- From a Protestant perspective, Cuba's history is divided by the Spanish-American War (1898). Prior to this time, the country was dominated overwhelmingly by Roman Catholicism, which is still the largest denomination in the country. A small Protestant presence began as early as 1741, when the Church of England began to hold services for expatriates; then, after some of the Cubans who migrated to the united States found their way to the Episcopal Church, that church placed a pastor in Havana in 1871.In 1873, the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, began work among Cuban expatriates in Florida. By 1883, two Cuban Methodist preachers had been ordained - Enrique B. Someillan and Aurelio Silvera - and they returned to Cuba to begin the spread of Methodism. About this same time, a Baptist minister recruited by Baptists working in Florida also returned to Cuba.The American authorities who took power after the Spanish-American War imposed religious freedom on the island. A spectrum of churches arrived in the next few years to reproduce the denominational spectrum of the United States. In 1941, the Cuban Council of Protestant Churches (now the Ecumenical Council of Cuba) was founded. It is now affiliated with the World Council of Churches. Through the middle of the century, several Holiness churches and more than 25 different Pentecostal churches arrived.Protestant churches initially welcomed Castro, whose 1958 revolution replaced a harsh dictator, but he became increasingly repressive toward religious groups. In the 1960s, more than half a million Cubans, many of them Protestants, left the country and relocated to the United States, which had the effect of further weakening the churches. The Castro government was especially harsh on Jehovah's Witnesses, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and Bando Evangelisto Gedéon, which were all declared to be bearers of a reactionary anti-Marxist ideology; they subsequently ceased to have any visibility in Cuba. During the early years of the regime, Castro banned public religious celebration and confiscated a significant amount of church property.At the beginning of the 21st century, Protestantism had the allegiance of only 3 percent of the population. Most of the churches that were present in 1958 have survived, but in a greatly weakened state. The Evangelical Theological Seminary at Matanzas serves a spectrum of the Protestant churches and shortly after the turn of the century reported 125 resident students and slightly more than that in extension programs.A loosening of repression in the 1990s allowed significant growth in various Protestant faiths, especially Pentecostalism. The independent Evangelical Pentecostal Church of Cuba has led the way, followed closely by the Assemblies of God, currently the two largest non-Catholic churches in the country.See also Caribbean.Further reading:■ S. J. Bazdresch and E. S. Sweeney, "The Church in Communist Cuba: Reflections on the Contemporary Scene," Thought 63, 250 (September 1988)■ Leslie Dewart, Christianity and Revolution: The Lessons of Cuba. (New York: Herder & Herder, 1963)■ M. A. Ramos, Protestantism and Revolution in Cuba (Research Institute for Cuban Studies, University of Miami, 1989)■ Jason M. Yaremko, U.S. Protestant Missions in Cuba: From Independence to Castro (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2000).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.