When one person tells me something, I listen When several people tell me the same thing, I really listen.

It happened today. Our group from Christ Church Greenwich, which includes Angenette and Bob Meaney and Dick Schultz, who chair our outreach commitment to Cuba, Mieke Knight and her son, James, Laura Kunzelman, Adriana Riles, Sue Ellen Story, and me, traveled today to the beach of “Guardalavaca” for a morning of recreation.

After a few hours at the beach, we had lunch and then visited the location where Columbus was said to have first set foot on Cuba. It was very moving and reminded me of Muxia – my favorite spot on the Spanish coast where Santiago (St. James – one of Jesus’ disciples) once appeared by boat.

After our little expedition, we returned to Holguín. Around 4 p.m., Bob Meaney and I took a walk and stumbled upon the Consistorial – a very important, historic building in Holguín and the former home of the biggest slave trader in the city. Over the years, its had served many different purposes. It became a military garrison for awhile.

The Cuban soldiers called it the “periquera” or the “parrot cage,” because the Cubans saw the Spanish soldiers in their uniforms and thought that they looked like parrots 

The woman who gave us a private tour said that things at the present time are worse than theft were in 1990 when the Soviet Union collapsed and stopped by Cuban sugar and propping up the Cuban economy.

You could sense hopelessness in her voice and in her face. When we were leaving, I mentioned to her that I was a priest and she requested that I bless her, which I was honored to do.

An hour and a half later, Dick Schultz and i stopped by the 1910 – our favorite restaurant in Holguín – to have a drink before dinner. Marcos, the bartender there, told us almost exactly what the woman at the Consistorial had told us. He said that 1990 was very bad, but this is much worse. He said that by 1991, things had gotten a little bit better. Each year, they improved. By 1996 things were good again. “We had hope that each year was getting better,” he said. “Now, we have no hope. We have no idea when or if things will get better.” 

For all his faults and complete lack of scruples, Fidel Castro was a father figure t this nation, who inspired hope. The current president is rarely seen, appears in way over his head, and does not inspire hope whatsoever.

Over dinner, Fr. Gil explained how Cubans gave up hope, which led them to take to the streets in mass numbers on July 11, 2021. These demonstrations started in a city outside of Havana. Videos were quickly uploaded and inspired similar demonstrations across the country.

Fr. Gil noted that there was no central planning as the government has spies who infiltrate every group. “This was spontaneous. The demonstrations were not political. People just want electricity, medicine and power.”

It’s not an easy to be a Christian anywhere today. It’s very hard to be a Christian in Cuba  It’s not remotely easy. Our hope is that our companion relationship and showing up and spending time and listening and bringing supplies and medicine makes life just a little bit easier and better for our Episcopal brothers and sisters here in Holguín, Cuba.

With love and prayers,

Marek