January with the Virgin of Charity / Luis Felipe Rojas

Photo: Luis Felipe Rojas

On January 2nd, under a delicate rain, we San German natives received the image of the Virgin of Charity.  For 50 years, the government and the Communist Party outlawed public processions, but now, hundreds of people were present and willing to walk down the main streets of this dusty provincial town. The children went first, followed by the image of the Virgin, and later a multitude of locals which must have numbered in the thousands.  The Virgin Mary was received amid songs and praise for peace and love as she traveled on her altar.

Without any citations, arrests, threats of lay-offs at work, and without the fear of losing 10 dollars in hard currency as part of a monthly stimulus, thousands of men, women, and children congregated to hear Father Antonio Rodriguez, who encouraged the crowd to not be fearful.  He also encouraged us to ask for whatever we wished for, because the “Virgin always concedes”, and because, as the religious song says, “a mother never gets tired of waiting,” the same way it seems that Cuba does not get tired of waiting.

After the mass, which was held out in the open, the Virgin’s urn was taken in to the temple.  The procession did not end until 12 am.  There were many mothers praying for their imprisoned or detained sons and for their sick children or husbands. There was also a special mass which blessed children and pregnant women. It was a cultural evening full of hymns, praises, and an entire astonished town which had never before witnessed such clamor.  That is what I was able to see.

There was a specific event which I cannot let pass unmentioned to you all.  When the mass concluded, the G2 official who had detained me numerous times in the dark dungeons and who prevents me from leaving my own town, Lieutenant Saul Vega, approached me to “offer his best wishes to me for the new year.”  Since I had just finished praying before the image of the sacred Virgin of Charity, I extended my hand to him and wished that the same wishes he had just made to me would multiply for him as well, as well as for all my family and the entire town.  I really do not know if he did this in order to capture me in a photo — I will keep you all informed.  But one thing I can say is that I do have photos, from that same day, of the oppressive cops who spy on dissidents.  I will share them with you all in future posts.

The visit of the Virgin has been an extraordinary event.  It was a sign of popular mobilization which has no comparison with past events in Cuban society.  It was something which the tyranny must keep in mind when their D-Day comes around.

On the 3rd of January, the functionaries from the local and provincial Communist Party Department of Religious Affairs refused to allow another procession. The drivers who took the image of the Virgin to the town of Cueto were then forced to pick up their pace, under strict orders of not waiting for anyone. This says a lot about those who wield power and who think they have the right to deny even the oldest traditions.

January 5 2011