One of my favorite lectures was on the dynamics shaping the Cuban identity
and the role of faith/religion in their society.
I apologize for not having the name of the professor who spoke to us;
it was a vacation - and my first Road Scholar program -
who knew I'd want to bring a pen and a notebook?
Contrary to popular perception,
Cuba is NOT a Roman Catholic country;
apparently Rome hasn't gotten that memo either
since they've sent 3 of the last Popes there for a visit.
The statistic about the number of baptized Roman Catholics is misleading
since you have to be baptized in the RC church
in order to participate in the Afro-Cuban faiths (including Yoruba and Santeria),
So, while the official position of the RC church is that
60 percent of the Cuban population is Catholic,
70% of the people being baptized are doing it as a gateway to other faiths.
Less than 3% of all people attend Catholic or Protestants services regularly.
By and large, Cubans are agnostic
(so maybe all the rumors about 'Godless communists' were true after all).
"Cubans believe in everything and nothing at the same time."
They frequently wear signs of multiple faiths (crosses, Stars of Davis etc)
as a way of hedging their bets rather than signifying deeply held beliefs.
The three main forces shaping Cuban identity are
*a sense of abandonment
*pragmatism (and a collective identity as survivors)
*a strong oppositional streak.
The last one almost made me laugh out loud.
Who knew my boss and my youngest son were Cubans?!
The Cubans feel that their country has been used by a succession of foreign powers
and, when they've taken what they want
from their land and people,
never worrying about the destruction they've wrought.
Which has led to the Cubans seeing themselves as pragmatic,
practical and proud of being able to survive
so many different conquerors.
They also are highly resistant to being told what to do -
which is why the embargo has failed to spark a demand
from the people
that their 'dictator' be overthrown;
knowing that was the expectation,
they've dug their heels in to resist.
A fascinating perspective -
and not at all what I expected.
But that's the very nature of travel -
to challenge your notions of the world -
and your place in it.