My Experience in Coral Park: The Church-Synagogue / Mario Lleonart

The temple of the First Baptist Church of Coral Park: “The Whale”

It was my Sunday of rest in the United States (July 20), on this voyage that I made, between July 9th and August 6th, leading a small delegation that included my wife and daughters, and four other brothers of our church in Cuba. It was my day to be seated to receive the Word.

The previous Sunday I preached in the Baptist church “Star of Bethlehem,”  in Hialeah; and in the nearly two weeks of the journey that remained, they hoped that I would preach to at least four more congregations: “Jesus Worship Center (www.iglesiadoral.org)” of Doral; the “First Hispanic Presbyterian Church” of Tampa; the “Christian House: JWC” of Kissimee; and the “Hispanic Baptist Church” of Naples. It was very opportune that this Sunday was included, because I had done so much speaking in the previous day that I had ended up literally without a voice.

The stained glass window of the Star of David

First Baptist Church of Coral Park is the congregation where brothers worship deeply and with great love for Cuba that today they wanted to dedicate to us their Sunday and their church. The same church in which pastored the well-remembered Rev. Jorge Comesañas whose name, unsurprisingly, was given to one of the neighboring streets, and especially to whom they arrived from their broken isle seeking healing for their wounds. Continue reading “My Experience in Coral Park: The Church-Synagogue / Mario Lleonart”

The sign of the street named for Rev. Jorge Comesañas

The congregation is composed largely of Cubans, as is its pastorate, as well, although its web page (coralpark.org) reports that its members come from twenty-five different nations. This very Sunday its current pastor, Carlos Tellez, who many remember as pastor in Santo Domingo and Madruga, in Cuba, completed his first year of ministry in this church, of the twenty-eight that he has completed as pastor.

Known locally as “the whale” due to its distinctive architectural form, the temple served as a synagogue from its completion until 1986. The church has respected one of  the  conditions stipulated in the sales contract: that the building’s Jewish symbols be retained.

The street with the name of the pastor

That is why both inside and outside one can still see stained glass windows with unmistakable Stars of David. But in addition to its surface decoration, the whale retains something of a Jewish spirit.

I felt this when a group of visitors, including myself, were welcomed — in Hebrew no less — with verses to a well-known song: “Hevenu shalom aleichem, Hevenu shalom aleichem, Hevenu shalom aleichem, Hevenu shalom, Shalom. Shalom aleichem” When prayers were later offered for peace in Jerusalem, I had no doubts.

In these days of clamoring for true peace for Jews and Palestinians that do so much harm to each other, and of condemning the terrorist organization Hamas, I rejoice in attending congregations such as these that remember so well the sequence of a historic Christianity that was born in the synagogues and that was moved to similar churches, and that are debtors of them.

The church-synagogue from the inside.

And although this Sunday I rested from preaching the message with which I came this time to the US: “From the end of the earth to Jerusalem,” after, of course, having proclaimed it first in Cuba; I continued in the same spirit and each time more convinced of the word of the apostle Paul when he cited Isaiah and Jeremiah in Romans 11:26b-11:27: “As it is written: there will come out of Zion a Savior, that will take away the impiety of Jacob. And this will be my pact with them, when I forgive their sins.”

And it is the most admirable, and Jewish of the synagogue-church of Coral Park, that it proclaims the only one capable of giving peace both to the Jews as well as to the Palestinians: Jesus the Messiah, who gave his live on the cross for ALL.

Translated by: Diego A.

22 July 2014

The Cow That Would Change Cuba / 14ymedio, Ignacio Varona

Illustration of a cow. (14ymedio)
Illustration of a cow. (14ymedio)

14ymedio, HAVANA, Ignacio Varona, 4 August 2014 – When she died they erected a life-size marble statue of her, and when they milked her she liked to listen to music. The entire country lived attentive to the milk given by Ubre Blanca (White Udder), the most famous cow in Cuba. She was an animal that not only left her name in the Guinness Book of World Records, but also left a trail of people who remembered her, either with affection or with derision. A new documentary by Enrique Colina recreates the life of this ruminant creature, and the political and social delirium that was generated by her prodigious milk production.

In the space of less than fifty minutes, his documentary “La Vaca de Marmol” (The Marble Cow) recounts those moments in which the entire future of the country depended on the milking of those prodigious udders. With humor and occasional moments of true drama, the director and movie critic tackles a story that appears taken more from mythology than from reality. The story of Ubre Blanca is told by those men who cared for her, milked her and cured her of her diseases on the Isle of Pines, but also by the voices of ordinary people who grew up hearing of a future when milk “would run in the streets” as a result of the increase in production, for which this cow was supposed to be the vanguard.

Continue reading “The Cow That Would Change Cuba / 14ymedio, Ignacio Varona”

Colina is a creative genius who needs no introduction. His program 24 y segundo for years has produced the most intelligent critical cinematography and entertainment on Cuban national television. Also, he has ventured in the direction of documentaries, producing classical pieces such as Jau, Vecinos (Neighbors), and Chapucerías (Shoddy Work). In 2003, he made his debut in fictional cinema with the film “Entre Ciclones” (Between Cyclones). His work has been noted in the Cuban film panorama for its good humor and its incisive criticism of social problems.

On this occasion Colina has turned his talents towards reintroducing us to Ubre Blanca. One of the most amazing testimonies that this documentary is that of Jorge Hernández, the veterinarian who attended to the celebrated cow for a good part of her life. Through the statements of this man we see the atmosphere of pressure and vigilance over those who attended directly to the world-record milk producer. “You cannot allow this animal to have even a cold,” Fidel Castro had pronounced on his first visit to the dairy farm. And so it had to be

With humor and certain moments of true drama, Enrique Colina tells the story of Ubre Blanca – White Udder

Linda Arleen, a cow in the United States, had previously inscribed her name in the Guinness Book of World Records for her milk production. Exceeding that record became a personal battle for Fidel Castro against the United States, his archenemy from the north. Ubre Blanca therefore began to be milked as much as four times a day, surrounded by conditions unequaled anywhere else in the world, and by an attentive team that dared never to make a misstep, nor skip a single task.

Care for the cow included having its food tested by being first given to another animal, so that Ubre Blanca wouldn’t be poisoned, as that was an obsession of El Comandante Castro. The dairy workers lived practically quartered with the cow so that she would lack nothing. “The milkings themselves were good, but we ourselves were treated as if we were crap,” one of the caretakers said decades afterwards. Thus it went day after day, until finally Ubre Blanca was found to have broken the world record and was elevated to the title of the new world champion, as a result of her having produced 110.9 liters of milk in a single day.

Surrounded by photographers and journalists, with three milkings daily and with the pressure of a high-ranking athlete, Ubre Blanca became sick, diagnosed with cancer of the skin, and had to be sacrificed. Her rapid deterioration pointed to an excessive exploitation of the animal, and to all the stress that she was submitted to in the last years of her life. Her name would, in the end, serve to thicken the large list of failed projects that were ascribed to Fidel Castro. There would never be another Ubre Blanca, and the entire Cuban cattle industry fell off the precipice of apathy and inefficiency.

With mastery and a certain touch of humor, Enrique Colina also reviews all the worship of the cow that occurred subsequent to her death. This worship ranged from the work of the taxidermists to maintain her skin, to the marble sculpture of Ubre Blanca that even today is located at the entrance of La Victoria farm, where that production miracle occurred. The jokes in the street, and the suspicion left by that illusion also have a place in the documentary.

A certain apprehension can be seen to overcome the caretaker who believes that the ghost of Ubre Blanca still walks through the beautiful stable that they created for her. With air conditioning, special pastures and 24-hour-a-day monitoring, that cow ended up being a prisoner of her fame, and of an obstinate man who believed that a country could be governed in the same way he ordered a dairy to be.

Translator’s Note: This documentary reportedly was shown in Cuba only once, when it was entered into a film festival, and has not been shown since.

 

Translated by Diego A.

 

Gerardo Machado: Was He Really an Ass with Claws? / David Canela Pina

MIAMI, Florida. — In the North Cemetery of Woodlawn Park, in Miami, lie the remains of the former Cuban president Gerardo Machado y Morales (1871-1939), who was the politician who constructed the most works during the Republic, and also was the first who opposed the international influence of communism.

To Machado, the new writing of history is simplified by a caricature: the ass with claws, and as all that is not convenient to them, they leave his image, alone and deformed, surrounded by a sea of silence, in which the only thing heard is the murmurings of the communists.

Was he a dictator? Yes. One that induced a reform in the Constitution in 1901, to govern for ten years? Yes, but he was highly adored, in an epoch quite convulsive. Did he close the University of La Habana (Havana), in 1930? Yes, but he had constructed  its staircase, and the then new buildings of the Colina — including the School of Engineers and Architects,which today is in ruins.

Did he suspend constitutional guarantees? Yes, but terrorism had seized control of the streets, and there did not exist negotiations with opposing groups. Did he engage in political assassinations and torture? Yes, but not so much as since 1959. Continue reading “Gerardo Machado: Was He Really an Ass with Claws? / David Canela Pina”

According to Ramiro Guerra, some 5,000 revolutionaries were imprisoned provisionally, and Juan Clark affirmed in his book Mito y realidad (Myth and Reality) (1990) that “the prisoners were usually treated correctly, enjoying prisoners’ privileges and amnesties that returned them to liberty after a short stay in the presidio (prison).”

His legacy of modernity

With all his shortcomings  —  of repression, and desires to prolong his mandate — his government defended national interests, and constructed in Cuba, as had never been done before. To mention only a few such works, during the eight years of economic growth, he constructed:

— The Carretera Central (Central Highway) (with its 1,144 kilometers, just under 700 miles), that until today has not been exceeded, in such a project of vital integration of the provinces.

— The Capitolio Nacional (National Capitol) (1929) that remains the paradigmatic building of Cuban architecture, and the most luxurious in the country.

— Important plazas (the Park of Fraternity, or Brotherhood), walkways (the Avenue of the Missions, in front of the Presidential Palace), and avenues (Fifth Avenue, (Avenue) de Playa (beach)). Furthermore, the Paseo del Prado was remodelled.

— Important buildings, such as the National Hotel, the Asturian Center (today the National Museum of Fine Arts), the Bacardi, the Lopez Serrano, the hotel Presidente del Vedado [“forbidden,” probably a place name].

— Public works: the already-mentioned University of Havana, the Technical Industrial School, de Boyeros [“oxherd,” probably also a place name], the Pier of Slaughters or Meat Markets, the Palace of Justice of Santa Clara, the Model Prison of the Isle of Pines, among many others.

He increased tax collections, providing that the Law of Public Works would impose a charge of ten per cent on all imported articles considered to be luxuries, and another of three per cent on all products of foreign origin, except food. That caused a lowering of imports, and the development of national industry, creating works of painting, shoes, matches and of products not linked to sugar cane and tobacco.

And in 1927 he approved a new Law of Customs and Duties (Tariffs) to protect and stimulate agricultural and industrial production. It was the first time that Cuba independently had its own customs tariff, of a modern type, one designed to protect its own interests. The production of birds, eggs, meat, butter, cheese, beer and footwear increased markedly. Likewise, Cuba joined several commercial treaties (Spain, Portugal, Japan, Chile) in a completely independent manner.

Machado was a popular president, during his first term. In April of 1927 he travelled to Washington, and sought from President Coolidge a treaty that would eliminate the Platt Amendment. In the act of inauguration of the Sixth International Conference of American States, in January 1928, a proclamation was declared “a vote of gratitude and applause in favor of the excellent Sir General Don Gerardo Machado.”

And on the 1st of November of that year, in the elections celebrated under the electoral Law of Emergency, Machado was presented as the only candidate and was re-elected without opposition of the other parties, for a mandate that would end on May 20th 1935.

The Enemies of Machado

The discontent towards Machado had above all economic roots. The Great Depression — that began with the bank crash of October  1929, and that only began to ease in the middle of the decade of the Thirties–unleashed a great popular animosity against his government and members of his administration.

The almost total paralyzing of commerce, the sudden devaluation of the price of sugar (which had attained its highest price in 1927), the lack of work, and the reduction and the delay of State payments, brought the country to a state of misery overnight,  that reached its maximum degree in the summer of 1933.

The second obstacle of his government was international communism. Barely three months after he attained the presidency, the first Communist Party of Cuba was founded in Havana, the 16th of August, 1925. The new ideology, that was guided by the soviet ideal, utilized methods that were unknown until that epoch. The terrorism of bombs in the cities was introduced in Cuba by Catalan emigrants.

The Sixth World Congress of International Communism (between July and September of 1928), which took place in Moscow, approved the slogan of “class against class.” Dozens of foreigners were expelled from the country, for being dedicated to “the propagation of communism.”

Machado tried to stop the discontent; but neither the suspension of constitutional guarantees (in June of 1930), nor the imposition of martial law (with the use of military tribunals instead of civil tribunals), nor press censorship, nor assassination and imprisonment of the opposition were able to halt the campaign of terrorism of the revolutionaries, headed by the ABC, the Revolutionary Union, de Guiteras, the Student Left Wing, and the Student Directorate of the University.

The United States followed with concern the political situation in Cuba, until on the 8 August 1933 the ambassador of that country, Sumner Welles, presented himself at the Presidential Palace with a note from the President of the United States, Franklin Roosevelt, in which Roosevelt demanded Machado’s resignation, and with that the end rapidly approached.

The incipient liberty of the press also conspired against Machado, given that the journalists would not write in favor of a government, unless they were given payment,  or they received a “bottle” — that would be worth about 500 pesos. Machado refused to give “bottles” to the press, unlike the previous government, that of Zayas.

But his greatest enemy was the fickleness and immaturity of the Cuban people, which, equal to that in 1959, left them blinded by messianic illusions that promised them heaven on earth. The Revolution of the 30 produced Fulgencio Batista, who would pull multitudes in 1940, with the support of the communists. Then came student leaders like Ramon Grau San Martin and Carlos Prio Socarras, who governed in the name of the revolution.

The magazine Bohemia, in October 1933, published an article by the overthrown president, in which he reflected: “During a time I was the Man God, the New Messiah, the Mentor Man, who could do everything, and afterwords, by the same people who had exalted me, I was Satan, Moloch, Mars uplifted. Thus is all Cuba: the country that appears to be made with the blades of a windmill.”*

The story of the political conflicts cannot be divided into the good and the bad, without defining the relationship of social groups surrounding a power structure. Some kill in the name of the Law, others in the name of the Revolution. But some build, and leave a legacy of modernism, such as Gerardo Machado, while others empty history, and they destroy all in their path, such as Fidel Castro.

Cubanet, June 23, 2014

*Translator’s note:This appears to be a reference to Don Quixote, as if Cuba became what it did by its vain tilting with windmills. 

Translated by: Diego A.