The Early Years

Cuba is a multiracial society with a population of mainly Spanish and African origins.
The largest organized religion has remained the Roman Catholic Church.
The early years of the Catholic Church in Cuba

The early years (1)

Cuba was discovered by Columbus during his first voyage, on the 28th of October, 1492. He took possession in the name of the Catholic monarchs of Spain, and named it Juana in honour of the Infante Don Juan.

Upon the death of Ferdinand, 23 January, 1516, Velasquez changed the name of the island to Fernandina in honour of that monarch. Later, the name was changed to Santiago in honour of Spain’s patron saint, and still later, to Ave Maria in honour of the Blessed virgin. During all these official changes, however, the island continued to be known by its original name of Cuba, given it by natives, and it has retained the name to the present day.

The aborigines (Siboneys, tainos and guanacabeyes) whom the Spaniards found in Cuba, were a mild, timid, inoffensive people, entirely unable to resist the invaders of their country, or to endure the hardships imposed upon them. They lived under nine independent caciques or chiefs, and possessed a simple religion devoid of rites and ceremonies, but with a belief in a supreme being and the inmortality of the soul.

They were reduced to slavery by the white settlers, among whom, however, the energetic and persevering Father Bartolomé de Las Casas,”The Protector of the Indians”, as he was officially called, earned a high reputation in history by his philanthropic efforts.

In 1518 Leo X established the Diocese of all Cuba, which included also the Spanish possessions of Louisiana and Florida. The see was established at Baracoa in eastern Cuba, and in 1522, by a Bull of Adrian VI, it was transferred to the city of Santiago de Cuba, where it remained until January 6, 1925, when it was transferred to the Archbishopric of Havana until the present day.

In 1946 the first cuban Cardinal was named by Pope Pius XII; His Eminence, Manuel Cardinal Arteaga, born in 1879 in Camaguey. He died in 1963, after having had to ask for political asylum at the Argentinian Embassy in 1961-1962.

(1) Religion:


During the early history of Cuba, the clergy seemed to have been the principal if not the only gents of education. By the Bull of Adrian VI (28 April, 1522), the Scholatria was established at Santiago de Cuba for giving instruction in Latin.

In 1689, the college of San Ambrosio was founded in Havana under control of the Jesuits, for the purpose of preparing young men for the priesthood. The foundation of another Jesuit college in Havana was the next step that gave a fresh impulse to education; this was opened in 1724 under the name of the College of San Ignacio. The old College of San Ambrosio was then united with it, although it still retained its character as a foundation-school for the Church.

As early as 1688, the city council of Havana petitioned the royal government to establish a university in that city, in order that young men desirous of pursuing the higher studies might not be compelled to go to Europe to do so.

This was not immediately granted, but finally, by a letter of Innocent XIII (12 September, 1721), the fathers of the Convent of San Juan de Letran were authorized to open the institution desired, and, after some years of preparation, the present University of Havana was founded in 1728.

The rectors, vice-rectors, counsellors, and secretaries were to be Dominicans.

In 1793, under the administration of Don Luis de las Casas, who is always gratefully remembered by the Cubans, was founded La Sociedad Economica de la Habana, which has always been the prime mover in the educational advancement of the island.