In the current Latin America a variety of religions coexist and Catholicism has dominated this region since the sixteenth century. It has been widely agreed that European colonization of Latin America actually played an essential role in the formation of such a religiously diverse life in this continent. Firstly this essay will revisit the religionary history of the colonial era in Latin America, and then religions in Mexico and Cuba will be specifically compared, and finally the hybridity of religions will be considered. The essay is aimed at providing a general overview and understanding of religions in Cuba and Mexico in the context of history and from the perspective of syncretism.
During the first half of the sixteenth century, military conquest and religious conversion advanced together throughout the Americas. Roman Catholicism was then firstly brought to Latin America by the Spanish and Portuguese conquerors, namely two Roman Catholic countries that had not experienced the Protestant Reformation. In the colonial period most of the native peoples in Latin America were converted to Catholicism and this faith remains the most prevalent religion throughout the continent today. It is estimated that the overwhelming majority, approximately 90 percent of all Latin Americans belong to the Catholic Church, while only 10 percent go to church regularly. With about 400 million believers, Latin America has been the largest concentration of Catholics all over the world. Despite this fact, various other religions are also represented in this region. Unfortunately, the Roman Catholic was forcibly and often violently imposed with the complete or partial assimilation of many indigenous religious beliefs and practices. The general attitude to indigenous religions, such as Aztec and the Inca systems was one of horror and disdain (Chasteen, 2006; Eakin, 2007; Smart, 1998; Esposito, J., Fasching, D. and Lewis, T., 2002). It would be worth noting the story of Nahua religion to illustrate this tragedy.
The Nahua religion, an ancient Mexican one, is believed to be a mixture of many different Mexican religions, as the Aztecs absorbed many native tribes such as Mayans, Olmecs, Zapotecs and Toltecs. It can be reliably concluded that this ancient religion was not only theologically more advanced than the Greek one, or even the Roman one, but also can be compared to even the Egyptian one, owing to their knowledge to mathematics and astronomy. Nevertheless, the force of Spaniards to Mexico not only conquered the Aztec empire in 1519 but also carried the Catholic faith, leading to the exclusion of many Mexican deities, including the Nahua’s, in favor of the Catholicism (Chasteen, 2006; Eakin, 2007; Smart, 1998).
Considering Cuba, such a traditionally Catholic country, nominally 85 percent of its residents were Roman Catholic prior to the revolution and today, at least the majority of its people remain Roman Catholic, despite severe restrictions of the government, according to the statistics of the Roman Catholic Church. Similarly, Christianity is also estimated to be the dominant religion in Mexico. The Government's 2000 census shows that approximately 88 percent of Mexican respondents identify themselves as at least nominally Roman Catholics, actually the world's second largest number of Catholics after Brazil (Gorry, 2004; Noble and Raub, 2008; Central Intelligence Agency, 2009; US State Department, 2009).
Moreover, in both Cuba and Mexico, Protestants nearly account for the largest segment of reminder, namely about 5 percent and 7 percent respectively. Membership in Protestant churches generally includes Baptists, Pentecostals, Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh-day Adventists, Presbyterians, Anglicans, Episcopalians, Methodists, Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), and...