Santería and the Quest for a Postcolonial Identity in Post-Revolutionary Cuban Cinema

  • Edna M. Rodríguez-Mangual
Part of the Religion/Culture/Critique book series (RCCR)


“African Spirit Worship Has Powerful Hold on Cubans: Catholics Embrace Santería,”1 reads one of the many headlines during the visit of Pope John Paul II to the island in January 1998. During that time around 300,000 people gathered in Havana’s Plaza of the Revolution to greet the pope. It was a “history-making,” five-day visit, an article in The Christian Century pointed out, as Fidel Castro himself welcomed the Roman Catholic leader.2 During his talks, the pope spoke out for greater religious freedom within Cuba, meanwhile condemning the long-lasting U.S. economic embargo against Cuba. Everyone had big hopes for what this visit could mean for the island, since social, political, and religious issues were brought forth. Nonetheless, when a group of Santería babalawos requested a special meeting with John Paul II they were denied by the Cuban Catholic leaders, the same leaders that stood alongside the pope asking for greater religious freedom. So, even with greater freedoms to practice religion, there yet remains a hierarchy of those religions both within the political government and within the religious structures.


Religious Practice Social Agenda Holy Water Cuban Image Patron Saint 
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  1. 3.
    Alice L. Hageman, “Introduction,” in Religion in Cuba Today Alice L. Hageman and Philip E. Wheaton, eds. (New York: Association Press, 1971), 31. Although this information is taken from a book published in 1971, the numbers have not changed much; according to Anita Snow, chief of the Associated Press in Havana, currently 40 percent of Cubans are today baptized Catholics. See “Spirits High for Pope’s Cuba Visit,” available at Scholar
  2. 7.
    John King, Magical Reels: A History of Cinema in Latin America (London: Verso, 1990), 145.Google Scholar
  3. 9.
    Michael Chanan, The Cuban Image: Cinema and Cultural Politics in Cuba (London: BIF Publishing, 1985), 60.Google Scholar
  4. 13.
    Paul A. Schroeder, Tomás Gutiérrez Alea: The Dialectics of a Filmmaker (New York: Routledge, 2002), 68.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© S. Brent Plate 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Edna M. Rodríguez-Mangual

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