See all those languages up there? We translate Global Voices stories to make the world's citizen media available to everyone.

Learn more about Lingua Translation  »

Cuba: Diverse Opinions on Pope Benedict's Visit

All links lead to texts in in Spanish unless otherwise stated.

Since November 10, 2011, when the Vatican announced  Pope Benedict's trip to Cuba and Mexico, the only countries in Latin America he will visit, Cuban bloggers began to display their views.

Nine days after the official communication, Yasmín Silvia Portales published in Letters from Cuba, Fernando Rasvberg's blog, an article that questioned the hegemony of the Catholic religion in Cuba:

Opino que puestos en plan de identificar una religión nacional, nadie podrá negar que la competencia está entre las de origen africano, porque acá devinieron algo nuevo, porque sus símbolos y sesgos culturales atraviesan el sentido común de “lo cubano” sin respeto a clases, razas o géneros, porque es popular -en el mejor sentido de la palabra.

I think that if we have to identify a national religion, no one can deny that the competition is between the ones of African origin. These religions became something new in Cuba. The symbols and cultural biases of Afro-Cuban religions traverse the common sense of what is “Cuban” without considering class, race or gender. In addition, these religions are popular in the best sense of the word.
Preparations in the Revolution Square for the visit of Pope Benedict XVI

Preparations in the Revolution Square for the visit of Pope Benedict XVI. Photo courtesy of Jorge Luis Baños.

In addition, this Cuban blogger, who calls herself a Marxist, non-heterosexual and Afro-descendant, criticized the positions of Pope Benedict XVI with respect to “the recent scandals of pedophiles faced by the Catholic Church, the use of condoms, and the right to divorce.”

The visit precedes the pilgrimage of the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre, declared Patroness of this Caribbean island on May 10, 1916, and crowned by Pope John Paul II in January 1998.

For the blogger and advocate of sexual diversity Francisco Rodríguez, popularly known as Paquito el de Cuba, “the Virgin of the Charity is certainly much more than a religious symbol. Her legend is part of Cuban culture, source of spirituality for many people and a source of inspiration and unity throughout much of our national history.”

However, according Paquito:

Benedicto XVI no es la Virgen, ni es un santo, ni creo que represente absolutamente ningún valor humano del cual yo me sienta parte. Comprendo, sin embargo, que su presencia en Cuba podría ser positiva y contribuir desde el punto de vista político a las relaciones exteriores del país y al diálogo con un sector de nuestra población.

Benedict XVI is not the Virgin or a saint, nor do I believe he represents any human value which I feel a part of. I understand, however, that his presence in Cuba would be positive and help from the political point of view the country's foreign relations and dialogue with a sector of our population.

The LGBT community of the island confesses to “expect nothing from this visit.” The blog El Nictálope reminds us:

Desde hace años [Benedicto XVI] atrae la atención del público a causa de sus obsesivas manifestaciones contra los derechos de los homosexuales y transexuales. Casi no transcurre un mes sin que el pontífice, de súbito, arremeta contra las familias homoparentales y el matrimonio igualitario. Como paradoja, parece haber sido tardo y reticente ante los casos de abuso infantil por parte de sacerdotes.

For years [Benedict XVI] has attracted public attention because of his obsessive demonstrations against the rights of homosexuals and transsexuals. Hardly a month goes by without the pope, suddenly, railing against homofamilies and equal marriage. Paradoxically, he seems to have been slow and reluctant to cases of child abuse by priests.

On the other hand, the blog Santiago en mí, written from the Cuban province where first mass will be held, take it with the typical Cuban sense of humor when describing the significance of the Pope's visit.

Lo cierto es que, hoy por hoy, la visita del Papa, y todo cuanto se mueve alrededor de la misma, está en el centro de la mira de los cubanos, quienes, sin renunciar jamás a la jocosidad que los caracteriza y que ha llevado a algún “reconocido sabio maestro” a afirmar que los cubanos “toman en serio los chistes y hacen chistes de lo serio”, achacan a la visita del máximo exponente de la iglesia católica cuanto bien o mal les ocurre por estos días.

The truth is that today, the Pope's visit, and everything that revolves around it, is at the center of conversations among Cubans, who, without ever renouncing to the playfulness that characterizes them, and which has led a “well-known wise teacher” to claim that “Cubans take jokes seriously and make jokes about what is serious,” have attributed anything that happens to them, wither good or bad, to the visit of the head of the Catholic Church.

Simultaneously, the opposition based in the island recently starred occupations in churches of Havana and Holguin. Although there are different versions of these events, various media reported that dissident groups sent a letter to the Archbishop of Havana to be delivered to Pope Benedict XVI. According to a report from IPS:

Los reclamos del grupo del Partido Republicano Cubano incluyen excarcelación de presos, alza de salarios y pensiones, cese de persecución a opositores, derecho a propiedad privada y a crear medios alternativos de información, acceso a Internet, “marco legal para un estado de derecho” y libertad de viajar al extranjero.

The group claims the Cuban goverment include the release of Cuban prisoners, increase of wages and pensions, cessation of persecution of opponents, the right to private property, and create alternative media, Internet access, a “legal framework for the rule of law,” and freedom to travel abroad.

However, a press release issued by the Archdiocese of Havana rejected the occupation of the churches:

Nadie tiene derecho a convertir los templos en trincheras políticas. Nadie tiene derecho a perturbar el espíritu celebrativo de los fieles cubanos, y de muchos otros ciudadanos, que aguardan con júbilo y esperanza la visita del Santo Padre Benedicto XVI a Cuba.

Nobody has the right to convert the churches into political trenches. Nobody has the right to disrupt the celebratory spirit of the faithful Cubans, and many other citizens, who await with joy and hope the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Cuba.

The publication of an editorial in the official newspaper Granma has also raised a variety of opinions. In the article, the official organ of the Communist Party of Cuba called to welcome Benedict XVI with “affection and respect.”

In a post titled “Strictly personal confession“, the blogger Luis Toledo Sande says:

Dejemos a un lado el llamamiento a sentir afecto, opción que debe decidir cada quien según su conciencia y sus nociones manden.

Leave aside the call to feel affection, decide which option to each according to their conscience and send notions.

Subsequently, Sande highlights the work of the Cuban authorities to ensure a respectful reception of the Pope:

A la vista está, construido al pie del monumento a José Martí en la Plaza de la Revolución que lleva su nombre, una arcada temporal que, además de mostrar respeto al visitante, lo protegerá del fuerte sol caribeño, que ya a las 9 de la mañana provocará por estas fechas.

There it is, built close to the monument to José Martí in the Revolution Square that bears his name, a temporary archway, which besides showing respect for the visitor, will protect him from the strong Caribbean sun that will already shine at 9 am in these days.

Despite the political and religious disagreements, for some Cuban bloggers this visit will be positive: it “is seen as one of the highlights from this still young 2012.”

  • http://www.hummusforthought.com Joey Ayoub

    I think the discussion should focus more on the Vatican’s legacy of human rights abuses including the pedophilia scandals, its official homophobia and sexism and its determination to allow AIDS to raise its number of victims by officially preaching against the use of condoms in the poor and uneducated regions of sub-Saharan Africa.

Receive great stories from around the world directly in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the best of Global Voices
* = required field
Email Frequency



No thanks, show me the site