Cuba is much more than the Castro regime.
Geography and population are important considerations. Cuba is just 90 miles south of the United States with a population of approximately 11.39 million people. It is 780 miles long and has a land area of 40,369 square miles and is the largest island in the Caribbean and 17th-largest island in the world by land area.
History not only informs the present and the future but past actions lead to future ones. Therefore to glimpse the future of Cuba one should not only look at the wreckage of Cuban society that is the legacy of Castroism but also what came before it. Out of 525 years of history the Castro regime's 59 years constitute 11% which is a lot, but one must look at the other 89% to gain a better understanding of longer term trends.
|Fort of Saint Charles and the Morro Castle (Havana, Cuba)|
Columbus’s second stop in the New World was on October 28, 1492 when he landed in Cuba. (The first place he landed on October 12 was the Bahamas). Cuba was a Spanish colony from Columbus’s landing in 1492 until 1898 when Spain lost Cuba in the Spanish-American War.
The indigenous tribes that existed in Cuba did not survive Spanish colonialism due mainly to small pox. Cuba's main crops throughout more than five centuries have been coffee, tobacco and sugar. In 1517 the King of Spain granted a contract for 4,000 African slaves to be introduced to Cuba, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico and Jamaica of which 300 were allocated to Cuba. Over 600,000 Africans would be taken from West Africa and brought to Cuba over 350 years. Slavery would continue in Cuba until 1886.
Alejandro Anreus in the August 2, 2016 article "Catholic Cuba: From Las Casas to the Castros"published in Commonweal magazine describes how Catholicism arrived in the island as follows:
Catholicism came to Cuba with the Spanish colonization, and reflected the religious zeal shaped by crusades against the Moors and the expulsion of the Jews in Spain in the 1490s. The church’s agenda on the island ranged from converting the natives (mostly Taínos) to combating immorality and resisting English buccaneers. As a church of the Spanish empire, it was a defender of the Iberian monarchy and its divine right to “civilize” its subjects. The Franciscan and Dominican orders arrived first, followed by Jesuits and Augustinians. By the time of the Cuban wars of independence, the spiritual autonomy of these religious orders would be compromised by their loyalty to Madrid (excepting the Franciscans).However there are deep linkages in the Cuban national character with the faith. For the sake of brevity will only focus on two.
|Image of the Virgin of Charity of El Cobre|
In 1612, in a bay to the north of Cuba, a 10-year-old black slave named Juan and two indigenous young men had found her while rowing out to an island to harvest salt. Despite bad weather throughout the previous day, the 15-inch-tall wooden Virgin figurine bobbed serenely upon a plank on the sea, her dress miraculously dry and unruffled. The story of her discovery spread quickly. The faithful carried the wooden figure to the economic hub of El Cobre, where they constructed a shrine to hold her. The Christian iconography is hard to miss: She came to Cuba bearing the greatest of gifts—her own child—and appeared not to a priest or bishop, but to common men. She spoke not just to the aboriginal people, but also to the Spaniards, Creoles, and African slaves. The latter would assimilate her image into their Afro-Cuban Santería faith many years later. When Cubans fought the Spanish for independence in the late 19th century, she became a national symbol of the small island’s struggle against a mighty European superpower.Pope Benedict XV in 1916 granted the request of veterans of the war of Cuban Independence to name her the patron saint of Cuba. It also underlines the fact that Cuba's catholic roots long predate the current totalitarian communist nightmare.
The image is enshrined in the National Shrine Basilica of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, built in 1926 and situated in the village El Cobre, near Santiago de Cuba. The feast day of Our Lady of Charity is September 8; the solemn Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
A pre-eminent son of this land is Father Felix Varela, considered by many to be the foundation stone of the Cuban national identity. He is, in his own person, the best synthesis one could find of Christian faith and Cuban culture. An exemplary priest of Havana and on undeniable patriot, Father Varela was on outstanding thinker who in nineteenth century Cuba renewed the method and content of teaching in philosophy, law, science and theology. To generations of Cubans, he taught that to assume full responsibility for our existence we must first learn the difficult art of thinking in a right way and with our own mind. He was the first to speak of independence in these lands. He also spoke of democracy, judging it to be the political project best in keeping with human nature, while at the same time underscoring its demands. Among these demands, he stressed two in particular: first, that people must be educated for freedom and responsibility, with a personally assimilated ethical code which includes the best of the heritage of civilization and enduring transcendental values, so that they may be able to undertake decisive tasks in service of the community; and second, that human relationships, like the form of society as a whole, must give people suitable opportunities to perform, with proper respect and solidarity, their historic role giving substance to the Rule of Law, which is the essential guarantee of every form of human concourse claiming to be democratic.
|Pope John Paul II in Cuba in January of 1998|
Underlining its membership in the historic struggle of the Cuban people for justice, the Cuban Committee for Human Rights comes to light on the anniversary of the birth of Martí and cite Father Varela as one of the inspirations of their founding document. It's the same struggle, but it is boldly different: it seeks justice, but by peaceful means. The concept of nonviolent civil resistance is introduced into the history of Cuba. Take the truth as a weapon, placing it in practice in the civic field, what Scripture proposed in the spiritual realm: "the truth shall make you free". Hence its importance at that time and its transcendence for the future of Cuba.The Christian Liberation Movement, led by Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, was founded on September 8, 1988 on the feast day of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre. It was made of a group of catholic laymen who attended a parish in the El Cerro neighborhood in Havana.
Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas was the chief spokesman of the movement and the chief strategist behind initiatives such as the Varela Project, the Heredia Project and the Peoples Path.
|Oswaldo Payá, Tony Díaz Sánchez, and Regis Iglesias deliver petitions|
|Laura Pollán, founder of Cuba's Ladies in White|
Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and the youth leader of his movement, Harold Cepero, died on July 22, 2012 following a car crash under suspicious circumstances. The Payá family has called for an international investigation into the deaths of both Oswaldo and Harold. Rosa María Payá, Oswaldo's daughter, continues her father's struggle today for a free Cuba as well as pursuing justice for her dad in the Cuba Decide campaign.
The struggle for a free Cuba continues in and out of Cuba and the Christian roots of this resistance stretch back centuries and will outlast the communist dictatorship.