Spiritual Customs

Customs, cultural heritage and languages implemented by the colonizing countries are some of the variables that have determined which religions are practiced on the Caribbean islands. These traditions maintain their roots without necessarily losing their standing in the present.

Countries that were Spanish colonies, along with the Dutch islands, are almost by default Catholic, while the British islands show a greater inclination toward Protestantism.  It is widely proposed that although Catholicism and Protestantism are present on various islands, syncretism and religious practices tied to traditions are the true Caribbean norm.

Santeria in Cuba (a religion that originated with the Yoruba tribe in Africa), and the Rastafarian movement in Jamaica, have inspired followers around the world and their precepts include rejection of oppression and slavery. These beliefs are examples of how the African experience has affected religions in the Caribbean. Voodoo in Haiti — whose followers like those of Santeria worship nature and ancestors — originated in African societies that were oppressed.

Spiritualism is another religion that aggregates elements from the complicated religious map of the Caribbean. Fernández and Paravisini-Gerbert (2003) assert that the spiritualism that is practiced in Puerto Rico and Cuba — as a religion, as a mixture of other beliefs, and as a means of healing — has roots in indigenous, European and North American practices. Communication with the dead and healing practices through levitation and trances were added to the Caribbean mosaic in the middle of the 19th century and show no signs of fading away.

The religions of the Caribbean are the result of cultural contact that molded them into localized versions in each country. This syncretism mixes symbols of Catholicism and African religions in the form of altars, candles, saints, crucifixes and vases containing the souls of the dead that are found in many Caribbean homes.