Catholic Shrines & Places of Interest in Cuba
About the Church in Cuba:
The history of the Catholic Church here is a long one and, of course, a very difficult one over the past 50 years once Fidel Castro took power. Castro exiled the Archbishop and several hundred Spanish priests and Catholics were discriminated against in employment and education. The 300,000 exiles who fled the country also lessened the number of Catholics, although the Church estimates that about 70% of the Cuban population is Catholic.
Traveling to Cuba:
Long a bastion of Communism, the island nation has received visitors from countries throughout the world with one notable exception, and that is the United States. That has recently changed however and relaxed travel restrictions means that it is now possible for those who are U.S. citizens to travel here without the necessity of going to Canada or Mexico first. There are still certain restrictions: you must be part of a cultural exchange group, but that is not a big obstacle since several private tour operators put such groups together with the express purpose of allowing U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba.
The U.S. embargo had been severely criticized by the Bishops of Cuba as being counter-productive and hurting the poor. Most recently there has been some relaxation of the restrictions on Catholics. Time will tell whether relaxation of these restrictions will improve the lot of the common people.
Certainly the news that Pope Benedict XVI visited the country in the spring of 2012 was an encouraging sign, and with Pope Francis having visited in 2015, we hope for better relations. Nonetheless, it is still a Communist dictatorship, with a poor human rights record, so we encourage visitors to be aware of that and conduct yourselves accordingly.
Baracoa: Sacred Cross of Parra (cross planted by Christopher Columbus)
Sandino: Sacred Heart of Jesus Church (first new church built since the Communist revolution)
Santiago de Cuba (El Cobre): Basilica of Our Lady of Charity