Convivencia (Coeixistence) magazine salutes the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between the Republic of Cuba and the United States of America.

We hope that this climate of dialogue and negotiation is also established between the Government of the Republic of Cuba and independent Cuban civil society, with a respect for unity in diversity, the right to self-determination and the exercise of citizen sovereignty.

Convivencia magazine is glad for the release of political prisoners, and believes that all political prisoners must be released, including those who are on parole in Cuba.

In the same way, all repression for political reasons must cease. The Cuban Government should ratify the United Nations Human Rights Covenants and the conventions of the International Labor Organization, as they claim the four points of consensus identified by a growing and significant group of Cuban civil society.

Convivencia magazine is grateful for the mediation by his Holiness Pope Francis in the restoration of diplomatic relations between the Republic of Cuba and the United States of America.

Likewise, we hope that the Church can continue to offer its service of mediation in an achievable and necessary dialogue between the Cuban Government and independent civil society in Cuba, with the consequent recognition of the latter as valid interlocutor.

Convivencia magazine believes that the restoration of diplomatic relations between the Republic of Cuba and the United States of America removes a serious obstacle so that the fundamental dispute can be clearly seen as being between the Cuban Government and its citizens, not between Cuba and the United States. Thus can it be understood that the most important thing for our people is inclusion, civil and political, economic, social and cultural freedoms and the exercise of an ever more participatory democracy in Cuba.

Convivencia magazine hopes that this historic event and the lifting of all blockades, especially the one that the Cuban government uses against the initiative and entrepreneurial nature of its citizens, will create the necessary conditions so that the Cuban people are the principal actors of their own history, and so lead the nation — including all our compatriots on the Island and in the Diaspora — towards a future of peace, freedom, progress and social justice.

The Editorial Board

Translated by: Hombre de Paz, with some assistance from Alicia Barraqué Ellison

18 December 2014

Former Polish President Lech Walesa and Dagoberto Valdés


by Dagoberto Valdés Hernández

A year ago I was able to realize one of my lifelong dreams: to visit Poland, a country that remained loyal to its faith and liberty. This past October 20, I had the honor and joy of my second encounter with President Lech Walesa. Just before midday, we arrived at the Warsaw Hotel following a fruitful and cordial meeting with Poland’s vice minister of foreign relations, Mr. Leszek Soczewica.  There we learned that solidarity does not necessarily have to be at odds with an ethical pragmatism.

President Walesa, energetic and affectionate in manner, arrived with quick greetings for everyone, then took his seat to address some urgent words of attention to Cuba and conveying a transcendent message of affection and exhortation toward courageous and responsible action.

Upon concluding his wise words, he expressed his desire to listen to us to better learn first-hand the actual reality of the Cuban people. Various of those present were able to express our concerns for Cuba and we asked him to support the four points of consensus identified and claimed by a growing and significant civil society group in Cuba. President Walesa expressed his support for the four points and encouraged us to strengthen the structure of civil society.

Others also presented their projects and agendas. The wife of Mr. Manuel Cuesta Morúa asked Walesa to support and request the total liberation and exoneration from charges of her husband. She received backing for her cause from the leader of Solidarity and his countrymen. Mr. Walesa expressed, with fervent devotion to Cuba, that he concurred with the four points and also that he desired to travel to Cuba when conditions were right for him to do so.

Each participant was able to have his or her picture taken with President Lech Walesa, grateful for his time and commitment to Cuba.

Director of Convivencia (Coexistence) Project and Magazine

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

30 October 2014

I remember every November 20th for a special reason (besides being the birthday of a dear aunt, and of a friend): on this day the Cuban nation gave birth to one of the preeminent pillars of our founding history, Father Felix Varela.

“The complete patriot,” as Martí called him, knew how to merge science and conscience in order to carry out the difficult art of showing the way toward freedom and social justice.

Pinar del Rio has the only full-body statue of Varela on the island, located on the grounds of the Cathedral. The work, done in marble from San Juan y Martinez by the sculptor José M. Pérez Veliz, shows us Varela in a walking position, looking into the distance, like someone watching over the fate of the city and the nation. In his left hand he holds his greatest work, Letters to Elpidio. About Impiety, Superstition and Fanaticism. He seems to be telling us from its pages: “Dear ones, never be arrogant with the weak or weak with the powerful.”

Twenty years after the founding of the now-defunct Center for Civic and Religious Training (CFCR) in Pinar del Rio, and seven years after the unveiling of this sculpture, we members of the Coexistence team, the successor to the work of the Center and its magazine Stained Glass, made a pilgrimage to the foot of this wonderful work in order to offer of our project of ethical and civic education – an edited volume of Coexistence Issues, containing courses taught by CFCR from 1993 to 2007.

Inspired by the Varelian maxim that “There can be no homeland without virtue,” we offer this book as a continuation and application of the legacy of the first one who taught us to think. It is a gift from Pinar del Rio to the Father of our culture.

Yoandy Izquierdo Toledo (Pinar del Río, 1987).

Diplomate in Microbioology, Manager of Coexistence Issues, Resides and works in Havana.

21 November 2013

By Dagoberto Valdés Hernández

For years I had a dream. Today it has been realized. Poland has always been part of my cultural, religious and freedom identity. Disappearing several times on the map of Europe, “semper fidelis” Poland maintained its nationality thanks to its rooted ancient culture. I learned from Poland, and its greatest son, Blessed Pope John Paul II, that culture is the soul of a people and the soul is immortal. Since then I have dedicated my entire life in Cuba to rescuing, promoting and cultivating the cultural identity of my Fatherland.

Later, I had the inexpressible honor to participate in the preparation for the Polish Pope’s visit to Cuba in 1998. And to be one of his colleagues at the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

Now I have arrived in twenty-first century Poland. I walk the path of his roots. The path of his history. I drink from the sources. Thanks to Lech Walesa Institute.

As luck would have it I arrived in this country on June 4, the anniversary of the elections won by the Solidarity Union. I’ve met its leaders. Heard their testimonies of their lives. Their love for Cuba. On Thursday June 6 I personally met the living legend of the last stage of Polish history, President Lech Walesa, Nobel Peace Prize winner and and legendary leader of the Solidarity Trade Union.

Just after eleven o’clock he came hurrying to the headquarters of the Institute that bears his name and where he continues his work. He entered the meeting room and sat with confidence. He greeted us. He spoke briefly and quite frankly about his impressions of Poland and Cuba. Respectfully and cordially he gave us the floor to ask him questions or to give him news of the Nation  where he said he wanted to go one day when we have freedom and democracy. Each one expressed his thoughts and his admiration for his work and the history of his nation.

Personally, I enjoyed the meeting. I looked at the lapel of his suit and found there, as always, the blessed image of Our Lady of Jasna Gora, Queen and Patroness of Poland. I heard him mention with deep devotion the name of Blessed John Paul II, his role on the long road to freedom in Europe and in his homeland. The support the Polish Pope always gave to Solidarity and its leader. His visits before and after the change.

I asked for the floor to express my respect and before it was turned over to me I heard an unmerited presentation about me and my work from my friend and interpreter Tomasz. I thanked him for the opportunity to meet him and told him I wanted to convey good news about Cuba.

I said that ordinary Cubans had become less fearful and the fabric of Cuban civil society had grown and strengthened and is poised for greater coordination for unity in diversity. He listened to me intently, nodding his head, staring at me. At the end of my speech that lasted less than three minutes, I got up from my seat and offered him a symbol of the workers and peasants of Pinar del Rio: a box of Cohiba cigars.

At the end we quickly took informal photos. He had spent more time than planned with the Cubans. He signed some books and reiterated his love for Cuba and wished us the best for the future. He left as fast as he had come. After the applause was a feeling of hope and confidence in ourselves, that “there is no freedom without solidarity” in which the peaceful path to democracy is not just an option but the only ethically acceptable option.

Over the long weekend, from 8 to 10 June, we went to the places where it all started: Gdanz, an ancient and beautiful city on the Baltic Sea. We visited Westerplate, where World War II began that September 1, 1939. We offered honor and prayers for all those who died in this horror of the twentieth century. On Sunday at early Mass at the Parish of Santa Barbara the Eucharist was offered for them all and for the conscience of mankind with that gigantic phrase on the memorial for the fallen: “No more war”. We could feel the terrible cross of a Poland invaded and bloody.

But there is no cross without resurrection. On Monday, we visited Gdanz Shipyard, door of life, a sanctuary for the rights of workers, temple of nonviolent struggle. Tabernacle of peace with justice, freedom and solidarity. So I wanted to express the famous Polish poet who was asked to write a verse to place forever in the back wall of the monument, but he refused humbly expressing that none of his poems could express what had happened and chose Psalm 29 verse 11 which proclaims: “The Lord gives strength to his people. The Lord will bless his people with peace.” In fact, in this sacred place, the Polish people received “the power of the powerless” and not to use it for war and violence but for freedom and solidarity by way of peace is the gift and task.

We began what was for me a pilgrimage and a school, by the monument to the fallen workers in these yards. Over the intense and luminous blue of Gdanz, rise, solemn and serene, the three crosses with three crucified anchors. This symbol of hope and of the deep sea. This symbol of the Passion of Christ in his people. But it does not give the impression of a tragic monument. It looks like a giant flower of life that comes from the assumed cross and redemption. It looks like a lighthouse in the sea of oppression and injustice, that the eventful life of those who row tirelessly toward freedom loses neither its direction nor its way. I got the impression of an immeasurable arm of warning. A warning signal, a prayer which rises for all who decide to fight for their freedom, we take the paths of solidarity and peace.

I could not stop the tears as I joined this silent prayer and looked down to pay tribute to all crucified in their body or in their soul, I realized that the blood and tears of so many men and women had been marked by the artist’s hand, concentric circles on the pavement, widening from the center of the monument, it seemed to reach to each pacifist fighter and every crucified village. I wanted to kneel there and stay awhile open to expansive mysticism. But Magdalena’s voice dissuaded me, the passionate guide who told us that there was a wide balcony reserved for the contemplation of this triple cross, in the huge cultural center and museum that  Solidarity built just below the monument and in line with the famous Door 2 which we approached reverently.

There it remains close to three decades later, the picture of the Black Madonna of Czestochowa and the portrait of Pope John Paul II that the shipyard workers had placed as shields during strikes where it all started. Then we passed through the vast hall of the Directorate of Health and Safety at Work, where the rounds of dialogue and negotiation were held over the 21 demands that the Solidarity Union demanded from the government that said it had been “the dictatorship of the proletariat” to guarantee the rights of workers.

In the end, we were cordially invited to the opening of Museum-Center of European Solidarity, which will be June 4, 2014.

Our friend David, mystic and musician from the Omni-Zona Franca project of Alamar, gave me a huge red pen with the image of Pope John Paul II, a true copy of the one Lech Walesa used to sign Gdanz Agreements. With it I wrote in the guestbook the incredible religious experience of having stepped on ground sacred to the history of mankind.

I did think of my suffering mother, of the example that my father left me on leaving this world too early, of my three children, my granddaughter who was born on May 20, the day of the independence of Cuba, of my family, of close friends and collaborators from the Civic Center, of that magazine Vitral (Stained Glass Window), and the current magazine Coexistence. And also forgiving all and each of those who have considered themselves my enemies or opponents with a prayer for the reconciliation of all Cubans.

This land has been inscribed with the letters of Solidarity the eternal message that full and true freedom can only be achieved through the paths of justice and peace.

I left with the deep conviction that it is worth spending a lifetime to inscribe, educate, empower, ethically and civilly, this message in the soul of the people, in the language and the circumstances in which each nation embarks on his own journey toward the civilization of love.

20 June 2013

Jose Marti statue in Pinar del Rio - from Wikicommons

Jose Marti statue in Pinar del Rio – from Wikicommons

By Juan Carlos Fernández Hernández.

José Martí, the man we Cubans call our “Apostle,” was, and let no man doubt it, a man of vast moral, spiritual and cultural heritage. Qualities that have served as the cornerstone for modeling the thinking of being Cuban.

Well, some years ago José Martí Cultural Societies were set up in provinces and municipalities, designed and created to foster among our population, especially young people, the thought and vision of the Master; this was a vain endeavor by Communist Party leaders to somehow fit Marti within Marx, Engels and Lenin.

It sounds crazy but the effort still persists, although it is fair to say that the Communist ideologues don’t know how to insert the liberal ideas of Marti within those of International Communism, and no one swallows their story anyway because the Complete Works of Jose Marti circulate freely on the streets, and in these works Marti dismisses Marx, Communism included.

But back to the idea of the so-called Cultural Society, as an idea it is very good but, it all depends on the intentions… let me explain.

If this was intended to rescue the thinking of the Apostle from shameless oblivion shameful for new generations, for them to have as a reference in their lives, it would be logical that these institutions would have the social role that the name suggests. But, on the contrary, the organization almost unknown to the ordinary person from Pinar del Rio, passing by its headquarters, dilapidated and unpainted, in an old house located in San Juan Street between Yagruma and Martí. What irony, given that this was the home of a respected and wealthy local family. It is in such a shameful state due to the degree of neglect that is inhabited only by the ghosts of its former owners.

I do not think anyone in Pinar del Rio would be happy with the fate of the José Martí Cultural Society, but the complaints can be put to good use, we have to rely on citizen action, so we can together find solutions to rescue something that can be very valuable and appreciated by all.

A public collection in Pinar del Rio would involve a lot of citizens, taking as its theme something that can’t miss: “With all and for the good of all.” It would be healthy, it would empower citizens and they would feel a part of a city repairing one block for this Society, where the authorities are rushing to repair the hard currency store  popularly known as “Bambi.”

I would like to note that material things are important to us, but more important than profit are the healthy and transcendent ideas of the Apostle of all Cubans, who preferred to reach out with the white rose because he could not hate.

by Juan Carlos Fernandez Hernandez. (1965). Pinar del Rio.

Co-leader of the Brotherhood Assistance to Prisoners and their Families Pastoral Care of the Diocese of Pinar del Rio. He is a member of the team of Coexistence.

4 April 2013

Patience and Work

By Livia Galvez Chiú

“Time puts everything in its right place” or maybe peoples’ work does it too?

There are many stories in which in the end everything finds its proper place. Perfect. Fine for some, and for others, not so fine. Everything depends on where we are situated while the “process” occurs and where we find ourselves when we get to the end.

The mistake is thinking that things end up in the right place through a magical process.

Putting to one side things which happen by chance or accidentally, in order for this to come about you have to have people who mess things up and people who try to sort things out. People do what they can, and God, or life, or time, takes care of the remainder. There are people who divide, sow discord, cultivate hatred, feed resentment; there are those who wait patiently or impatiently, like spectators, without getting involved; and those who, moving between patience and impatience, are watched sceptically as they work and make an effort to “put things in their proper place”.

I know people who pass through the three positions. These are, for me, those who learn from getting burnt, grow and mature. It’s difficult, after getting it wrong, to accept you have made a mistake, and then work very hard to try to put things right with the patience necessary to help regain the confidence of others. Extremely difficult, but possible.

Cuba has endured 53 years of disorder. Those who have messed things up appear to have no intention of putting things right. Something has to happen. If the damage has been done, we have to try to put things back in their rightful place, because those people who only want to wait without getting involved have no way out apart from hope.

Cubans have a lot to do. Someone who tries to take one step forward towards liberty cannot go backwards again. There are men and women in Cuba, not all of them Cubans, who can bear witness to that. They are a light on the dark bad road we have to pass through.

Translated by GH

4 April 2013


“Notes for a History of Pinar del Rio” is now, after the hard work of almost five years in the hands of reviewers and a reward to Wilfredo Denie Valdés for the work of his lifetime, a gift for all natives of Pinar del Rio on the island and in the world. Under the label of Coexistence Editions (which adds another three titles: “Draft economic thought for the future of Cuba” -2008, “Cuba: Time to raise its head” -2009, “Anthropological damage and human rights in Cuba” – 2009) appears this new way of building bridges of history, to fill gaps despite the distances, to chase away forgetting with the remembrance of places lost to the mind, but resuscitated in sight with just the contemplation of a broken image in the recesses of our existence. It is the humble contribution of these sons of alligator’s tail, weaving coexistence between the two shores, to intensify the Cuban identity and fulfill the legacy of Blessed John Paul II who, flying over our Diocese on January 21, 1998, said about the wealth of spiritual values, “We are called to preserve and transmit to future generations for the good and progress of the nation.

On Thursday, November 1 at seven in the evening it was presented in conjunction with Casa Bacardi, the Institute for Cubans and Cuban-Americans, University of Miami, by the Pinar del Rio in the Diaspora and by the wall of Coexistence in Pinar del Rio, by those from Pinar del Rio who worked on the design and realization of the book, its author and some guests. In Miami the panel included Dr. Omar Vento as moderator, and panelists Marcos Antonio Ramos, PhD in History and Theology, Wilfredo Cancio Isla, PhD in Information Sciences, and Belisario Pi Lago, poet, essayist and professor from Pinar del Rio , founder of the magazine Coexistence (www.convivenciacuba.es)

Wilfredo Denie, author of such a precious jewel, very excited at 86 years, offered a special thanks to all who made this history of our beloved province see the light. Everyone in Pinar del Rio expressed their thanks and congratulations for a well-deserved and needed work.

Today we have a detailed view of Pinar del Rio that puts in the hands of the reader more than 200 articles, 170 images and 70 tables. A small contribution of the children of the westernmost province of Cuba, an offering to the hometown and an example of how much can be done to rescue our roots, the defense of our identity and the reconstruction of Cuba, from civil society.

By Yoandy Izquierdo Toledo

November 8 2012

1352412017_vidacristOn the evening of November 4th some members of the Coexistence team had the privilege of being invited to participate in the activities celebrating the 50th anniversary of Christian Life.

The occasion brought together many at the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, where there was a mass presided over by the Cardinal of Havana Jaime Ortega Alamino, his auxiliary bishop Monseñor Juan de Dios, Father Alberto Garcia, director of Catholic Sunday publications and other priests of the Jesuit Congregation.

God wanted the Gospel proclaimed this day, as appropriate for the occasion, with love your neighbor as the central theme. In his homily the Cardinal emphasized that love conquers all, all hopes; he recalled the words of Father Felix Varela when he said “There is no Fatherland without virtue”, highlighting that virtue is in love rather than knowledge and recalling the first Encyclical Letter of Pope Benedict XVI making a call to live in faith and love in all its facets.

After the Mass there was a cultural evening that began with a few words about Christian Life followed by the invitation of Father Alberto for other voices to take the floor. I remembered when he shared in Pinar del Rio, more than six years ago on the 10th anniversary of the magazine Vitral and ceded the floor to who was at that time director, and is still the director. of the project and the magazine Coexistence, the engineer Dagoberto Valdés Hernández.

Dagoberto focused his words in an infinite gratitude to this publication, “this little leaf” as everyone there calls it, a symbol of perseverance, of how much can be achieved by the love of Christ, for others and society. He emphasized that Christian Life today is a sign of how far we can get if we truly believe in the power of the small and the usefulness of virtue. He thanked also the older sister of all publications that later emerged within the Church, for this necessary catechism, simple but direct, for all the good both do for the Cuban family. Finally he thanked Padre Alberto, the Editorial Board of Christian Life and God for allowing us to participate in the celebration and for teaching us that “everything has its time, and there is a time for everything under heaven.”

The Editorial Board and staff of the magazine Coexistence are most especially grateful to Father Alberto Garcia and his invitation to the team, congratulate Christian Life and urge them to continue working for the love of Cuba and its Church.

by Yoandy Izquierdo Toledo

November 8 2012

From blogs.fco.gov.uk

By Dagoberto Valdés

On the afternoon of Sunday, 22 July 2012, we were surprised by unexpected and terrible news: Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, founder and leader of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL), had tragically died near the city of Bayama, seeking the roots of our Cubanness to say goodbye to the land he loved so much and for which he fought so peacefully.

Today Oswaldo’s life appears more transparent and coherent than ever. Death is, for everyone, a summary, a transition, and a lesson.

His history is not yet written. But his accomplishments are. And it is not good to wait too long to put everything in its property place when there is, starting now, an example and legacy to gather, apprehend, and continue. I try, although still moved by the immediacy, to outline what this loss and this gain has meant to Cuba, its present and its future.

Loss, because each person is unique and irreplaceable. Gain, because nothing is lost and everything is gained and the depths of the earth when a good seed falls in the furrow of life, to bring forth more fruits.

I met Payá when he was young, almost a teenager, in one of the halls of the Cerro Parish, where Father Petit was then his pastor and mentor, in a meeting of the few young people who professed the Catholic faith in the hard years of the ’70s. Those were the days when we were discriminated against just for going to Church and declaring in our school records whether or not we were believers.

Oswaldo’s entire life, like that of so many Cuban men and women faithful to Christ and to Cuba, is a daily offering of civil martyrdom of all those who are treated as second class citizens, as “unreliables” for living in what became to be called “a fantastic reflection of reality” for having religious beliefs.

At that time, neither he nor I yet had our own and various projects for Cuba and its freedom and prosperity. But we trained in the bosom of a poor Church, persecuted, committed and faithful to the gospel of its Founder. We received, through the Church, that we must recognize and thank forever, an ethical, civic, religious, and very Cuban education, that followed the saga of Varela, Luz, Mendive, Marti and many others. That is the origin, the cause and the root of our lives and the soul of our Christian commitment. That is its deep motivation, its essence, inspiration, style, methods, criteria of judgment, determination of values, ways of thinking, examples of life.

Each who has lived in his way, as it should be, diverse in the Christian social commitment, but united in the bowels of the Gospel, the Church and Cuba. From this fraternal and daily fellowship where a life is over too quickly was forged, I give testimony to what I think is the legacy of Oswaldo to Cuba and his Church.

 His person and his path

For all of Cuba, Payá leaves the trajectory of a coherent life. Of a whole man,  of one piece, true to what was, what is and what will be: a human being who does not want to us to deify him, who doesn’t need it, who already has and believes in one true God. He was a human being, on earth, with his faults and virtues. But most important is that in his existence there was no contradiction between who he was, what he though, what he said and what he did. Cuba needs men and women with this morality, the “sun of the moral world.”

For all of Cuba, Payá is also a citizen who freely chose to stay in his country, despite the constant threats and dangers. A citizen who did not remain in internal exile or the alienation of an ivory tower, or who “took refuge” in an opiate-religion, but who learned from his Master Jesus that true religion is the incarnation, the cross and the resurrection.

The Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) was an expression of this active and systematic engagement. The Varela Project is another example of his faith in action, being the most important civic exercise in the last half century, that managed to transcend the boundaries of the MCL, to be and exist with “All Together”. Cuba needs citizens to stay here, who are one nation with those who work hard to find peaceful solutions.

For the Church, Oswaldo is a paradigm of vocation and mission of lay Christians. He did not abandon the Church in spite of the sorrows and misunderstandings. he did not use it for political purposes but demanded the same thing it taught: consistency and faithfulness to the Gospel of Christ.

The Church needs lay people involved in the world of politics, civil society, culture, economy … and the laity need not be excluded, nor seen as rare, both Tyrians and Trojans, because of their commitments, be they political or civic. They need to be considered and followed, without taking its own political choices, both in life and in death, as do our parish communities, priests, religious and bishops. Just as with other, laypeople who are caregivers, teach the catechism, work in Caritas, pray the Rosary, or animate a mission house. This is what we see and thank Paya’s funeral.

For the Church, Payá is also an example of Christian prophecy. He was the voice many who did not have a voice, but he did not disqualify or exclude his brethren who thought differently. To disagree and debate, is not to exclude. To exclude is to segregate the family of those who are considered “dissidents” or “dangerous” or “troublesome”, or not accepted by the powers of this world. Oswaldo suffered this and much more. But his prophecy did not rest, nor was it exhausted. He denounced the ills suffered by the people and the Church that formed a part of him. He announced the Christian liberation and he created, proposed projects, thinking, laws, new roads, in an absolutely peaceful and proactive way.

Cuba and its Church need this kind of prophet who not only denounces but also proposes solutions and puts them into practice, patiently and bravely.

The immediate fruits of the death of Payá

Here, in the Cerro Parish, with the body still present, we can observe various immediate fruits of the sacrifice of Oswaldo Payá. I will mention a few:

The physical family of the deceased gave testimony of spiritual strength, serenity and faithfulness to the work of Oswaldo. Mired in unspeakable pain they did not lose the integrity or peace of knowing that their husband and father has given his life to a worthy cause and died in the fulfillment of Christian and civic duty.

The Church, Payá’s religious family, offered during his burial an example of communion without exclusion, solidarity in pain and coherence with what it preaches. It has been truly organic and sacramental from the Good Shepherd, from the Pope’s condolences to the last parishioner of the parish who offered water or consolation, through various religious congregations, the pastor, other priests and monks, evangelical pastors, bishops and their bishop the Cardinal, whose homily must be studied and lived. All united by faith in Christ and love for Cuba. Despite the normal and even desirable differences, in the healthy pluralism of the People of God. As the fruit of a Church united in diversity, embodied, prophetic and reconciliatory dialogue, beginning with itself.

Civil society, the citizen family that shares the same history, nation and destination, has also, on the occasion of the death of Payá, shown a clear and unequivocal gesture of unity in diversity, respect for differences without disqualification, excluding hatred, confrontation and other human miseries that we all have and must overcome, to put above all ideological and political differences, which in themselves are not bad … to put above all Cuba, our homeland, the common home, its freedom and prosperity. What I saw there, that mature civic spirit and weaver of coexistence, is the Cuba that we dream of are building together.

The diplomatic corps, represented there as well as the press, accredited or independent, also show respect and the normality with which observers, international and our own, consider Cuban society as a pluralistic body in a process of maturation and serious and peaceful commitment with the changes and democracy.

These gestures have also been made possible by the good will and civic and political maturity of civil society. Other immediate fruits might be mentioned as an example and comforting encouragement to family members of his movement and friends. In the future to come in the medium and long term, surely we will see more that one seed is capable of producing, a symbol, a paradigm, a flag of peace brought by love. No one can calculate.

I want to end by saying that at Oswaldo Payá’s funeral I noted that pluralism and respect for the unity in diversity have come gradually, first to the life of civil society and, in some ways, to the life of the Church, the people of God. May God grant that will also reach the State that it will move them, so that Cuba will be a home where “we all fit.”

I pray to God, for the intercession of Oswaldo Payá, of Harold Cepero, of Laura Pollán, of Wilman Villar, Wilfredo Soto, Orlando Zapata, Pedro Luis Boitel, and many others, who were faithful to their faith and their ideals in this life, that comes to an end, fully, for all in Cuba, with respect for pluralism, unity in diversity, ethical, civic and religious coherence, that we have received as the raised and hopeful fruit of the living cross, the cross accepted by these our brothers.

They were able. We follow his example and legacy.

So be it. Amen.

August 9 2012


You are and must be the sovereigns of your own personal and national history.” (John Paul II, Cuba 1998)

The two visits of the Popes of the Catholic Church, are milestones that show the step forward of Cuban civil society. Cuba has changed, not only and not always for the worse. Our opinion is that between the two apostolic visits there is a process that progresses from awakening of many in the Cuban civil society toward adulthood citizenship, still in development.

Fourteen years are sufficient to feel the difference in the composition of Cuban society and the interrelation of forces between the different social actors. The Cuban State has gained the least lasting thing. The Church has gained, short-term, part of what is proper for her. But the rest of the Cuban civil society is the one that has won: yes, lost because there is some frustration due to the handling of state movements and gestures of the visit; but wins because it not to be recognized as a partner, allows you to advance in the awakening citizen, without waiting for foreign saviours. And this is what most lasts, mature and is beneficial to the nation, in the mid and long term. Although it hurts.
More than complaints without remedy, we intend to analyze other aspects of this visit from four of its multiple facets: Cuba in the showcase; Gestures of the Pope to Cuba; Messages of the Pope to Cuba; and legacy of his visit.

Cuba in the showcase

The country the Pope visits is placed in the centre of the attention of all social media, which is always positive. To achieve such transparency, the world has an extraordinary opportunity to experience firsthand the reality facing the Cuban people, the relationships of domination that the authorities have established with their own citizens, as well as the different methods that the Government uses, the opposition, and the rest of the Cuban civil society. To know what happens really, even for a few days, is a sample button which always leaves fruits of truthfulness on the nation observed.

The gestures of the Pope

The successor of St. Peter, on the one hand has made gestures of much closeness and admiration for Cuba, its cultural and religious heritage, by its founding fathers mentioned several times, among others. One of these symbolic positive gestures was to raise the devotion to the Virgin de la Caridad del Cobre, the most eminent range of expression of universal Catholic piety, presenting her with the Golden Rose. Another gesture was the possibility for people of the diaspora and exile, members of the only Cuban nation, to participate in the celebrations. However, the organizers of the papal visit, could not find time for, not only for a courtesy visit to the head of State – absolutely normal and noticeable in all the countries that the Pope visits – but also for other encounters with people who no longer hold any public office. This could be understood by its symbolic nature, although not necessary, if at the same time, the Pope had greeted briefly some representatives of the Cuban civil society: the other part of the nation without which there would be neither unity nor inclusion nor national reconciliation. The Cuban Church, that will be as the servant in the morning that the same Pope gives a preview of in his messages, perhaps regrets, in time, this exclusionary omission, that looks more to the short term than to the medium and long journey of Cuba in relation to the people and excluded groups who must necessarily be part of the morning in our country. The Church, expert in humanity and with its two thousand year experience, almost always looks further and highest taking in all the time to come. It was a pity that on this occasion it was not so as well. In this aspect it seems that the balance is negative. Hopefully that will be righted, in the daily life of the Church’s relations with the rest of civil society, the best way possible for all.

The message of the Pope and his legacy

We believe that in this aspect the balance sheet is, perhaps, the most positive, compared with the previous issues. For both the present and in the long perspective for the future. The messages from the Pope have pulled forward, have looked high and far. They have left a rich legacy, concrete and inclusive. I hope that no Cuban overlooks this theological legacy of height, maximum humanist depth, and especially of a great love for Cuba and to all Cubans without exclusion. May God who grants serenity to our spirits, no Cuban from here or from outside, obsessed by what the Pope himself called ’irremovable or unilateral positions’, allow us to study and apply these messages a deep ethical, civic and spiritual way.

Although in this number we publish entirely all the official texts that the Pope Benedict XVI pronounced in Cuba so that everyone could extract of them what seems best to him, over a few days, so as not to leave ourselves feeling despondent, we offer the first and immediate selection of these texts, to facilitate the study of the contribution that the Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church has suggested to us with great respect and all its moral authority. At the same time we have wanted to compare them with the expectations of many people in Cuba, some of them published in our Leading article 24 corresponding to January – February, 2012. That is the same Pontiff who speaks with our readership:

The Pope recognizes in his heart the suffering and the just aspirations of the Cuban people

“I carry in my heart the just aspirations and legitimate desires of all Cubans, wherever they are found, their sufferings and joys, concerns and desires more noble, and especially of young people and the elderly, adolescents and children, patients and workers, of prisoners and their families, as well as poor and needy.” (Greeting upon arriving at the Antonio Maceo airport)

Cuba is already looking to tomorrow, from the patrimony of the heritage of the homeland
“I’m convinced that Cuba, in this particularly important moment in its history, is looking ahead to tomorrow, and it strives to renew and widen its horizons…to what will cooperate this immense heritage of values…that have been shaping its most genuine identity, and that are sculpted on the work and life of many illustrious Fathers of the homeland such as the blessed Jose Olallo and Valdés, the Servant of God Félix Varela or the hero Jose Marti. ” (Greeting upon arrival at the Airport Antonio Maceo)

This message satisfies the expectations of many Cubans that we were outlining in number 8, of the Leading article 24: The opening to the world strengthens the cultural identity and the national sovereignty.

Shortcuts in search of the truth

Warning of the traps and recesses into which fall all seekers of truth, the Pope lists us some of them: “You will know the truth, and the truth shall set you free” (Jn 8,32). The truth is a longing of the human being, and find it always involves an exercise of genuine freedom. Many, however, prefer the shortcuts and try to avoid this task. Some, like Pontius Pilate, satirize the possibility of being able to know the truth (cf. Jn 18, 38), proclaiming the inability of a man to achieve it or denying that there is a truth for all. This attitude, as in the case of skepticism and relativism, produces a change in the heart, making them cold, hesitant, distant from each other and locked into themselves. People who wash their hands as the Roman Governor of the story and leave the water running, without making a commitment. On the other hand, there are others who interpret badly this search for the truth, leading them to irrationality and fanaticism, locking in ’the truth’ and trying to impose it on others. They are like those stubborn lawyers, see Jesus beaten and bloody, crying angry: “Crucify him!” (Cf. Jn. 19, 6)’. (Homily at the mass in the Plaza Cívica José Martí of Havana)

Even God respects and needs the supreme gift of freedom.

This message is, perhaps, the most far-reaching theological and humanistic, which could serve as a solid foundation for its anthropological, social, political or economic, and even religious consequences: ’God not only respects the human freedom, but seems to need it.” (Homily at Mass in the Plaza Antonio Maceo in Santiago de Cuba)

Propose, not impose, even in the face of rejection and the cross.

“Christianity, to highlight the values that underpin ethics, does not impose, but proposes that the invitation of Christ to know the truth that makes us free. The believer is called to offer it to his contemporaries… even before the grim harbinger of the rejection and the cross.” (Homily at the Mass at the Plaça Cívica José Martí of Havana)

If we want to achieve unity in diversity: look for a minimum of ethics that will bring us closer

Every human being has to inquire into the truth and opt for it when he finds it, even at the risk of dealing with sacrifices. In addition, the truth about the man is an inescapable desire to achieve freedom, because in it we discovered the foundations of ethics with which everyone can confront, and containing clear and precise formulations on life and death, the duties and rights, marriage, the family and society, in short, on the inviolable dignity of the human being. This ethical heritage is what can bring to all cultures, peoples and religions, the authorities and the citizens, and citizens, believers in Christ with those who do not believe in him.” (Homily at the Mass in the Plaza Cívica José Martí of Havana)

This message matches the expectations of numerous compatriots, reflected in number 4, of our Leading article 24, on the contribution that the teachings of the Pope could give: The reconstruction of the fabric of the sovereign civil society. The search of ethics, with a common minimum denominator, which it includes to all in the national community of life, is and it can be the firmest foundation to reconstruct the relations between the citizens and the authorities, which must be to the service of the civil society and not the contrary.

That Cuba is the home of all, without exclusion of God or of men

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1, 14). The expression “became flesh” points to the human reality more concrete and tangible. In Christ, God has entered into our history, made his dwelling among us, thereby fulfilling the intimate aspiration of human beings that the world is truly a home for man. On the other hand, when God is thrown out, the world becomes an inhospitable place for man…” (Homily at Mass in the Plaza Antonio Maceo in Santiago de Cuba). ’The Virgin Mary with the presence in the Sanctuary del Cobre, from where she accompanies the journey of the Church in this Nation…gives courage to all Cubans so that, of the hand of Christ, they discover the genuine sense of solicitude and desire that lurk in the human heart and reach the force required to build a society of solidarity, in which no one will feel excluded… That no one is prevented from joining this exciting work by the limitation of their fundamental freedoms, or exempt from it because of neglect or lack of material resources. That situation is compounded when restrictive economic measures imposed from outside the country weigh negatively on the population.” (words of farewell in the José Martí Airport of Havana)

These teachings fulfill other expectations shared by many people and delineated in number 1, of the Leading article 24: La Caridad unites us. The unity is an inclusion. An enclosing and united society proposes to us that we not be blockaded from the outside and, much less, from within by apathy, repression or the disrespectful disregard of the diversity on the part of the same civil or ecclesiastic authorities. We cannot understand how the government can respect and feel affection for a thought, be it different or coincidental, of a foreign visitor as the Pope and fails to do the same for its own citizens, peaceful, independent and respectful of the laws of coexistence in the land where they were born.

Role of the Church in Cuba: show your true face without fear or complexes

“Dear Brothers, it was with much effort, courage and selflessness they are working each day so that, in the specific circumstances of his country, and in this time of history, the Church increasingly reflects its true face as the place where God is close to and found with men. The Church… has the mission to prolong on the ground, the saving presence of God, of opening up the world to something larger than itself, to the love and light of God. It is worth dedicating one’s whole life to Christ…the upcoming Passover, let us without fear or complex follow Jesus in his path toward the cross. We accept with patience and faith any adversity or affliction, with the conviction that, in his resurrection, he has defeated the power of evil that darkens everything, and the dawn that has made a new world, the world of God, the light, the truth and joy.” (Homily at Mass in the Plaza Antonio Maceo in Santiago de Cuba)

The expectation number 9, of our Leading article 24 was hoping for a message from the Pope that should exhort us to: The transition of fear to hope and from the hope to the reconstruction of the Country. These teachings from the Square Antonio Maceo confirm and satisfy many who want to let go of fear and open a world where they can breathe more freely. At the same time it is an exhortation so that the Cuban Church is faithful to Jesus Christ, reflects his real face and is not afraid of the cross of the Lord. Collaboration and trust can not exist at any cost. One can not stop being something of the essence of what one is, so as not to run against those who are different. Society and the Church can not exclude part of their message, or part of the people who comprise them, for being different, to thereby achieve complacency or dialogue, to trust or cooperate with the other part of that society and the Church. Trust and collaboration are with all parties or they are not a collaboration nor a credible trust. What is at stake is the authenticity and credibility of all parties.

True religious freedom includes the social and political performance of believers

 “The essential contribution that religion is called to play in the public sphere of society.’ (Greetings to arriving at the Antonio Maceo airport).’The right to freedom of religion, both in its individual dimension and as a community expresses the unity of the human person, who is both citizen and believer. It also legitimizes believers to offer a contribution to the building of society. Its strengthening consolidates the coexistence, feeds the hope in a better world, creates conditions conducive to peace and harmonious development, at the same time establishes a firm base on which to strengthen the rights of future generations. When the Church emphasizes this right, it is not claiming any privilege. It is intended only as faithful to the mandate of its divine Founder, aware that where Christ is present, man grows in humanity and finds its consistency.” (Homily at the mass in the Plaza Cívica José Martí of Havana).

In number 6, of our mentioned Leading article, we were reviewing what some Cubans were hoping that the Pope should clarify: the authentic concept of the free expression and performance of the Christian religion: Towards a real religious freedom. The Pope has said clearly that the rights of the future generations cannot separate the believer’s condition of citizen and of his contribution to the building of the society. This way one concludes that: religious freedom is alone neither freedom of worship, nor what we have called ’a freedom of permissions’. The law must open and guarantee for all, without distinction or exclusions, the profession of worship, the exercise of the prophesying Christian that includes the announcement and the denunciation; as well as the social, political and economic service that the Christian conception of the human being and of the world demands of its believers.

The path of change: teach to think and form men of virtue

Cuba and the world need changes, but they will be given only if each one is in a position to ask for the truth and decides to take the road of love, sow reconciliation and fraternity. An illustrious example of this work was the great priest Félix Varela, educator and teacher, illustrious son of this city of Havana, who has passed into the history of Cuba as the first one who taught his people to think. Father Varela presents the way for a true social transformation: form virtuous men to forge a nation worthy and free, that this transformation will depend on the spiritual life of man, because ’there is no homeland without virtue” (letters to Elpidio, letter sesta, 1836 Madrid, 220). (Homily at the mass in the Plaza Cívica José Martí of Havana). Under the gaze of the Virgin de la Caridad del Cobre. I would like to make a call…for living in Christ and for Christ, and with weapons of peace, forgiveness and understanding; fight to build a society open and renewed, a society better, more worthy of man, reflecting more the goodness of God.” (Homily at the mass in the plaza Antonio Maceo in Santiago de Cuba)

On the basis of the strongly Creole teachings of Father Felix Varela, the Pope told us clearly that Cuba needs changes and that we must do so with a spirit, and by a road, without trauma. This meets some of those expectations of broad sectors of our society reflected in Editorial 24,n 24, specifically in number 2: The spirit that promotes structural changes, peaceful and gradual; and in number 7: The national reconciliation: truth, justice, amnesty and magnanimity. The portico of this visit was opened by Benedict XVI while on the plane to Mexico, when he said: The Marxist ideology, as it was conceived, it no longer responds to reality and the Church is available to help changes to take effect without trauma’. We see that he did not say Marxist ideology as applied in the former USSR or in the socialist camp, but as it was conceived. We believe that this frank complaint, which is a part of the prophetic message of every Christian, was superbly complemented by the other part of that prophetic vision which is the announcement that the Pope himself made within Cuba on the way, the style and the players to ensure that changes were without violence or trauma. In effect, we believe that there are two root causes, fruit from the more than 60 years of totalitarian authoritarianism and paternalism, which could lead to violence and trauma: the anthropological damage that produces  depersonalization, and the ethical and civic illiteracy that produces personal and social anomie. These roots of the social and political evils must be overcome with an ethical and civic education and regenerating of the human person and of peaceful coexistence.

 It is time of coexistence and national dialogue that banish immovable positions

“The present hour demands in a compelling way that in human, national and international coexistence, set positions and the unilateral points of view — which tend to make understanding more difficult the understanding and collaborative effort ineffective, will be banned. Any discrepancies and difficulties will be solved by tirelessly searching for what unites all, with patient and sincere dialogue, mutual understanding and a loyal will to listen that accepts goals, carriers of new hope.” (Words of farewell to the José Martí airport in Havana)

The Pope culminates, in his words of farewell at the airport, the masterful strokes of his messages and its legacy. We wish to highlight these teachings that have responded to and exceeded the expectations of many, mentioned in our Editorial 24 in number 3: The promotion of citizen sovereignty and an inclusive national dialog and about essential topics. And in number 5: The decriminalization of diversity.

Make each Cuban feel indispensable as the sovereign of the future of his life, his family and his homeland.

I conclude here my pilgrimage, but I will keep on praying heartily so that you go forward and Cuba becomes the home of all and for all Cubans, where justice and freedom coexist, in a climate of serene brotherhood. The respect and cultivation of the freedom that beats in the heart of every man is essential to answer appropriately the fundamental requirements of his dignity, and to construct in this way a society in whom each one there feels himself the indispensable sovereign of the future of his life, his family and his homeland.’ (Farewell Words in the Airport José Martí of Havana)

Here’s the key to everything. The legacy that we feel is most important and transcendent. And at the same time, the continuity with the message of the unforgettable Pope John Paul II in 1998, prominent as an essential expectation of many in number 10 of the 24 Editorial: ’Cubans we are and we should be the sovereigns of our own personal and national history’.

Cuban civil society, rather than incipient has already grown, having reached, in some central themes, a consensus as never before in the past 500 years of our history. We mentioned some of these points: to be the sovereign of our own personal history with the commitment to weave a civic coexistence; join in the diversity accepting that democracy is plural, diverse and complex; agree on minimum ethics, as are: the aim of achieving democracy and the use of peaceful methods to achieve it.

We have lived through the visit of Pope Benedict XVI. This tour leaves us with a new bar to overcome a challenge that arises as a result of his teachings: giving us, finally, to realize that changes do not come from outside, or from above, but from the inside and from below, which is to say: to exercise the sovereignty of each citizen in personal and corporate form. From outside, the solidarity, support and respect for what we lead from within. And not the other way around.

We believe that the greatest challenge that this visit leaves us is that we cannot, nor should we, expect more from a one-time event, or from a messiah who would come to redeem us from outside, nor even from the representative of the Messiah Jesus Christ. We have entered, it was time, in the deception of false Messiahs and imported solutions. Cuba will be in the future only what Cubans will be able to do among all of us, a sovereigns of our own personal and national history.

This is the unique, authentic and lasting civic adulthood.

Pinar del Rio, April 8 2012

Easter of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Coexistence Magazine. Editorial 26. March-April 2012



 Translated by: Hank Hardisty

May 3 2012