Culture / Religion
Cuban culture is influenced by its melting pot of cultures, primarily those of Spain and Africa. After the 1959 revolution, the government started a national literacy campaign, offered free education to all and established rigorous sports, ballet and music programs.
Cuban music is very rich and is the most commonly known expression of Cuban culture. The central form of this music is Son, which has been the basis of many other musical styles like "Danzón de nuevo ritmo", mambo, cha-cha-chá and salsa music. Rumba ("de cajón o de solar") music originated in the early Afro-Cuban culture, mixed with Hispanic elements of style. The Tres was invented in Cuba from Hispanic cordophone instruments models (the instrument is actually a fusion of elements from the Spanish guitar and lute). Other traditional Cuban instruments are of African origin, Taíno origin, or both, such as the maracas, güiro, marímbula and various wooden drums including the mayohuacán.
Popular Cuban music of all styles has been enjoyed and praised widely across the world. Cuban classical music, which includes music with strong African and European influences, and features symphonic works as well as music for soloists, has received international acclaim thanks to composers like Ernesto Lecuona. Havana was the heart of the rap scene in Cuba when it began in the 1990s.
During that time, reggaetón was growing in popularity. In 2011, the Cuban state denounced reggaeton as degenerate, directed reduced "low-profile" airplay of the genre (but did not ban it entirely) and banned the megahit Chupi Chupi by Osmani García, characterizing its description of sex as "the sort which a prostitute would carry out". In December 2012, the Cuban government officially banned sexually explicit reggaeton songs and music videos from radio and television. As well as pop, classical and rock are very popular in Cuba.
In 2010, the religious affiliation of the country was estimated by the Pew Forum to be 65% Christian (60% Roman Catholic or about 6.9 million in 2016, 5% Protestant or about 575,000 in 2016), 23% unaffiliated, 17% folk religion (such as santería), and the remaining 0.4% consisting of other religions.
Cuba is officially a secular state. Religious freedom increased through the 1980s, with the government amending the constitution in 1992 to drop the state's characterization as atheistic.
Roman Catholicism is the largest religion, with its origins in Spanish colonization. Despite less than half of the population identifying as Catholics in 2006, it nonetheless remains the dominant faith. Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI visited Cuba in 1998 and 2011, respectively, and Pope Francis visited Cuba in September 2015. Prior to each papal visit, the Cuban government pardoned prisoners as a humanitarian gesture.
The government's relaxation of restrictions on house churches in the 1990s led to an explosion of Pentecostalism, with some groups claiming as many as 100,000 members. However, Evangelical Protestant sects, organized into the umbrella Cuban Council of Churches, remain much more powerful.
The religious landscape of Cuba is also strongly defined by syncretisms of various kinds. Christianity is often practiced in tandem with Santería, a mixture of Catholicism and mostly African faiths, which include a number of cults. La Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre (the Virgin of Cobre) is the Catholic patroness of Cuba, and a symbol of Cuban culture. In Santería, she has been syncretized with the goddess Oshun.
Cuba also hosts small communities of Jews (500 in 2012), Muslims, and members of the Bahá'í Faith.
Several well-known Cuban religious figures have operated outside the island, including the humanitarian and author Jorge Armando Pérez.
The official language of Cuba is Spanish and the vast majority of Cubans speak it. Spanish as spoken in Cuba is known as Cuban Spanish and is a form of Caribbean Spanish. Lucumí, a dialect of the West African language Yoruba, is also used as a liturgical language by practitioners of Santería, and so only as a second language. Haitian Creole is the second most spoken language in Cuba, and is spoken by Haitian immigrants and their descendants. Other languages spoken by immigrants include Galician and Corsican.