Exploring Spiritual Wealth: Sustainable Tourism and Santeria

Discover how tourism is affecting the religious communities in Cuba and get to know the risks and opportunities that this presents.

Tourism as an Economic Engine of Cuba

Tourism has played a pivotal role in Cuba's economy in recent years. With the gradual opening of the country to international tourism, it has become one of the main sources of income for many communities. This has led to an improvement in the quality of life for many individuals and contributed to the overall economic development of the country.

However, this growth has also created challenges for religious communities in Cuba. The increased demand for accommodation, transportation, and services has given pressure on local resources. Additionally, the influence of tourism has brought about changes in the cultural and religious practices of these communities, raising concerns among their members.

The Impact of Tourism on Religious Communities

Many of these communities have a strong connection to Santería, an Afro-Cuban religion that combines elements of Catholicism and African religions. The rise in tourism has led to increased curiosity and interest in Santería, resulting in a higher demand for visits to temples and religious ceremonies. This increase can be an effective way to promote and preserve the cultural heritage associated with Santería. Tourists from various parts of the world find an authentic connection to Cuban culture in these spiritual practices, creating a great space for cross-cultural understanding.

However, the increased influx of tourists also brings a higher risk of exploitation and cultural appropriation. Excessive commercialisation of religious practices raises ethical questions, as some communities may feel the need to transform their rituals into spectacles to meet tourist expectations. This phenomenon can distort the very essence of Santería, turning it into a superficial attraction rather than a belief system deeply rooted in the history and cultural identity of Cuba.


calle de cuba pasacalle de Santeria con personas en zancos en diferentes colores turismo local

Opportunities for Religious Communities

Despite the challenges posed by tourism, it is also a valuable set of opportunities for religious communities in Cuba. Firstly, there is a high potential to generate additional income that can positively impact the living conditions of these groups. The influx of visitors can become a sustainable source of funding, enabling communities to improve their facilities, preserve their temples, and contribute to the maintenance of their unique cultural heritage.

Moreover, direct interaction with tourists provides an opportunity to demystify and share the spiritual traditions rooted in Santería. This educational process can contribute to a greater appreciation and recognition of these practices in Cuban society as a whole. This interaction contributes to building bridges between different faiths and traditions, fostering tolerance and respect for religious diversity.


altar para difuntos con comida y flores y objetos personales, turismo local cuba

Promoting Sustainable and Cultural Tourism

In conclusion, the impact of tourism on religious communities in Cuba is a complex phenomenon. It is currently unfolding between challenges and opportunities, emphasising the importance of embracing a sustainable and local tourism approach.

The growing tourist interest in practices like Santería has raised concerns about authenticity and cultural preservation, while simultaneously providing additional income and fostering a deeper understanding of these traditions from a sustainable tourism perspective. On one hand, excessive commercialization and adaptation to tourist expectations pose threats to spiritual integrity. On the other hand, direct interaction with visitors presents valuable opportunities for cross-cultural education and the promotion of religious diversity within local tourism.

Ultimately, balancing the economic benefits of tourism with the genuine preservation of cultural practices becomes a key challenge for these communities. It is crucial to highlight the need for collaborative and respectful approaches to ensure a positive and sustainable impact on local tourism and the spiritual wealth of these communities.