Thursday, April 21, 2016

The People of Cuba

I have spent a lot of time this past week thinking about how to write up my Cuba experience.  I'm thinking it will be quite a challenge.  Cuba is very complicated.  One can't do it justice without some depth of understanding.  Given that I was there for only ten days, in a very small part of Cuba, following an agenda that had been set beforehand....  Well, I'd be silly to think I am now some sort of expert.  

The Presbyterian church in Luyano, a working class barrio in Havana, provides breakfast and an exercise program for senior citizens every morning.  Patricia from our group helped lead this exercise.

Also, Cuba is controversial.  One's politics provide the lens through which it is viewed, perhaps more than usual.  So I will disclose upfront that I'm an old commie.  That I supported the revolution led by Fidel and Che.  That I am still hoping that socialism will work there.  And I went with a group, Pastors for Peace, that has a long, committed history of helping Cuba to survive and thrive.  I am biased (and proud of it).

In spite of these challenges, I want to share my experience. I hope that this blog can engender some conversation about Cuba.  I hope people will take an interest in Cuba.  It is time for change.

The one thing I feel most confident about, the one thing that I brought home with me above all else, was the warmth and graciousness of the Cuban people.  The pride, the caring, the values that put the most vulnerable first.  The spirit, the smiles, the dancing, the beauty.    

I speak a little Spanish, enough that I was able to open conversations that would not have otherwise been possible.  I admit I didn't always understand everything that was said to me...

I remember the cashier at the store where I bought a T-shirt for my brother.  She thanked me for being there, told me how important it is for us to visit.  I thanked her for the warm welcome we had been receiving.  She responded that she hoped one day her grandchildren would be able to visit the U.S.

I think of the woman standing at her door as we were filing past, leaving one of our scheduled events and going to our van.  She held out her hand to each of us as we passed and gave us a big smile.

I can see the older couples strutting their stuff in the Danzon contest.  There is a real beauty in seeing a couple dancing together, so perfectly in sync that they truly move as one.  And they could dance!

I remember the wonderful program put on for us at Childhood Wonders, and the gifts the children had made for us.  It brought tears.  In spite of the hardship the U.S. Embargo has caused the people of Cuba for decades now, I never felt any enmity.  Quite the contrary.

Enough words.  Let me share a few pictures. 

( I intend to put up a new blog entry every week, until I run out of things to say.  Please check back if you are interested in being a part of this conversation.)

                               Cuba is full of music, most of it perfect for dancing.

At Bellamar Caves and Gardens, where we were given a tour of the farm where this family is putting permaculture into practice.  They also gave us quite a spread for lunch.  Maybe the best we had in Cuba, although all the food was quite good.

           This girl stole our hearts away with her poetry at the Childhood Wonders project.

          A traditional Santeria dance at La Marinara Community Center in Matanzas.

                                        The Danzon contest in Matanzas.

At the Senior Day Care Center, Ramon told us about his time in Angola.  He lost his wife recently, and comes to the center for the companionship.

The pastor and his wife at the Juan G. Hall Presbyterian church in Cardenas, explaining some of the many social outreach programs they have.

Santeria women outside the church at Regla.  The Santeria women dress all in white.

                                                   The streets of Havana.

                         Salvador Gonzalez, the artist who started Callejon de Hamel.

Nacyra, the director of the Loving Care Home where we stayed, and the director of the Special School La Castellana. 




1 comment:

  1. It looks like a paradise.
    And on an unrelated note, is that a tabasco bottle on the table in the background? Don't forget to tell us about all the lovely food. :)