U.S. Latino/a:
Cuban American
From 1900 to 1960
By: Valerie Welsh
Genell Burroughs
Leslie Schuller
Mandy Miller
and Michael Capps
Study Guide
•The traditions of what two groups influenced Cuban traditions? Spanish and African.
•What sports did Cuban American children enjoy? Baseball, boxing, volleyball, and basketball.
•Between 1868 and 1920, Key West became known as the _____ Center of the U.S. Cigar.
•Between 1930 and 1950, Cuban Americans began to make their marks in what two areas?
Politics and business.
•Between 1959 and 1961, the first to flee the island of Cuba under Castro’s leadership were known as
The “Golden Exiles”.
•What period in history were North American teachers sent over to Cuba to teach Cuban children?
U.S. occupation of Cuba (1899-1902).
• What was the name of the program the Cuban children participated in while in school?
The City School Program.
•What types of games became popular in the 40’s and 50’s? Board and Card Games.
•What game was mentioned as being common to several cultures in the time period? El Aro (The Hoop).
•What are the two religions of Cuban-Americans? Santeria (Regla de Ocha) & Roman Catholic.
•Are children involved in the practices of Santeria? No.
•What is the true name of Santeria? Regla De Ocha.
Culture &
By Michael Capps
Study Questions
• The traditions of what two groups influenced
Cuban traditions? Spanish and African.
• What sports did Cuban American children enjoy?
Baseball, boxing, volleyball, and basketball.
• Heavily influenced by Spanish: prior to this time
period, Cuba was a colony of Spain.
• Also inspired by African traditions; African
population as a result of slaves brought to Cuba
to work the sugar plantations.
• AKA Quince Años or Quince.
• Celebration of female’s 15th birthday; a transition
into adulthood (rite of passage).
• Similar to a “Sweet 16” party.
• Embraces religious traditions, and the virtues of
family & social responsibility.
• The Quinceanera's court can be comprised of
young girls (called a Dama), young men (called
Chambelán or Escorte or Galán) or a
combination of both - traditionally up to 14
persons in the court, which with the
Quinceanera, would total 15 young people.
Cuban Youth Army
Both boys and girls.
Age of 15.
Usually a reservist until age 49.
If in school, kids will practice during school
• Carnival ( June through August):
– First begun in Santiago de Cuba.
– Introduced by slaves to ward off bad spirits.
– 3-day event in Havana. However, different
parts of Cuba celebrate it at different times of
the summer.
– Much music and partying.
– Upset about lack of Sunday observance.
Holidays, Continued
Nochebueña (The Good Night):
– Cuban New Year’s Eve.
– Families gather together and rejoice around the Nativity scene.
– Interrupted at Midnight by the ringing of the bells, calling
families to “La Misa De Gallo” (Rooster’s Mass).
• Called this because it is said that the only time a rooster crows
at Midnight was on the day Jesus was born.
• Most beautiful of these candlelight services is held at the
monastery of Montserrat, high in the mountain near
Barcelona, which is highlighted by a boy's choir describes as
performing the Mass in "one pure voice.“
More Holidays
• Dia de Los Reyes Magos (The Day of The Three Kings):
– Epiphany, January 6th.
– Leave grass in boxes to feed the Wise Men’s camels.
• Saint’s Days:
– Celebrate the day pf the saint you are named after
– Interview: Jorge del Castillo, celebrated San Jorge on April
23rd, receiving a small present and a small celebration.
• Since Cuba is one of the poorest Latin American
countries, many activities must cost little to
• Baseball: Like their fathers, Cuban boys typically
love to play baseball.
• Boxing: Usually begin at age of 7, if they intend
on going professional.
– Cubans have won 27 Olympic gold medals in
Sports, Cont.
• Girls: Volleyball. Nets often set up in many
strange places, such as the streets.
• Both Girls and Boys: Basketball.
• Making Music: Playing the guitar.
Inexpensive and full of heritage. Many
people know how to play: bonding.
• Listening to Music: Enhances dancing skills.
“Pedro Pan”
• Major influx of Cuban children to the U.S.
• Program created by the Catholic Welfare Bureau
(Catholic Charities) of Miami in December 1960
at the request of parents in Cuba to provide an
opportunity for them to send their children to
Miami to avoid Marxist-Leninist indoctrination.
• Fearing that parental authority would be taken
away, parents sent over 14,000 kids to the U.S.
By Valerie Welsh
Study Questions
• Between 1868 and 1920, Key West became
known as the _____ Center of the U.S. Cigar.
• Between 1930 and 1950, Cuban Americans
began to make their marks in what two areas?
Politics and business.
• Between 1959 and 1961, the first to flee the
island of Cuba under Castro’s leadership were
known as whom? The “Golden Exiles”.
Time Periods: Waves
The first Cuban immigrants started to arrive in
the late 1800’s; they came in what is termed as
During the time period from the late 1800’s to
1960, there were three distinct waves of Cuban
1880 – 1920
1930 – 1950
1959 –
1868 – 1920
When the Ten Year’s War against Spain broke out in 1868, a tenth of Cuba’s
population was forced to emigrate. After Cuba defeated Spain in 1878, many
Cubans returned home to Cuba. But many remained in the U.S.
Many professionals, businessmen and workers established themselves in New
York, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Baltimore and Key West, Florida. More than
three-quarters of the workers became involved in the tobacco Industry. Cigar
manufacturing had been a thriving business in Cuba; so many exiles arrived here
with years of experience in the industry, as workers and entrepreneurs. Once
settled in Key West they quickly turned it into the Cigar Center of the United
Life was quite inexpensive for them. They could rent a house for one dollar a
week, buy a pound of meat for less that ten cents, and a meal for a nickel. Wages
ranged from 20.00 – 40.00 dollars a week. Workers lived in relative comfort.
They lived in close knit communities with strong social and family ties.
1930 – 1950
From 1933-1944, Fulgencio Batista y Zaldivar ruled over Cuba. While he had support of
the majority, he infuriated some Cubans with his disregard for the democratic process, and
how he instead ran a police state. He sent countless people who opposed him to jail, or
even to death. Some rich and powerful who opposed him were forced to seek temporary
refuge in the United States; this wave was in much smaller numbers. Along with the rest
of the country, both new immigrants and established Cuban Americans faced The
Depression. One harder hit industry was the luxury industry, including the cigar
industries. Cuban American workers were hit hard. But they didn’t wait for things to get
better; instead they dispersed to other areas around the country in an effort to find work.
Families especially felt the effects of the depression. Entire families were unable to move
easily, so many adolescent children were sent to work in factories in an effort to help
support their families.
Cuban Americans proved to be very resourceful. They made use of the great
opportunities which this country offered, and they achieved remarkable prosperity in the
During this period many Cuban Americans began to make their mark in politics, as well as
in business.
1959 – 1961
Thousands fled the island after only a few months of Castro seizing control. It didn’t
take long before Castro began implementing socialist reforms, including confiscation
of privately owned property. Castro aligned himself with the Soviet Union both
economically and politically.
The first to flee were typically people with wealth, know as the “Golden Exiles.” They
had little trouble blending in the American culture, where money constituted an
international language.
Next came the middle class: doctors, lawyers, architects and disillusioned white collar
workers, some of whom lost their property to confiscation. They were soon followed
by farmers, peasants, and fishermen.
Also, out of fear, thousands of unaccompanied children were sent over by their
In 1960, President Eisenhower made available one million dollars to be used for
resettlement, and to aid such children.
1961 And Beyond
These Cubans were received by the majority of
society with much less prejudice than other
immigrant groups.
Overall, Cuban American status rose much more
quickly than did many European groups’. They
achieved both economical and political success,
often compared to that of whites.
By Genell Burroughs
Study Questions
• What period in history were North American
teachers sent over to Cuba to teach Cuban
children? U.S. occupation of Cuba (1899-1902).
• What was the name of the program the Cuban
children participated in while in school? The
City School Program.
Education: U.S. Occupation of
Cuba 1899-1902
North American teachers were sent over to Cuba to teach Cuban
Giving the Cuban children an education was an opportunity the North
American authorities saw to develop attitudes and values compatible with
North American policy objectives.
The organization and content of the school curriculum conformed to
North American practices.
The subjects that were taught in the classroom were:
The English Language and North American Literature
Education: The English Language
and North American Literature
By having the English language taught in the classroom, North
American authorities saw it as an important link to bind Cuba to the
United States.
Children were taught that English was the language of the future,
and that it would give them a better chance to understand Americans
and do business with Americans in the future as adults.
Also, North American literature was placed into the classrooms to
promote the children’s knowledge, and improve their morals. And
textbooks adopted for classroom use were Spanish translations of North
American books. These books transmitted culture.
Education: Politics
Cuban children participated in the “The City School Program.”
The program was modeled on a system that was being used a lot in
immigrant neighborhoods of New York City to promote the
acculturation process.
The program was in civil training, a project in which the children
could become familiar with North American institutions by organizing
model governments and playing the roles of elected officials.
The City School Program sought to impress upon the children the
virtues of the North American political system and warn against the
vices of Latin American politics.
Education: History
For the teaching of history, it functioned as an instrument of
cultural imperialism and political hegemony. It served as one of the
principal means through which to reshape the memory of the past.
And the history textbooks used mostly dealt with North American
Also, Cuban history was taught briefly to the children. They
learned about the Cuban revolutionary war, but the history books the
children used were recorded in the North American version.
By Leslie Schuller
“Many Cubans were born and spent their formative years in the
United States. They learned to play new games and acquired a
commonplace acquaintance with attitudes and customs that were
wholly unfamiliar in Cuba.”
On Becoming Cuban
Study Questions
• What types of games became popular in
the 40’s and 50’s? Board and Card Games.
• What game was mentioned as being
common to several cultures in the time
period? El Aro (The Hoop).
Work, Work Work…
Children of working class families had little time for play.
In Ybor City, Florida, children often began working by the age of five as
Delivery boys
Stable hands
Shoe shine boys
In Grocery stores
Cigar Factories
Cottage industries
Children had many obligations at home as well, helping with younger
children, housework and home repairs.
Popular Outdoor Activities
As child labor laws were passed, children had more time for play.
Popular outdoor activities:
El Palito (The Stick)
Los Papalotes (The Kites)
Kites were also made by children and hung in windows for sale
La Carreta de Patines (The Scooter made from Roller Skates)
El Aro (The Hoop)
La Lata (The Can)
El Palito (The Stick)
This game was described in two interviews and in a book
The game is played with two sticks – often made from Mama’s
One stick 4 - 5 inches long, rounded on each end – el palito
One stick about four feet long – el mocho
Three or more players
The batter puts el palito down on the street. The other players, fielders,
are down the street, waiting to catch el palito. The batter hits the
rounded end of el palito causing it to flip into the air, then hits it with
el mocho, sending it flying toward the fielders. The fielder who catches
el palito is the next batter.
Los Papalotes (The Kites)
Kites were described in an interview and in a book.
Kites were home-made or purchased from a store or from another child
To make a kite you needed:
Light weight sticks – varillas – two about 16 inches, one about 10 inches – scraps from
the cigar box factory were just right
Paper – the corner store had colorful “papel de China” for sale
Lightweight but strong string
Fabric for a tail
Straight pins to fasten the varillas together
After you made your kite you could fly it on a breezy day. Both boys and girls enjoyed
Sometimes boys would attach razor blades to the tails of their kites and have kite
fights called La Fajazon, trying to cut the string of their opponent’s kite so it flew
La Carreta de Patines (Scooter)
Mentioned in an interview and a book
To make a scooter you need:
--Scrap lumber – two 2x4s, one about 18 inches, one about 18 inches
or to size for height of child, one 1x2 about 7 inches long for
the handle
--One old skate
--Hammer and nails
Nail the skate to the bottom of the 18 inch 2x4, half at each end. Nail
the handle centered on one end of the remaining 2x4 and nail the
opposite end to the front of the first piece. Paint if you want to, grease
the wheels and go!
El Aro (The Hoop)
Mentioned in a book
Hoop or steel rim – from a truck tire or a barrel
Stick or wire pusher
To play with the hoop a boy or girl would roll the hoop
along the ground, pushing or controlling it with the stick
or wire. This was a popular pastime in many cultures in
this time period.
La Lata (The Can)
Mentioned in an interview
A game for any number of players
Start by balancing a can lid on its side and spinning it,
then run! The player who runs the farthest from the
lid when it stops spinning is the winner.
Popular Indoor Pastimes
Popular indoor pastimes:
Dolls and Paper dolls
Miniature metal trucks, cars and other friction toys
Books and Comic books
Button yo-yos
Motion Pictures
Board and Card games became popular in the 1940’s and 50’s
Americanization of Play
Many Cuban-American families, especially after the
late 1950’s, made a conscious effort to blend into
‘American’ culture and did not want to be singled out as
Cuban. Play in these families closely resembles play in
mainstream America.
By Mandy Miller
Study Questions
• What are the two religions of Cuban-Americans?
Santeria (Regla de Ocha) & Roman Catholic.
• Are children involved in the practices of
Santeria? No.
• What is the true name of Santeria? Regla De
• What is the number one conflict over the religion
Santeria? Animal Sacrifice.
Roman Catholic
Regla de Ocha (The Rule
of the Orisha) Also Known
as Santeria
Roman Catholic
Roman Catholic religion has many practices
such as:
and Prayer
Baptism of an Infant Incudes:
-Wearing White
The baby wears white because it is a sign of their new life
White stands for purity and innocence and the rejection of sin
-The priest traces a cross on the child’s forehead & the parents do the same
-There is a reading from the Bible
-Then there is a prayer for the child and parents
-Then there is an Exorcism in which the priest holds his hand up and says:
"O God, you sent your Son to cast out the power of Satan, set this child free
from Original Sin"
-Then there is the Anointing which is where the priest anoints the child on the chest
with oil.
The oil is a sign of strength and healing
-Then the parents are asked to make the Promises
"Do you reject Satan?" "I do"
"Do you believe in God?" "I do”
"Do you believe in Jesus Christ, the son of God?" "I do"
"Do you believe in the Holy Spirit?" "I do"
After the promises, water is poured over the
child's head three times. The priest says the
child's name and then:
"I baptize you in the Name of the Father and of
the Son and of the Holy Spirit"
First Communion
Children usually make their First Holy
Communion at the age of 7 or 8.
It is a time of great celebration when the
candidates usually wear white and receive gifts
to mark this special passage in their spiritual
Regla de Ocha
Santeria is a syncretistic religion, which is the
joining of two beliefs.
These would be the worship of the Orisha and
beliefs of the Yoruba, combined with elements of
worship from Roman Catholicism .
The Beginning
This religion began when people were forcibly transported
from Africa to be slaves in Cuba
They were baptized Roman Catholic upon arrival
They kept their religion alive by equating the Orisha of their
traditional religions with a corresponding Christian Saint
Oggzn became St. Peter
Eleggua or Elegba became St. Anthony
Interesting Fact
In the early 1900’s the African Drum was
forbidden and Afro-Cuban ritual ceremonies
were stopped and their musical instruments
were confiscated and burned
Their annual carnivals were ultimately banned
due to being seen as “savage and uncivilized”
Ashe is growth, the force toward completeness
and divinity.
The Owner of Heaven, the Owner of all Destinies.
Sacred patrons or "guardian angels”.
Ritual Sacrifices
The animal's blood is collected and offered to the Orisha
Dancing is another main component of the ritual
Rhythmic sounds and dancing during Santerian rituals are believed to
lead to possession
Very little information about beliefs, ritual, symbolism, and practice are
released to the general public
Santeria is not a religion of a book
Conflicts Over Santeria
Animal Sacrifices:
Chickens and other small animals are ritually sacrificed at times of serious
sickness or misfortune, and at times of initiation
Santerians defend their practices by pointing out:
-The animals are killed in a humane manner
-They are often eaten later, just as the many of millions of animals slaughtered
daily in North American commercial establishments are
-Ritual sacrifice of animals was extensively practiced in ancient Israel and was
only discontinued after the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in the eighth
decade CE
-They feel that the sacrifices must continue because their Orisha require the food
-Animal sacrifices have formed a part of their religion for over one millennium
-The Constitution of the United States guarantees freedom of religious expression
Any Questions?
Thank you!
Michael Capps
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Genell Burroughs
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Updated 3 Jan. 2003. http://www.religioustolerance.org/santeri.htm

U.S. Latino/a: Cuban American