A street in Havana

Cuba: Change of frequency

The Cuban community gathered to follow the presentation of The Religious Sense. But that evening, among the streets of Old Havana, the encounters and surprises continued. Alejandro's story from the latest issue of "Huellas”.
Alejandro Mayo

We had planned to meet to follow the School of Community book presentation together. We know from experience that our meetings always exceed the plans and goals we set for ourselves, but on that Saturday the abundance of the Lord's gifts was especially generous.

Already in the days leading up to the event, we began to enjoy the Lord's generosity – in the midst of adverse circumstances that seemed to conspire against any plan ¬– through the willingness of several friends, inside and outside Cuba, who helped us arrange transportation between the cities of Matanzas and Havana and accommodation. In addition, the very helpful Franciscan friars in Havana, Luigi and Silvano, lent us, among other things, the hall of church of San Francisco. The "small" miracle of punctuality that day (a virtue that is not very common in this country) should also be mentioned.

After a brief introduction, a song and prayer, the video began; everyone is very attentive! The words of Prades, Yolanda and Carras found a special harmony in all of us. You could see it in people's faces, in their attitudes, in those who were taking notes, in the hour and a quarter that passed by so quickly... You could especially see it at the end, in the moment of dialogue; again attentive faces, there was no fatigue, people were smiling... Fr. Ariel, who was with us, asked provocative questions and made comments on the relevance of what we had heard to the situation we are living today in Cuba, and he launched us the great challenge of educating ourselves and educating others in the religious sense. To educate, to awaken hearts in today's Cuba as a method for a better tomorrow. After the dialogue, there was a moment together with Vladimir's (and company) legendary ensalada fría (a pasta salad), whose main ingredients are great affection and priceless generosity.

The presentation of 'The Religious Sense' in Havana

The time came to say goodbye, group photos, and the Angelus before the image of Our Lady of Charity del Cobre. In the church lobby we embraced each other to say goodbye and returned to our homes. Or rather, that is what we said to each other, but the group did not disperse, no one left; so we walked together through the streets of Old Havana, in the direction of Laura's house, which is in the area, just to be together a little longer.

The dialogue continued at Laura's house, we talked about life, the challenges we face in Cuba, many things. It is almost a moment of School of Community... In a moment of pause, I looked at my cell phone and saw several missed calls from Erika, an Italian CL member from Verona, who was visiting Cuba with her husband Tomás, a Cuban, and other friends. Erika had contacted me weeks before, expressing a desire to meet with CL people in Cuba. She finally called me again and it turned out that they were at a bar nearby, so they came to Laura's house as well.

They arrived in a horsepdrawn carriage, in typical Cuban style. There were six of them: Erika with her husband and friends, a married couple with their two daughters. Immediately there were hugs, introductions, smiles, amazement, joy; the looks and words of those who meet for the first time but feel they have known each other forever. Then, coffee; they were in a hurry due to their schedules and were already running late. In any case, we found out that Tomás had been to Cuba for a long time and that he was previously an atheist, but had come to know Christ through his wife. Erika suggested that we recite the Angelus before we left, and we did so there in the small living room of an old house in Havana, each responding in our own language. Even the coachman joined in the prayer; he was probably reciting the Angelus for the first time in his life. A real spectacle! Erika later told me that we looked like Christians in the catacombs. Before we left, we arranged to meet at evening Mass, rain permitting. The rain came hours later, just as we were about to leave for Mass. We could not make it.

We were already regretfully accepting the idea that we would never see Erika, Tomás and their friends again. It did not stop raining until late in the evening. After the other friends left, Laura, Deiviz, my wife and I were at home. We decided to go out for a walk, hoping to find some cheap beer. After several blocks and several squares, beer could not be found. On the other hand, as we were about to return home, silhouettes emerged from the darkness of an alleyway, which my wife immediately identified as Erika and Tomás, in the company of other people, whom we later learned were three of Tomás's childhood friends. It was them after all! Again hugs and the joy of seeing each other again. They too were looking for a quiet place to have a drink. We continued on together and ended up stopping in the lobby of the Hotel Inglaterra.

We could never have foreseen what we would experience in the lobby of that hotel. In fact, we had entered with the prejudice that we were outsiders who did not belong, and we knew that it was a gathering of childhood friends for them, that two of their three friends were not Christians, and that the third was a Protestant Christian. But as is often the case, if we put ourselves out there, the Lord dismantles our prejudices and gives us more than we expect.

And so it was. As they reminisced about childhood memories, amid jokes and laughter, Tomás wove his testimony of Christ into every corner of the conversation. He made his friends understand Christ in the most natural way, with linguistic terms typical of the popular slang of simple Cubans, without pretension, without complexes, without strategies, with even comical sayings, such as, "Change frequency, brother, Christianity is another channel, it is something else!" Erika observed and told us under her breath, "Whenever he meets his friends and talks to them about Christ, he is like a child." Over ten years ago her friends had left behind an atheistic Tomás, and now they found the same Tomás, but different, with something extra. Something that gave a sparkle to Tomás’ eyes and those of his friends. And to ours as well. That episode showed, on the one hand, what it means to someone that faith is "his," that it has something to do with life. And, on the other hand, what it means to say that you are yourself with Christ, but at the same time you are another. "I no longer live, but Christ lives in me."

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To a message of thanks I sent him, Tomás replied, "Alejandro, it was a good evening for me too, for me and for my brothers; because they are not my friends, they are my brothers, like all of you. That companionship of dialogue and discussion has no other explanation than to say that God is the true life in everything around us, and it shows how you can discuss opinions without hating those who think differently. In the end, I have to thank God for meeting all of you, because it is not easy to find people in Cuba who are as full of Christianity as you are, and this makes me very happy. Imagine the challenge these days in seeing people who do not share my faith and some who follow different paths. It is not easy, but I respect everyone's path. But I keep saying that the only way to salvation is Jesus. Take care of yourselves. Hugs."

We had simply planned to meet to see the School of Community book presentation together... But the Lord had much more planned!