On arriving in Cuba, the one thing that you are struck with before you even exit the airport is how tight the government controls everything. This was an expected aspect of Cuban culture for this American citizen. However, coming from a religious background, I was intrigued to see how much government played a role in the life of modern day Catholics. On further exploration, there might be an opportunity to view other Protestant denominations and their interaction with the government as well.
For many years, Central and Latin America have been, in terms of number attendants, one of the fastest growing religious regions in the world. After the Cuban revolution in 1959, the Catholic Church faced some of its hardest years amidst the revolutionary atmosphere. Being able to investigate exactly what those struggles were and give names and faces to some of the priests and places that suffered losses at that time is a great foundation that I am excited to look at and shed more light on.
The Catholic Church today is still under attack and faces a lot of problems not just directly from the government but also indirectly through their parishioners. The Cuban people are a people that are struggling to make ends meet and maintain a lifestyle that meets mankind’s basic needs. Looking at some of the struggles that parishioners are facing is a way of taking a look at the problems that the church is facing. One of the subjects that I plan on taking a closer look at in this area in specific is the Damas de Blanco. These are women based out of a Catholic Church in the Miramar region of Havana who are protesting the imprisonment of certain anti-Castro men. I’m sure that there are many more stories just like this one where the church has to walk a fine line between caring for its parishioners and respecting the strictures placed on them by the government.
The last part of the project will be to look at some of the old converted churches and monasteries that are in Havana and find out the stories of why they are that way. After the Revolution of 1959, many of these architectural gems have been converted, renovated, and repurposed into something else. Taking a visual tour of what was once a place of worship and seeing what the government has decided to put in its place will be a revealing experiment into the values, goals, and priorities of this communist state. Museums, theaters, no matter what they have been remodeled into are an interesting conundrum because no matter what they are now, at one point before the revolution they were a place that brought about community. How interesting that in a country that is built on the principles of socialism, where the collective triumphs over the individual, the most common places for weekly community building were taken away.
All of these topics are an integral part of Cuban life and I think that it is going to be a highly enlightening topic to cover!