Afro-Cuban Religions and Social Welfare: Consequences of Commercial Development in Havana

By Hearn, Adrian H. | Human Organization, Spring 2004 | Go to article overview

Afro-Cuban Religions and Social Welfare: Consequences of Commercial Development in Havana


Hearn, Adrian H., Human Organization


Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, the government of Fidel Castro has struggled to provide Cubans with health care, adequate housing, and social security. Decision making about these issues has been decentralized to involve the public activity of community self-help groups, especially in Havana's most marginal zones. Many such groups are rooted in Afro-Cuban religions, which since slavery times have operated as underground hubs of mutual support. Based on 18 months of fieldwork, three religious communities are examined as they build tentative relationships with state development institutions. Resulting projects set out to improve the quality of life of participants, but these aspirations become obscured as the projects seek quick returns from the burgeoning tourist market. The case studies show the strong impact of "informal religion" on specific projects and suggest that responsibility for balancing commercial and community interests lies both with state and civil society actors in their capacity to build collaborative projects.

Key words: tourism, development, religion, community organizations, Cuba

One of Latin America's most significant ongoing challenges is the effective delivery of basic welfare services to urban communities. Since the 1980s, neo-liberal decentralization has shifted responsibility for social welfare away from national governments to local administrative branches, private service providers, and transnational nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) (Cisneros 1996:7). Driven by economic globalization, this process has fragmented national development strategies through the delegation and commercialization of government services, which in many regions have prompted the formation of grassroots self-help associations committed to small-scale community welfare (Fernandez Soriano 1999:168). While some of these groups have subsisted independently through networks of black market exchange, others have collaborated in neighborhood support projects in symbiosis with local governments. In this way, state activity has proven indispensable in some contexts, albeit with increased sensitivity to local interests in the design and implementation of economically viable social welfare strategies.

Cuba's centrally administrated system of basic social services began to erode in 1989, resulting in the growth of locally based neighborhood welfare projects built on the collaboration of decentralized state development institutions with a diverse range of community self-help groups. Government initiatives in Havana during the past decade have relied heavily on the participation of informal community organizations and their social networks to confront problems like drug use, prostitution, and housing decay. Small profits are often generated for project maintenance through limited commercial production of pottery, art, and gardens for nutritional and medicinal plants.

Some projects have sought to involve leaders of Afro-Cuban religions to enlist the support of their extensive networks of social support and for their capacity to capture U.S. dollars from tourists interested in religious folklore. This has mainly occurred in Havana's poorest urban neighborhoods, where Afro-Cuban religions have historically matured and responded to community needs, often much more so than the Catholic Church (Dominguez 1989:46). Haroldo Dilla Alfonso (1999:33) notes the tremendous potential for collaboration between state development initiatives and Afro-Cuban religious communities given that these popular religions: serve as very effective informal networks for passing along information and for socialization at the community level. Today there is a tendency to involve Afro-Cuban religious authorities in cultural promotion and other aspects of local development in certain neighborhoods. These religious assemblies clearly possess a considerable ability to mobilize people, an ability that is bound to increase in the future. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Afro-Cuban Religions and Social Welfare: Consequences of Commercial Development in Havana
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.