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UVA in Cuba: Afro-Cuban Religions
Santiago de Cuba, Cuba (Education Abroad Programs Program)
Program Terms: Summer
Budget Sheets Summer
Dates / Deadlines:
Term Year App Deadline Decision Date Start Date End Date
Summer 2018 01-APR-2018 ** Rolling Admission TBA TBA

** Indicates rolling admission application process. Applicants will be immediately notified of acceptance into this program and be able to complete post-decision materials prior to the term's application deadline.
Fact Sheet:
Class Status:
2nd year, 3rd year, 4th year Minimum GPA Requirement: 2.5
Language Requirement:
2000 level
Open to Non-UVa Students:
Housing: Homestay Language of Instruction: English, Spanish
Credit Type:
Direct Credit
Tuition Payments Made To:
Education Abroad Advisor:
Martha Sadler
Application Fee:
Study Abroad Administrative Fee:
Subject Area:
African-American & African Studies, Anthropology, Latin American Studies, Religious Studies, Spanish
Program Description:

This course examines African-inspired religions in Cuba, what are commonly termed las religions populares of the island. Students will study the contemporary cultural and religious legacies of the trans-Atlantic slave trade by attending lectures by Cuban scholars at Casa del Caribe, and through reading and discussing materials (in English) which are written by cultural anthropologists. The course will have a significant field research component: we will visit religious organizations and house temples, speak with religious practitioners, attend their ceremonies and performances, and tour museums which exhibit religiously-themed art and objects. Students will maintain a daily log of field notes, and will be learning and honing their skills in participant-observation methods of qualitative research.


Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city in Cuba and capital of the Santiago de Cuba Province. It is located on the southeast of the island, 540 miles from Havana. It is situated on a bay connected to the Caribbean Sea and is an important sea port.

Goals and Objectives
Students will:

  • Gain knowledge of how the Trans-Atlantic slave trade has affected nation (and hemispheric history and culture.
  • Learn about Cuba’s colonial era under Spanish rule, the history of slavery in Cuba, as well as the unsavory political effects of US economic domination during Cuba’s republican era.
  • Gain an understanding of the Cuban revolution, including the state’s effors to solidify “natural culture” to repel globalization and promote the visibility of Afro-Cuban “folklore”.
  • Provide the opportunity for students to converse with local religious practitioners and meet officiants; to participate to the extent possible in rituals.

Students will live with host families in authorized and licensed, safe, but modest homes. There will be very little internet access. There will not be air-conditioned spaces and on occasion they will have to deal with unpredictable shortages of basics. Students will learn to adjust to these issues with calm and acceptance. and thus have an immersion experience in Cuban culture.


Cimarron with the cup on his head


Afro-Cuban Religions
(RELA 4559; 4 credits or SPAN 3410; 3 credits)

Course Information
Intermediate competency in spoken Spanish (completion of Intermediate Spanish or the equivalent); one prior class in African, African-American, Latin American, or Caribbean religions; or one prior African American Studies, Latin American Studies, Anthropology, or History course on Africa or its diaspora.


The program cost and payment schedule are listed under the "Budget Sheets" link at the top of this page.

Accessibility Statement
The University of Virginia believes in providing reasonable accommodations for students with documented disabilities on an individual and flexible basis. If you believe that you would require adjustments in order to fully participate in this program, please contact the Student Disability Access Center at 434-243-5180 as early as possible in order to begin this dialogue.

Passport and Visa Information
All participants will need a valid passport in order to participate in the program. Students must ensure that their passport is valid at least six months past the program return date. US passport holders will not need a visa to participate in this program. International students should meet with their International Student Advisor and Education Abroad Advisor in the International Studies Office as part of the application process.

Vaccine Information
All travelers should consult with their doctor and the CDC webpage to see which vaccines are recommended.

Program director Jalane Schmidt,, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia.

Anne Garland Mahler,, is an Assistant Professor of Latin American Studies and Spanish at the University of Virginia.