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Yoani Sanchez

Yoani Sanchez

Posted May 4, 2009 | 07:31 PM (EST)

After Decades of Suppression, Cubans Once Again Find Hope in Their Faith


2009-05-04-churchhavana1.jpg

One of the most important changes in Cuban society introduced by the socialist system was the temporary disappearance of religious practices. Especially in the 70s, the churches were hardly visited and few confessed their affiliation with any religion. On every form you had to fill out, whether to get a job, to attend university, or to look for a new house, the same question appeared: "Do you have religious beliefs?" We all knew how to answer because the question wasn't one of statistical interest, but rather a clear intent to intimidate. Few dared check "Yes" and take the consequences.

Those who sought to become members of the Communist Party took a course in "scientific atheism" and were forbidden to baptize their children. Clearly, religious sentiment didn't disappear but it was hidden. An entire generation of Cubans grew up without faith and we've only just learned of the existence of Christmas and Easter. Common phrases such as "God willing," "Thank God," or "God be with you," came to have, among the true believers, a frankly counterrevolutionary resonance.

It was late 1991 when the "miracle" occurred and the authorities depenalized the exercise of religion. Nevertheless, in just the last eighteen years it seems there are now few atheists on the Island. From amid the ashes has risen today's devotion. Even those of us who lost faith along the way would like to believe we are approaching a rebirth, one that promises to restore hope and life.

Yoani's blog, Generation Y, can be read here in English translation.