthodox Community in Cuba made of Greek immigrants and sailors who arrived in the country occasionally. Russian immigrants who arrived in Cuba after the October Socialist Revolution attended the religious services as well.
Upon the triumph of the Revolution, most of the faithful migrated or eventually passed away. At the 1960s, the Cuban Christian orthodox congregation was established, which was dissolved in 1978.
On October 2001, the construction works of the Greek Orthodox Temple and the Russian Orthodox Church were approved. On January 25th, 2004, the Greek Temple was consecrated by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartolommeo I, with the attendance of Commander-in-Chief Fidel Castro.
In the new temple, which was consecrated on January 2004, the community of believers has grown stronger and has slightly increased in number through the conversion of: persons without a religious background, long-standing Catholic believers, believers from other Christian churches and those who attended ceremonies held by unrecognized orthodox groups.
The Greek Orthodox Church is a full member of the Cuban Council of Churches and its religious services are officiated by a Colombian priest and by other Cuban priests.
On several occasions, representatives from the Church in Cuba have expressed their opposition to the economic, commercial and financial blockade maintained by the US government against the Cuban people.
The Russian Orthodox Church. (Dependant on the Moscow Patriarchate)
In 1971, the Archbishop of Jarkov and Exarch of the Russian Orthodox Church of the Patriarchate of Moscow in Center and South America ordained two Cubans as priest and deacon respectively.
On November 14, 2004, Kiril, Patriarch of Moscow and the entire Russia at the present, former Metropolitan of Smolensk and Kaliningrad and President of the Foreign Ecclesiastical Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, presided over the ceremony to lay the first stone of a new Russian Orthodox temple in Havana and, on October 2008, consecrated the Cathedral of the Russian Orthodox Church dedicated to Our Lady of Kazan. Said ceremony was attended by Cuban President Raúl Castro Ruz.
The religious service is held by a Russian priest, resident in our country.
Cuban Religions of African origins
Regla de Ocha or Santeria
Regla de Palo Monte or Conga
The most dissimilar African ethnic groups, brought into Cuba during the slavery of the 16th to 19th centuries, contributed with various religious expressions that influenced each other on the island, mixed with the Catholic faith and subsequently with spiritualism, giving birth to different cults popularly known as syncretism.
Despite the imposition of Catholicism under the strict concepts of evangelization, these religions turned into simple precepts, due to the economic interests of the slave owners, who would be affected by the decrease in the long working days in order to teach the catechism and by the Sunday rest to be enjoyed by slaves.
On the other hand, masters allowed the magical-animistic practices of slaves during holidays, who threw parties, played the drums, danced and recreated their own music and food.
Africans were stripped of their natural means and had to face slavery, which was the reason why in the new context, references of the cult changed. In Cuba, ritual of protection and fortune telling is predominant, to the detriment of traditional ceremonies held in Africa, such as those dedicated to Agricultural prosperity. Both slaves and freedmen who came from the same region or from different places, by coexisting in the barrack huts where they lived, started to feel the need to group and did so through brotherhoods and chapters. They also established, as a Cuban peculiarity, the Yoruba pantheon, which is the worship of believers to all these deities.
Subsequently, these institutions merged and accepted Creoles and other ethnic groups and favor the preservation of African religious manifestation that underwent a dynamic process of transculturalization.
At the end of the 19th century, some of the brotherhoods and chapters became recreation and assistance societies while others became church houses where rituals of these religious expressions took place.
20th and 21st Centuries
During the neocolonial Republic (1902-1958) these Afro-Cuban religious practices were socially discriminated against, although they continued to expand to other areas of the country through the process of internal migration, autonomous organizations and links with the religious “family”. The penal code of that time, defined a complementary crime as the practice of religious forms of African origin, which was abolished by the Revolution.
After the triumph of the Revolution, they achieved a just appreciation as an expression of respect and equal treatment to all religious beliefs; this has contributed to the national and international dissemination of the music, dance and chants of said religious expressions, which are closely linked to the country’s cultural expressions in general.
They have a theoretical basis in common, which is less elaborated than the Christian doctrines. Institutionally speaking, they lack structural units to direct liturgy and doctrine, and make up independent groups among them. However, in recent years they show a tendency to come together as a group; as in the case of the establishment of the Yoruba Cultural Association of Cuba, the Cuban Abakua Society and the Bantu Religious Institution of Cuba (the latter being of provincial nature), --legally recognized as religious institutions that have been working in the organization of their structures throughout the country.
The Cuban religions of African origin are: Regla de Ocha or Santeria, Regla de Palo Monte or Conga, Abakua and others with local cultural practices like Regla de Arara and Voodoo.
Part of this rich socio-cultural legacy may be appreciated in museums such as: the House of Africa, the museums of Regla and Guanabacoa, as well as the museum and temple of the Yoruba Cultural Association of Cuba, all located in Havana. Likewise, there are countless home temples throughout the island, which are used by those who practice these religions to hold their liturgical activities.
The Orisha 2003 World Yoruba Congress was held in Cuba with the attendance of representatives of this religion from all over the world.
Among the successive groups of Africans who were stripped from their land to serve as slaves in the island of La Española (a French colony located in which is currently the territory of Haiti) there were those from Dahomey and Togo, who belonged to the Fon family and passed the religious practice of Voodoo from generation to generation.
The slave uprising in 1791 brought about the commencement of migrations –which continue to take place due to economic reasons – to the Eastern region of Cuba, where voodoo religion settled, combining elements of primitive Christianity, Catholicism and tribal beliefs of West Africa.
Practiced by Haitians and their decedents in Eastern regions of Cuba and Camagüey, Voodoo (vodun in Dahomey, meaning spirit), worships supernatural forces represented by loas or deities, who act as the channel between the creator (Bon Dieu) and the believers.
Originating from Europe and the United States, spiritualism started to be known in Cuba in the 1850s, through the writings of Allan Kardec, the one considered the theologian of this doctrine, and quickly expanded among the Creole population, who linked it to liberal and modern ideas, uncompromised with the Spanish colonialism and the Catholicism imposed by Spanish colonizers.
Unsuccessfully, Spanish authorities tried to prevent the dissemination of Kardecian ideas that advocated the destruction of old forms in favor of the birth of the new and of progress, and opposed slavery while the Catholic Church condemned the practice of Spiritualism by Pastoral instruction and through every means available to it.
The establishment of centers and societies, the publication of magazines and other texts favored the dissemination of the religious expression, which, in a few years, attracted a great number of followers from different social sectors, both in rural and urban areas.
Researches were of the opinion that the difficult Cuban, political and economic situation, the opposition to the Catholicism officially established, the simplicity of the ceremony and the possibility of a person to “speak” with spirits directly or through a medium favored the spreading of the doctrine.
The most orthodox, scientific or “table” Spiritualism was predominant in the cities, and was practiced by believers with some cultural level, who followed the guidance of foreign books and magazines and thoroughly followed the Kardecian theories.
In inland areas, followers who were mostly of limited education, manifested their “communications” with the spirits in a very different way, which gave birth to the spiritualism of the chain and to the mixed or crossed spiritualism.
Isolated Spiritualists also developed their own spiritual consultation.
They added elements from Christianity and African religious expressions to the traditional rituals, which has derived in an increasingly and strongly rooted relation.
In 2010, a bust of Alan Kardec was unveiled in Havana city’s historical center.
Presently, there are more than 480 acknowledged societies throughout the national territory.
Synagogue of the Council of the Cuban Jewish Community
Historical research show that the first European to disembark in Cuba, along with certain seamen, was the Spanish Jew (converted) Luis de Torres, a translator and interpreter who mastered Hebrew, Aramaic, Arabic, and Castilian languages.
Christopher Columbus gave him the mission to observe the resources of the newly discovered site and to contact the head of the local population. Studies on this subject indicate that Luis de Torres died in Cuba.
During the conquest and colonization, ships from Spain included among its crew the so-called "Marranos" or Crypto Jews who were those converted against their will and who continued to practice their rituals with the utmost discretion.
Groups of Jews arrived in Cuba to put sea-wide distance between them and the Spanish Inquisition that pursued them, while others arrived in the island after their expulsion from northern Brazil by the Portuguese.
During the nineteenth century Independence Wars, some of them fought alongside Cubans and stood out in the conflict, as Major General Carlos Roloff (born in Poland).
Others became members of the expeditions which departed from the United States to Cuba, to join the war for the country's sovereignty while some of them supported the struggle of the island from abroad, like Horatio Rubens, an active member of the Revolutionary Council in New York.
At the time when the pseudo-republic was established in 1902, 30 Jewish families resided in Havana. They offered the first religious services and founded the first association on the island, the United Hebrew Congregation, in 1906, a date which marks the establishment of the community in Cuba. Two years later, they purchased the Cemetery of Guanabacoa, which was turned into a Jewish Cemetery; a place appreciated for its artistic and historical values.
The increase in number continued as a result of the immigration of the Sephardic Jews (natives of Spain, who mostly fled to Turkey when they were expelled from the Iberian country in 1492), reaching the amount of several hundreds on the island, who created new groups.
The congregation Young Men’s Hebrew Association, which was founded in 1918, made an unprecedented appeal for the unity of Jewish communities throughout the country. In the mid-twentieth century there were 40 associations of this religion in Cuba. The Kultur Farain (Cultural Center), which opened in 1926 and proclaimed communist ideals, was closed down in 1931 by the tyrant Gerardo Machado. When it reopened in 1933 under another name, Idisher Sport Club, it was closed down once more by the same reason. The People’s Israeli Center established in 1940 had a socialist trend.
Three thousand Jews arrived from Europe in Cuba as immigrants or refugees, fleeing from Nazism during World War II (1939-1945).
After the Triumph of the Revolution and mainly due to economic reasons upon the nationalization of trade, an activity to which the main part of the Community members devoted itself to, there was a migration of its members to the United States of America basically.
In Cuba there has never been anti-Semitism, as Cuban Jews have historically recognized, who are integrated into the whole social fabric of the country. They are professionals, political and administrative leaders, military men, workers, employees and enjoy the same consideration and respect professed to every citizen in our country as established by the Constitution, which is jealously observed in practice.
Nowadays Cuba has around 500 Jewish families (near 1.500 people), an 80% in Havana and the rest in several provinces.
Religious activities are carried out in 5 synagogues. The synagogue of the Jewish Community Council of Cuba, located in Havana’s Vedado neighborhood, brings together the majority of the Community members followed by the Sephardic Center, located in Vedado as well, and the synagogue of the Adath Israel Community. All of them are located in Havana. The latter has an orthodox trend.
The other two synagogues are located in Santiago de Cuba and Camagüey, in the eastern part of the island. Other cities of the country have small communities, whose activities are carried out in their leaders’ houses. That is the case of Guantánamo and Manzanillo, located also in the eastern part of the island and of Sancti Spíritus, Cienfuegos, Santa Clara in the central part of the island. With the exception of the aforementioned Adath Israel Orthodox community, the rest of the communities follow a conservative trend.
Other important groups, which carry out a systematic work are: the National Council of Jewish Women of Cuba, youth and elderly organizations and Hadassah-Cuba, made up of doctors and paramedics. In order to coordinate efforts and to contribute solve the problems of the various Jewish communities, there is a Coordinating Board of the Hebrew Societies, which brings together the presidents and executive members of those communities.
The community often receives visits by foreign groups and delegations, whose members travel to participate in activities organized by their counterparts worldwide and keep a continued exchange with Hebrew organizations abroad. Jews who have so desired have been able to migrate to Israel (Alijah).
The Jewish Community Council of Cuba is a fraternal member of the Council of Churches of Cuba (Ecumenical).
In 1998, Commander-in-Chief and President of the Councils of State, Fidel Castro Ruz, visited the Jewish Community Council of Cuba on the occasion of a community celebration and in 2010, current President of Cuba, Raúl Castro Ruz, attended the celebration of Hanukkah or Festival of Lights at the Council’s Beth Shalom Synagogue.
In November 2006, the Community commemorated 100 years of its establishment, by holding several activities that were attended by Government representatives and by other representatives of the various religious institutions. The main event was attended by President of the National Assembly of People’s Power, Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada, among other authorities. Delegations from several Latin American countries and from Canada and the United States attended the commemoration activities, including representatives of the Latin American Jewish Congress. The Canadian delegation was headed by the President of the Jewish Federations of that country.
National Spiritual Assembly of Baha´is in Cuba
The Baha'i faith is a religious-philosophical denomination founded by Prophet Baha'u'llah, born in Tehran, who declared it in Baghdad in 1863. It sustains the unity of God, recognizes the founders or gods of the major monotheistic religions and their prophets, and inculcates the principle of the oneness and integrity of the entire human race and that of universal peace. In Cuba, the first community is established in Havana in 1941 by people from the United States of America. Since 1957, its national headquarters are permanently located in Havana and has communities in several provinces of the country.
Auto regulation Yoga Society
Established in Cuba in 1957 and legalized in 1966, based in Havana, this society is a fraternal member of the Cuban Council of Churches (CCC).
Its doctrine is based on teachings of Hindu teacher Swami Paramahansa Yogananda, who founded it in his country. Upon commemorating its 55th anniversary, representatives of the U.S. organizations with which they maintain relations, attended the celebrations and shared with colleagues working for the Office of Attention to Religious Matters.
Before the Triumph of the Revolution, the organized practice of the Islamic religion did not work in Cuba. Most Arabs who migrated to Cuba came from Lebanon and Syria and professed a Maronite Catholicism.
After the Triumph of the Revolution, there is an increase in number of temporary visitors, mainly students, from North Africa and the Near East, who are Muslim.
Year1993 marked the beginning of the establishment of Islamic communities in Cuba.
On February 2007, the Cuban Islamic League was legally recognized with about 200 members across the country, which brings together both believers belonging to the Shia and Sunni branches of the Islam.
In Cuba, and due to the reasons explained above, there has never been a mosque, which should be built in the future as planned. Since 1989, a prayer room provides religious services to members of the diplomatic Corps.
Soka Gakkai in Cuba. It is a small community that gathers around 400 members, including full members and attendees to its activities who are not members yet. It has followers in 10 provinces of the country, even when its highest concentration is in Havana. It was legally recognized on January 2007. It belongs to the Mahayana branch of Buddhism.
Emeritus President of the Soka Gakkai International, based in Japan, Daisaku Ikeda visited our country in 1996, being awarded the Félix Varela First Degree Order for National Culture.
It has also a small membership and is mainly located in Havana. It has no legal recognition yet, but its followers practice their beliefs without difficulties. It belongs to the Theravada Buddhist branch.
This designation groups those who believe that water has miraculous powers as a panacea to cure all ills. This belief arises in the mountain range of Pinar del Rio, Cuba's westernmost province in the 1940's. Presently, it has two communities in the municipalities of Viñales and San Cristobal from Pinar del Rio province and in Artemisa respectively.
In Cuba, there are 1.106 lodges pertaining to different religious orders. Standing out among them, one could mention: the Masonic order with (423) lodges, the Independent Order of Odd-fellows with (211) lodges, the United Order of Odd-fellows with (143) lodges, the Knight of the Light with (269) lodges; the Knights of the Light with (40) lodges, the Theosophical order with (10) lodges and the Rosicrucian Order with (4) lodges.
They all have relations of exchange with their counterparts abroad. Like the religious institutions, they own their buildings.
The Cuban Masonic Grand Lodge is a member of the Ibero-American Masonic Confederation and has taken on responsibilities at a regional level. It manages an elderly home, for which it also receives funding from the Cuban government in support to its efforts to look after the elderly.
Notable patriots of Cuba’s Independence wars have been members of these fraternal associations, namely: Cuba’s National Hero José Martí Pérez, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, known as the Father of the Homeland and many others who participated in the wars against the Spanish colonialism.