The Roman Catholic church was the most important social institution in Cuba’s colonial era. Every member of society came under its purview. The documents held in the archives of Catholic institutions are essential for historical, anthropological, and ethnic studies. Climate, neglect and natural disasters put this source in danger.
The seven oldest cities in Cuba hold documents recording data on the life events of millions of Africans, Asians, Europeans, and Indigenous people including baptisms, marriages, confirmations, deaths and burials. These volumes and loose sheets are maintained, generally, by the office of the highest-ranking cleric in each parish, bishopric, or archbishopric. The documents are essential for scholars working on a broad range of historical, anthropological and ethnic studies, and for general audiences engaged in genealogical research.
Though the Catholic church makes the best of difficult material circumstances, it lacks the resources and training to preserve or digitise. Water damage, insects, hurricanes, and earthquakes combine to endanger these records, many of which have already been destroyed or are damaged beyond legibility.
Building on a pilot survey project of 2015, the project digitised over 20,000 manuscript pages dating from the 17th to the 19th century, located in Santa Clara, Remedios, and Sancti Spiritus in central Cuba. The project trained 30 people in digitisation and metadata recording. The equipment purchased during the project remains in the Bishopric of Santa Clara, where it will be used to continue the digitisation efforts on the island.