Date: February 22, 2021
Washington, DC – The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today released the following factsheet on the Santería tradition in Cuba:
Factsheet on the Santería Tradition in Cuba - This factsheet provides a brief overview of the traditions of the Santeria community in Cuba and highlights the religious freedom violations that community experiences. Santería is a syncretic religion from Cuba that incorporates elements of Catholicism with the religion of the Yoruba people from West Africa. An estimated 70 percent of Cuba’s 11 million people perform some type of Afro-Cuban practice, including many of the country’s Catholics. Despite the religion’s prevalence, the Cuban government frequently violates the freedom of religion or belief of independent Santería communities in a range of ways, including ongoing harassment, attempts to co-opt the faith for political purposes, and restrictions on members’ ability to worship in private homes. Members of unregistered Santería communities, particularly the Free Yorubas, are particularly vulnerable and face ongoing threats of criminal sanctions. These violations are emblematic of the tactics used by the Cuban government to control faith and suppress independent religious communities.
In its 2020 Annual Report (also available in Spanish), USCIRF recommended that the U.S. State Department place Cuba on its Special Watch List (SWL) for its ongoing and systematic religious freedom violations. In December 2020, the State Department followed this recommendation.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the U.S. Congress to monitor, analyze, and report on religious freedom abroad. USCIRF makes foreign policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress intended to deter religious persecution and promote freedom of religion and belief. To interview a Commissioner, please contact USCIRF at