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The hierarchy of Cuba’s Catholic Church slowly adjusted to worldwide progressive currents of the 1960s, such as the Second Vatican Council, while in 1975 Fidel characterized Cuba as an “Afro-Latin” country committed to global anticolonial struggles. The 1985 publication of Fidel and Religion, the 1986 National Encounter of the Cuban Church, and the Fourth Party Congress of 1991 thawed church-state relations, but this was strained by the conditions of the “Special Period” of the 1990s: economic privation, a deterioration of city streets, the renewal of tourism, and the government’s use of Afro-Cuban mythology to symbolize “Cuba” to internal and external audiences. Representatives of transnational organizations and movements—U.N. officials, Pope John Paul II, adherents of African diaspora religions—journeyed to Cuba and picked sides within the nation’s debates over religious identity.

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