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Juan Carlos Fernandez

[caption id="attachment_39448" align="aligncenter" width="623"] [1] Extension of the Diocese of Pinar del Río. (Juan Carlos Fernández / 14ymedio)[/caption] [2]14ymedio, Juan Carlos Fernandez, Pinar del Rio, 26 March 2015 – “How much everything has changed! How gorgeous the Cathedral is with those add-ons!” exclaimed a Catholic layman on returning to visit his native Pinar del Rio after three decades of exile. The improvement of the infrastructure of the diocese, which started with the arrival of Archbishop Monsignor Jorge Enrique Serpa, is impressive. The construction work was fast-tracked and the traditional problems with permits disappeared. The cost of the strategy to sustain it, however, will be difficult to sustain. Cardinal Jaime Ortega and Archbishop Serpa together undertook the task, which happened to please the Cuban authorities, removing part of the secular activity of the diocese to achieve, in exchange, benefits. When in January 2007, Monsignor José Siro González Bacallao made official Serpa’s assumption of the Diocese, a new chapter began in the pastoral, religious and social life of the local church. The appointment coincided with a rapprochement between the authorities and part of the Catholic hierarchy, led by the Archbishop of Havana, Jaime Ortega y Alamino. This improvement in relations culminated in the visit to Cuba of Benedict XVI, in March 2012, and the release from prison of a large group of political prisoners of the 2003 Black Spring. The Conference of Catholic Bishops of Cuba also paved the way to understanding. The two bishops most uncomfortable for the Government were about to retire for reasons of age. In Santiago de Cuba, Pedro Meurice, old and sick ceded his episcopate to his disciple, Dionisio García. At the other end of the island, José Siro retired to Mantua and left the way open for the pact. Since the inauguration of the new bishop in Pinar del Rio, it took just three months to begin the dismantling of all the works that were considered an obstacle to improving relations with the government. It took just three months to begin the dismantling of all the works that were considered an obstacle to improving relations with the government The members of the editorial board of the Church magazine Vitral were forced out, and the training center and publisher were dismantled. They also dissolved the Brotherhood of Assistance to Prisoners and Their Families, the Youth Ministry, the Catholic Commission for Culture and the Diocesan Council of Laity. Thus, the lay members left the structure of the Pinar del Rio Church. When Monsignor Serpa took over, after 20 years serving in the Bogota Archdiocese, the Pinar del Rio Diocese had only 17 priests, fewer than 30 nuns, and a large group of committed lay people. The churches were deteriorated and the difficulties in obtaining permission for restoration were notable. Now, for the first time in more than fifty years, all the parishes have priests, the number of members by religious congregation has grown, and the entry and establishment of other orders, among them the Brigidine Sisters, have been extended from Havana. Management has been allowed, in addition to restoring the Cathedral, to enlarge the parish house and the construction of a complex of classrooms for catechisms and meetings. The Church has been able to buy a site for Caritas located in the center of the city, less than a block from the provincial headquarters of the Communist Party. In addition, in just eight years Sandino [3] is the first captive people to have a temple, one of the greatest diplomatic achievements in the last 25 years of the authorities insistently denying Siro permission. The return of the religious processions in all the dioceses is also a noted achievement of Serpa. But the negative consequences of his mandate have also been felt. The bishop complains of a lack of motivation and commitment among the faithful, including to make donations. On the other hand, the social commitment is almost zero and the pastoral is ecclesial – more severe than the so-called clerical. Except for the Bishop, there is no presence of Church members in any social environment. "The loss of moral authority is not achieved overnight," whispers a Pinar del Rio Catholic. "Rebuilding costs far more than any new temple," says the layman. The legacy the current bishop will leave when he retires, at age 75, will be a magnificent architectural infrastructure that will not need to be touched for a while. The challenge will be re-form, articulate and prepare the Church formed by laymen which was dismantled. [1] [2] [3],_Cuba Continue reading
[caption id="attachment_39366" align="alignleft" width="584"] [1] Removing Gisel's roof (Juan Carlos Fernandez)[/caption] From the Tail of the Caiman blog, Juan Carlos Fernandez, Pinar del Rio, 20 March 2015 -- As usual, Grisel got up early, made coffee. Afterwards she looked out over the back of her apartment – on the ground floor of an ugly concrete block – where, like many of her neighbors, she had added a room thirty years ago. No family member lived in her room, rather it was the “foundation room” where many of the faithful came every day “to consult with her.” An enormous image of Changó dominates the place. Grisel Arteaga is Santeria. After bowing before her orishas and sprinkling a little brandy on them, she began her housework. Around noon there was a knock on her door. It was a man who presented himself as the head of the demolition brigade for Physical Planning, and he tells her he has come to tear down her added room. Grisel can’t believe it and quickly calls, on her cellphone – blessed technology, her son Idael Marquez. “Mi’jo, come fast, the wreckers are here to tear down the foundation room,” she says. “The brigade is waiting,” claims the official, and “we also brought a police patrol unit, because that’s the procedure.” The woman can’t stand it and explodes, “Why when I built it didn’t they come and tear it down? Now because a boss gets it in his head that it isn’t sightly you want me to tear it down?” she asks, furious. And adds, “Right now my son and I are going to go into the foundation room and you’re going to have to take me out dead, you hear me?” "Ask Changó not to hurt us, we’re not going to go on with this" The brigade, made up of five men, starts to remove the light covering from the terrace. Meanwhile, Gisel and her son stay inside. They pray, join hands and close their eyes. One of the young men of the brigade looks on from the doorway and asks permission to enter. “I want to present my respects to the orishas, I don’t have anything against you, but I’m afraid that 'they' won’t think so and will skin me,” he says, fearfully. Grisel stares at him and says, “Look, my son, you are playing with fire and you are going to get burnt.” Grisel’s son can’t remain silent. “There is a head that thinks this, and a hand that executes it. You are the hand, the head doesn’t show his face, he sends you guys to do the dirty work and make enemies. You have to choose and say no to the head.” The young man nods. The brigade chief approaches the door and repeats that they should leave, but Grisel refuses to give in. Then he calls to the police, “You need to come and control this.” But nobody wants to mess with Changó. The officer pulls back “You’re wrong, we’re here to avoid any problems of violence and so far I don’t see any,” he says, before starting the car and taking off. One of the workers stands there and yells, “What’s going on. If the Government wants to take off the roof, let it come and take it off. I don’t want any problems with the saints, coño,” and he prostrates himself before the statue of an Indian that Grisel has in a corner. Another approaches and whispers, “I have two little girls, please, ask Changó not to hurt us, we’re not going to go on with this.” They end up collecting all the tools and fleeing at full speed in the brigade’s old Russian truck. [2]Juan Carlos Fernandez. I was born and live in Pinar del Rio and from this blog I want to defend freedom of expression. [1] [2] Continue reading
[caption id="attachment_38402" align="aligncenter" width="623"] [1] Eduardo Diaz Fleitas on his farm. (14ymedio)[/caption] 14ymedio, Juan Carlos Fernandez, Entronque de Herradura, 31 January 2015 – Entronque de Herradura is a little village in the Pinar municipality of Consolacion del Sur. I go there in search of Eduardo Diaz Fleitas, a Cuban with rapid speech, skill with the ten-line stanza and proven courage. He was among the 75 dissidents sentenced during the Black Spring of 2003 [2], but not even a long prison stay made him lose his smile or wit. Fleitas asserts that he is “just a meddlesome peasant.” In this interview he speaks of his life, his early activism and of that other passion, which is the land where he has worked as long as he can remember. Question: In other interviews your work as an opponent always comes up, but I would like to speak of your personal history. What did you do before that fateful March of 2003? Answer: As a child I worked in the fields. I had to grow up fast, and I studied auto mechanics. Later I became a driver and even drove a bus. In 1989 I started driving a taxi and later became a transport inspector. However, in 1993 I stopped working for the State, demanding that they pay me with dollars to be able to buy in the hard currency stores because the national currency had no value. Since then I have worked on the plantation with my father. Q: Where did the ethical and moral values that guide your life come from? A: My father taught me respect, kindness, honesty and love of work, spirit of service and help to others. From my mother, a farmer and housewife, I learned effort and integrity as well as loyalty and also love, which I have seen in them, because they have been married since 1950. Q: What was the process that led you to be disappointed in the political and social process which, from its beginnings, said it was defending the peasantry? A: With the triumph of the Revolution we thought, like many, that it was something good. But after three or four months things began to get bad; the executions, the land was no longer ours. The discourse ran one way and reality the other. All that was waking me up. Q: But it’s a long way from discontent to activism. When did you begin to be a dissident publicly? A: In the year1988. Since then and until now I have been active in several opposition organizations and held different responsibilities. Q: During the Black Spring of 2003 you were arrested along with other dissidents, journalists, librarians and independent trade unionists. They sentenced you to 21 years imprisonment and you were behind bars almost nine years. How hard was jail? A: What most struck me about the Cuban penitentiary system is the great cruelty with which the inmate is treated, whether political or not. There you are not a person, you are at the mercy of your jailers. I saw extremely sick prisoners ask for medical attention, and the guards laughed in their faces. We must humanize Cuban prisons! I also have to say that prison offered me the chance to see, to my surprise, how many people support, in one way or another, the peaceful opposition movement in Cuba. I never felt alone inside. Prison also gave me the opportunity to harbor not even a drop of hatred against my victimizers. In my heart there exists neither hatred nor rancor towards them. Q: You have participated in several unity initiatives among opposition forces, the latest of them the Open Space of Civil Cuban Society. Do you believe consensus can be achieved in spite of differences? A: All proposals of this type are excellent. What I do consider unjustifiable is the dismissive insult and personal attack among ourselves. That is the method the Cuban government uses against us, it is anti-democratic and not at all ethical. No activist should fall for something like that. We must have consensus on basic points, and that is what Open Space has achieved and what we have sought for years. I am happy to be able to participate in that initiative. Q: What do you think about the intention of the governments of Cuba and the United States to re-establish diplomatic relations after more than half a century of confrontation? A: As of last December 17 a new era for Cuba began. The government of the United States has realized that the prior policy was a dead end with no way out, and now a host of opportunities is opening for our people. I have asked people about the measures announced by the American government, and they look favorably on them, because they mean prosperity for the people. But when I have asked them what they think of the Cuban government in the face of this challenge, they answer that they do not trust it. Nevertheless, I am optimistic. We must create awareness that dialog is best. I believe that the United States is committed to us and has intelligently confronted the regime. We have to have the courage to reclaim democracy and to respect our rights. The era of change may be coming for all Cubans, and it falls to everyone to do it in harmony. Cuba has to flourish again for everyone and for the good of all! Unanimity is not good. We must live in diversity. But it is good for us to be unanimous when dealing with differences. Well…better I say it in verse: Cuban, Why is it that it doesn’t matter to you To ruin your dignity? Because so much calamity Will never produce heroism. Bury that pessimism That daily assaults you. Raise your voice, you are able To be the example of the titan Awaken those who are Prisoners of their own webs. Translated by MLK [1] [2] Continue reading
Despite all that has to change, Pinar del Rio greets the year with something new: hope 14ymedio, Juan Carlos Fernandez, Pinar del Rio, 2 January 2015 – The New Year was welcomed in the city of Pinar del Río very … Continue reading Continue reading
14ymedio, Juan Carlos Fernandez,Pinar del Río, 25 September 2014 — The artists’ guild in Pinar del Rio is living in distressing times because of the cancellation of the exposition by Pedro Pablo Oliva, “Utopias and Dissidences.” Talking about the most … Continue reading Continue reading