Arriving in Havana

Citizens of the United States can legally enter Cuba through 12 categories that include family visits, professional research, educational activities, humanitarian projects and religious activities. These visas are not guaranteed and any one individual can be denied entry.

“Religious Activities?” Entering a communist country on a religious visa seems contradictory to an ideology that, in our minds at least, seeks to oppress religion and eliminate “God” from discussion.

Certainly we would expect at least, that gathering for worship would have to remain secretive and underground. But that is not the case in Cuba. In fact, Fidel Castro can be credited (although unknowingly) with starting the house church movement that has spread rapidly throughout the country (more on this in later posts)!

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Being approved for a religious visa means that we can meet with pastors, churches and speak openly about why we are there. Nothing to hide.

Havana, the Capitol, is a city with a population of 2 million. Before the revolution, it was considered as one of the world’s most advanced cities. But that was then. Today, some have described it as the Caribbean version of Detroit. The average working-class income is about $20.00 (USD) per month. People do get food cards, subsidized utilities, free schooling and health care. Yet, most apartments are in need of extreme repair and have multiple families living in them.

Families pool money together to purchase common household goods (rice steamers, refrigerators, electronics, etc.). Some goods require months, or even years of savings.

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Havana is the center for arts and culture. Above is the “Gran Teatro de la Habana”, home of the Cuban National Ballet. The great Italian operatic tenor Enrico Caruso performed here.

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Seen through a maze of apartment buildings, “El Capitolio” (National Capitol Building), completed in 1929, was modeled after our own U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C. After the Cuban Congress was disbanded following the revolution, it is now being restored to once again house the seat of government, the Cuban National Assembly.

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Old Havana…artists abound.

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Images of Che Guevara can be seen throughout Cuba. Guevara played a pivotal role in the Cuban Revolution…including training militia forces who repelled the Bay of Pigs invasion and bringing the Soviet nuclear armed ballistic missiles to Cuba which precipitated the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Photographs and paintings of him hang in most homes. Most Cubans appreciate the revolution’s intentions. Egalitarianism for the masses seemed like a good idea. But in reality, it reinforces the lowest common denominator…everyone is poor.

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Above is the Jose Marti Memorial at the Plaza de la Revolucion in Havana. Marti, a poet, journalist and revolutionary philosopher is a Cuban national hero. His death in 1895 sparked the revolution movement of independence from Spain. He longed for Cuba to be a democratic republic, free from any outside control, including that of the United States.

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