Juan Carlos Tavares

Juan Carlos Tavares

University of Rhode Island

Political Science/History


Mentor: Harvard Sitkoff - Professor of History

The Silencing of the Cuban Catholic Church by Fidel Castro, 1959 - 1963

In the past scholars have written about Santeria, a hybrid between African religion and Catholicism prevalent in the Cuba lower class. Scholars have also written about the changes that the Cuban Revolution brought to the Western Hemisphere. However, little has been written about the consequences of Fidel Castro's revolution and the suppression of the Church as a counter-revolutionary force. My research investigates the impact of Castro on the Roman Catholic religion after the Cuban revolution of 1959. It identifies how Castro suppressed the Cuban Catholic Church through a populous movement and how the clergy resisted.

After the downfall of Fulgencio Batista in 1959, the Cuban revolution brought the immensely popular Castro to power. Among his goals were nationalizing public service, extending education, and industrializing Cuba. The Church envisioned the revolution as a positive change. However, in the early 1960's, Castro outlawed organized religion, confiscated Church property and expelled members of the clergy from Cuba.

A careful study of primary and secondary historical sources shows that Castro silenced the Church through a populous movement. Castro divided Cuba into the upper and lower classes. Since the lower class had brought Castro to power, he idolized them and vilified the upper class. Castro also associated the church with the upper class. He criticized the Church for neglecting the poor and courting the rich. The Church was not prepared for the revolution's social and economic changes and was not ready for the lower clergy to side with Castro and oppose the Church's hierarchy.

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