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