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A Brotherly Empire: Transnational Religion and Politics in Cuba, 1878-1903 Open Access

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This dissertation provides a history of Baptist congregations in Cuba, their most charismatic preacher, Rev. Alberto J. Díaz, and their relations with the U.S. Southern Baptist Convention from 1878 to 1903. It uses this history to explain a key part of the imperial transition on the island--how and why the many relationships between Cubans and North Americans changed after 1898. Before 1898, the U.S. was often a symbol of cultural and political resistance to Spain. After 1898, frequent exercises of U.S. power caused many Cubans to see the U.S. as both an actual and a symbolic oppressor.This cultural shift can be seen especially sharply in Baptist transnational relationships, which changed profoundly during the period of U.S. military occupation from 1898 to 1902. Before 1898 Cubans directed the Baptist congregations on the island, and their ministry focused on the diverse group of Cubans who held separatist political views. Southern Baptists had a supportive role in this "brotherly empire," but they did not control the Cuban Baptists' initiatives, and their personnel did not live on the island. Largely because of the 1895-1898 Cuban war against Spain, but also because Díaz's managerial skills were in doubt, Southern Baptists began to want greater control over the Cuban congregations after 1898. Southerners gained this control slowly, sometimes with the help of Cubans and sometimes by pushing them out of power. During the occupation, Southern Baptists and their new Cuban allies began to target whiter and wealthier Cubans for conversion. They also sought to suppress Cubans' desire to participate in politics as an analogy to their free practice of religion, two dimensions of freedom that Baptists had linked before 1898. A transnational history of Baptists during this period thus provides a useful cultural history of a complex political transition. By tracing the changes in this relationship over a period of twenty-five years, it also calls into question the teleologies and historical categories set by both the U.S. imperial and the Cuban nationalist projects.

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