Just posted to our Web site, a very helpful analysis of the role of the church in Cuba's evolution from Margaret E. Crahan of Columbia University:
The March 2012 visit to Cuba of Pope Benedict XVI focused attention on the emergence of the Catholic Church as an influential actor in the island nation. While the 1998 visit of Pope John Paul II was heralded as a watershed in church-state relations in Cuba, the more recent visit reflected the increasing influence of the church at a crucial time in the country’s history.
A nominally Catholic country, Cuba has historically been religiously diverse with low levels of practice and high levels of syncretism. From the 15th century up until the 1959 revolution, the Catholic Church in Cuba was predominantly staffed by Spaniards. Priests and religious were concentrated in educational institutions in urban areas. Wide swaths of the island were relatively un-churched. A 1957 survey of 400 rural families by Agrupación Católica revealed that only 52.10 percent identified themselves as Catholic and 53.51 percent had never laid eyes on a priest. A very high percentage (41.41 percent) claimed to have no religion, while 3.26 percent identified themselves as Protestants. Both Catholics and Protestants traditionally had low levels of practice ranging from 3 to 4 percent for the former and 5 to 6 percent for the latter, ratios that still hold true today. However, surveys in the 1990s revealed that over 80 percent of Cubans believed in the divine, not necessarily in Jesus, Yahweh or Shango. In short, Cuba is a nation of believers, if not of churchgoers.
Read the full article here.