Cuban Presbyterian theologian, artist René Castellanos dies at 97

‘El Maestro’ perhaps best known to Americans as folk-dance teacher

March 21, 2012

Rene Castellanos

Rene Castellanos, taken December 2011 —Jerry Van Marter


René Francisco Castellanos Morente, known worldwide as the “El Maestro Castellanos,” died early this morning (March 21) at the Provincial Hospital Dr. Faustino Perez Hernandez here at 97 years of age.

Educator, psychologist and retired pastor of the Presbyterian Reformed Church in Cuba, he was born in the city of Cárdenas on Sept. 17, 1914. Called by different names by each of those with whom he interacted ― Castellanos, doctor, Don René — he managed from an early age to overcome a number of obstacles and to earn the title “Master” that he has held for so many years.

Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Havana and a Masters in Theology from Evangelical Theological Seminary in Matanzas, he also attended the “Psychology Applied to Education” program of Columbia University in New York. For years he held the position of teacher — as well as many other important positions ― in the now-defunct  Presbyterian school “Progressivo” in Cardenas and for more than four decades he taught at the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Matanzas.

Among other subjects, el Maestro taught psychology, Greek, Hebrew, Latin, Biblical exegesis and folk dance.

He authored numerous articles and essays on theological, pastoral and socio-cultural issues, published in Cuba and abroad.

A teacher of young people and an experienced psychologist, he was always present in the events of the next generation and in the concerns that have convulsed the church, as an open-minded intellectual who was also committed to its social environment.

Without a doubt, his exemplary behavior and his stature as a humanist have been a source of inspiration that has exceeded the level of the purely “religious,” but he has become a source of spiritual sustenance for future generations and an example of fruitfulness for those who have seen in him a constant paradigm of integrity and ethics.

Today in Cuba a great prince has fallen! Happily, René lives in the springtime with the Lord!


  1. I just returned from a visit to Matanzas Seminary, where I learned of the Cuban Theologian; Rene Castellanos. I would like to secure some of the "Maestro's writings. Any thoughts how I might find these resources? Thank you.

    by Dr. Michael Gillern

    June 11, 2013

  2. Word received here only today and with great sadness for our loss. He was one of the most fully developed and fully alive human beings I ever had the pleasure to know. Through a friendship that began in Nova Scotia in 1985 until now, our regular visits to Cuba to see Rene were always a highlight of our year. His T.V. biography on "PRISMA", a national Cuban television program, and the celebration of his birthdays with former students, friends and colleagues in Mantanzas Central Plaza, were very special moments in his life. Celebrated too on Canada's national broadcaster CBC 's program TAPESTRY in an interview I did from Florida. Animated by a profound love of his fellow human beings, a deep thirst for and enjoyment of learning, enthusiasm for "el campiso" (outdoor life and nature), language, music and dance, and filled with affection for his family, students and friends., Rene lived and breathed a genuine Gospel-based faith. One of the most gifted youth workers I have ever seen. What a teacher. What an example. What a great loss. He will live forever in our hearts. - Dr. Brian Richard Joseph, Ph.D. (Harvard) Commissioner. The Law Reform Commission of Nova Scotia

    by Dr. Brian R Joseph

    August 12, 2012

  3. I shall never forget the first time I met Rene! He was wearing a sweatshirt from Ghost Ranch, New Mexico (my home away from home.) I could hardly wait to hear where he got the shirt, and was delighted to hear that he taught folk-dancing at Ghost Ranch! He danced for us at the seminary in Matanzas. He was a unique and wonderful person, and alot of fun to be with. Be blessed, Nancy Coble

    by Nancy Coble

    March 26, 2012