Before the Castro regime, the religious base in Cuba was very similar to the rest of Latin America--an estimated 90% of the population was Catholic. However, since Cuba’s Communist Revolution in 1959, the interplay between church and state has been complicated and elastic. When the Castro regime took over the island, the government, in theory, allowed religious freedom. In practice, however, the Communist Party strongly encouraged atheism, closing Catholic churches and schools and forcing the faithful underground.
Today, the Church reports that around 60 percent of Cuba's 11 million residents are baptized Catholic. The current religious environment is made more complex by the presence of Santeria--an Afro-Cuban religion born from slaves in the Caribbean that blends beliefs and rituals of the Yoruba religion with Roman Catholicism. The Santeria form of worship demonstrates the equal faith that many of its adherents have placed in both the Orishas and the Catholic saints. By accepting and adopting the beliefs of both Cuba’s historic oppressor and oppressed, they have formed a religion that can neither be labeled as truly Christian nor Yoruba, but instead inherently Cuban.
This project was a visual exploration into the ‘tug of war relationship’ between church and state, and my visual take on the resilience seen and heard around Havana. This project aimed to focus on Fidel and his relationship with religion, the Cuban community, the international community, and the ties that communism has with Catholicism and Santeria.