Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Cuban Nation Is Wounded, But It Will Laugh Again

"The Cuban Nation Is Wounded, But It Will Laugh Again" / 14ymedio,
Reinaldo Escobar

14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 8 August 2016 – Everyone in the
Versalles neighborhood in the city of Camagüey knows Bernardo de Quesada
Salomon. Loquacious, restless and the founder of the Apostolic Movement,
he has experienced intense months this year, especially January 8th,
when the police entered his home and demolished the structure in the
backyard that served as a center of worship.

Quesada opened his doors to this newspaper to talk about how he became
an adored pastor to his neighbors and malefactor to State Security. On
the slab behind his house, where until recently the temple stood, he now
meets every Sunday with his congregation under the intense August sun.
None of them have stopped coming in the last months, despite the
campaign against the leader of the church which continues to rage every day.

The Christian movement he is a part of separated from the Cuban Council
of Churches in 2003, but Quesada had devoted himself to religion since
much earlier, in 1984, a year after he began studying Biology, for which
he received his degree just as the Berlin Wall was falling in Europe.

Now, while showing the place where he sang and improvised sermons, he
recalls that when he was working as a high school teacher "every time I
taught some of the subjects such as evolution, embryology, anatomy,
physiology and genetics, I ended up seeing the hand of God." His faith
began to clash with the education authorities.

"In 1991 I felt there was little left for me in the education system. I
was working then in Vladimir Ilich Lenin University in Las Tunas, where
I taugh microbiology and botany to students in agricultural
engineering," he says. Quesada was named to various positions at the
national level in his Church, a situation that strained the atmosphere
in his job.

Cuba was currently in the midst of the Special Period and the island was
suffering economic hardship and despair. Thousands of former atheists
began to embrace religion and Protestant movements grew everywhere.

In September 1991, he was called in by the university leadership, who
evaluated him with "a kind of judgment looking at all factors, the
party, the union, youth" he recalls. They accused him of speaking about
God to students and teachers, although he remained in his post until
April 1992 when he was expelled. Among the complainants was an employee
there who now "works in Radio Marti in Miami," he said derisively.
"Beware of extremism and extremists" he says in a passage in his book,
In The Eye Of The Hurricane.

When he cut his ties with his state position, Bernardo began to consider
himself "a free man" and began "preaching in different churches in
Cuba." He came to be an "itinerant evangelist" which brought him to very
poor places like Macareño, in Santa Cruz del Sur. In those places he
found thousands of followers who attributed to him even physical healings.

Quesada believes that the shepherds of the people with the greatest
problems should not even go to Havana, much less, emigrate to another
country. "People avoid talking to me about an illegal exit," he
explains, talking about the issue of the thousands of rafters who each
year cross the sea from the Cuban coast to try to reach the United
States. "I tell them it is going to divide the family, like the medical
missions abroad have done," he says.

He reiterates, stressing each syllable, that it is "against Cubans to
leave Cuba. We must change our nation ourselves and fleeing only numbs
the problem more," he says.

His critics within the system have validated the animosity of the
authorities. "In Cuba there is no Law of Associations. No one can
register an organization to give it legal status," he denounces in his
writings. With regards to the dissidents on the island, he believes that
"expressing their rights, going out into the street to demand justice"
should not be classified as "a counterrevolutionary action like they
want to make people think."

He has been accused of being a CIA agent, a provocateur, and even a
madman, but Bernardo seems to know how to deal with the insult. "When
they throw the stones of defamation, don't toss them away: use them to
keep building your platform for further growth," he preaches.

The road ahead is very difficult, he thinks, but he is confident that a
"genuine church" will be an "important factor in the future."

"The Cuban nation is wounded, it bears a great social wound, but it will
laugh again," he predicts with conviction, smiling in the same courtyard
where eight months ago the police thought they had dismantled his place
of worship.

Source: "The Cuban Nation Is Wounded, But It Will Laugh Again" /
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar – Translating Cuba -
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