Cuba para Cristo: Protestant Evangelists, American Expansionists and Cuban Independentistas, 1860-1965

Nicola Amanda Singh, Fordham University


My dissertation examines Cubans’ rich history of religious nonconformity and heterodoxy as well as a wealth of evidence which shows that Cuban evangelists were largely responsible for proselytizing and spreading Protestantism in Cuba and Cuban enclaves in the U.S. Given their historic insistence on autonomous religious expression and resistance to top-down religious dictation, I make the case that Cubans could not be colonized religiously. I also demonstrate how pre-1898 Cuban – American exchanges and over four hundred years of Spanish colonial rule shaped Cuba and Cubans in ways that distinguished them from other Latin American colonies and colonists respectively. The unique particularities which characterize Cuba and US / Cuba relations challenges the claim that missionaries to Cuba were categorical agents of empire and Cuban converts to Protestantism were colonized. Cubans were not compelled to convert. More significantly, the majority of converts were won to the faith by Cuban evangelists. Missionaries spent a great deal of their time performing administrative tasks such as keeping records of expenditures, corresponding with mission board representatives and supporters fundraising back in the U.S. They also spent tie trying to improve their Spanish. These activities left them exhausted and opened to and eventual reliant on assistance from Cuban co-evangelists and lay workers. It is also important to underscore Cuban converts’ adherence to Protestantism’s demand for exclusive monotheistic devotion given their long history of entrenched religious syncretism, because it suggests that they came to regard the advantages of conversion as equal to if not greater than those they lost when they abandoned syncretic Catholicism and Santeria Cuban conversion to Protestantism (and the spread of Protestantism on the island,) as a result of proselytization efforts on the part of Cuban and American missionaries after nearly four hundred years of imposed Catholicism, entrenched religious syncretism, and in post 1959 Cuba, systematic Communist indoctrination in Cuban public life is one of the most significant but vastly understudied subjects in Cuban history and Protestant missiology to date. Cubans’ conversion to Protestantism is significant because it occurred among people who already self-identified as Christians and who in the first half century following independence, were pressed with nation building, questions of national identity, socio-economic uncertainties connected to industrial capitalism, crippling political instability and at times blatant intrusion by the United States. .

Subject Area

Caribbean Studies|Latin American Studies

Recommended Citation

Singh, Nicola Amanda, "Cuba para Cristo: Protestant Evangelists, American Expansionists and Cuban Independentistas, 1860-1965" (2015). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI10090282.