By Claire Kim (she/her), Underground Seminary
Thank you for taking the time to read this update and for all of your prayers and support!
Yesterday, we arrived safely in Varadero and drove to our lodging at the Presbyterian Church of Luyanó in Havana. We watched the sunset from the Christ of Havana National Monument (built 1958) which sits on a hill across the bay overlooking the city. It is as if Jesus is watching over the city and people of Havana with his love and protection. After dinner, we headed to the Cuban Art Factory, which opened some ten years ago as an arts and music venue after being converted from an old oil refinery. We took an Afrobeats dance lesson(!) and then explored the art galleries and many concert rooms with different artists who were performing that night.
This morning, we visited the Martin Luther King Jr. Center in Havana, where we attended a lecture from Joel Suarez, son of Rev. Raul Suarez who in 1991, through organizing work and meetings with Fidel Castro, helped remove the requirement of being atheist in order to join the communist party. Prior to this, Castro did not recognize the role of faith in Cuba’s revolution, and those who believed were excluded from certain types of education, careers, and leadership positions. We learned about the history of Cuban Christians and churches’ relationship with the revolution and the power of testimony in changemaking, including changing Castro’s opinions on religion over time. It was a powerful and empowering morning.
In the afternoon, we visited Habana Compas Dance, a dance company that weaves together percussion and dance in the same choreography. Spanish and African dance and music styles were blended together to create a uniquely Cuban style and sound that were incredible to witness. Afterwards, several of us participated in a competition to copy the instructor’s rhythm on the drums, and Kiegan and I were the last ones standing! As prizes, we were gifted a Cuban-style clave (percussive instrument) and an African-style clave!
We then visited Revolution Square where Jose Marti’s monument stands, a leader in the movement for Cuban independence from Spain in the late 19th century. We also took pictures with some beautiful 1950s-style cars. Then we attended a celebration in honor of International Trans Day of Remembrance hosted by the Masculine Trans Group of Cuba of Enriqueta Favez, a Swiss woman who dressed as a man in order to study medicine and then went to Cuba and worked as a male surgeon for four years before being found out as a woman.
Now we are on our way to visit the National Hotel! More soon!