Cuban Youth Flirting with Religion

Daisy Valera

Photo by Darko Perica

For some time I hadn’t paused on the balcony of my dorm room.  Beyond the trees —which are atypical in the city but are all around my school, because this area was for a long time a botanical garden— I can see the chemistry faculty of the University of Havana.

In the mornings, the landscape appears the same as always – students going and coming, or talking among themselves before going to class.  But what’s happening at nightfall on the stairway of the faculty is something that concerns me.

Almost every evening, a number of students from my school (the Institute of Applied Science and Technology) sit out on that stairway.  Probably around 10 or 12 students gather there.

The issue that occupies them is religion.  After talking with some of them, I learned they believe in the presence of demonic forces, they read the Bible and speak of Christ, hell, purgatory and possible salvation.

In recent times, groups like these have proliferated in Cuba.  It’s increasingly frequent for them to swoop down on you in street with divinatory phrases like “Christ will save you,” or for you to run into groups of teenagers and youth singing praise to the Lord.

Religion is a complex issue on the island, but these anomalous social symptoms must not be overlooked.

Cubans go through phases.  Though it was once frowned on to be seen going into a church or to believe in any religion, later people hung a picture of John Paul II on the door of their house as something correct.

I suppose this explosion among youth interested in Christianity is a consequence of the many contradictory situations people have experienced over the past 50 years in Cuba.

Perhaps it’s a demonstration that societies don’t achieve understanding by imposition, but at their own rhythm.  This lack of consciousness may also be thanks to the perennial lack of solid explanations in this country regarding religion.

But there’s another vision of why youth are gradually looking to religion as something to cling to. To a great degree it may be related to the limited future perspectives they can discern; to me it offers them another alternative, like the one of leaving the country.

Religion is becoming an answer to the less human conditions upon which our social relationships are forming.  It’s a demonstration of how youth do not believe they can transform their reality into something that makes them feel more satisfied.

4 thoughts on “Cuban Youth Flirting with Religion

  • To Eldor S – I would be interested in your interpretation of the life and religious faith of Frank Pais – was he just lazy and having problems with his academic studies? Was he just an agent of the Pope? Was his faith just a “bad joke”? Then there is the Rev. Raul Suarez, former pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Havana and currently Director of the Centro Memorial Martin Luther King and member of the National Assembly. Is he just a lazy thinker who needs a mental crutch? Is his faith just a “bad joke” that he is playing on Cuba? You might want to read “Fidel and Religion” by Frei Betto. You also might want to take a look at the concept of “liberation theology” before declaring all religion a “joke”!

  • I suppose they are just being a bit lazy (or having difficulties) at their studies and chose religion as an answer for all scientific quizzes 🙂 Or are they being just sarcastic? maybe they are agents of the Pope (whatever his number is)… In any case, religion is a bad joke and those youth aren’t being funny 🙁

  • How marvelous that Cuban youth are, once again, exploring another faucet of their human existence, the spiritual. Science, technology and education do not have all the anwers to life’s most profound questions, Who am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going? Frank Pais, a hero of mine, was born in a Cuban
    Baptist Church, raised a Christian, taught at a Baptist secondary school and pastored a small Baptist church in El Caney! At the time of his brutal murder (age 23) by Batista thugs, he was the leader of the 26th of July Movement within the Cuban Revolution! May more Cuban youth learn of this Revolutionary’s life and religious faith. Cuba will be the better for it.

  • How sad that after fifty years of The Revolution, and three hundred years of The Enlightenment, youth seem to be returning to religion. Of course there are many flavors of religion; I prefer poly- and pan-theism to monotheism. The gods remind us, with all of their absurdies, of our own fault-filled selves, whereas the austere Yahweh of the Desert reminds us more of some hard-to-please, nay impossible- to- please, father!

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