Journal of Latin American Studies


Cuba: Religion and Revolutionary Institutionalization

Margaret E. Crahan

Both before and after the 1959 revolution, the Catholic Church in Cuba deviated from the norm in Latin America. This is in large measure due to the unique historical and social experience of Cuba, as well as to the fact that the church remained until the early 1960s largely a missionary outpost of Spain. When the revolution occurred, the Catholic Church was frozen in a pre-Vatican II mold which was reinforced by an exodus of clergy, religious and laity. The economic and diplomatic embargo of Cuba further isolated the church from progressive trends within the international church. Thus, the ferment unleashed by Vatican II (1962–5) and the Latin American Bishops Conference at Medellín, Colombia (1968) had less impact than changes resulting from the Cuban Revolution. As a consequence, the Catholic Church in Cuba entered the 1970s with limited theological and pastoral resources to meet the challenge of a consolidated Marxist/Leninist revolution. As an institution, the Catholic Church in Cuba is, as it was in 1959, the weakest in all of Latin America.