Mission Omission

I know a few people that through the years have traveled to Cuba with their churches or synagogues. They traveled to Cuba as missionaries, offering assistance and support for their religious counterparts on the island. Collections were made prior to the trip so that they could take things that were unavailable on the island. Medicines, prescription eyeglasses, personal hygeine items, letters to family members, etc…

These groups that I have known went to the island to help people. They went to offer spiritual and emotional support to Cubans whose religious freedoms had been stifled. Cubans who had been persecuted precisely because they were Catholics or Jews or Baptists or whatever. Because they had the audacity to have faith in something other than the revolution.

Some of these folks that I know personally came back from Cuba changed. What they had witnessed had made an indelible mark on their psyches and their souls. Grown men who would otherwise have been a pillar of strength reduced to tears, unable to complete a sentence describing their trip without sobbing. Having to stop and catch their breaths, compose themselves before continuing to tell us about their visit to Cuba.

I have always found the work of these religious organizations commendable. Selfless acts of kindness and good will. Morally conscious.

But it is a very fine line where a church or religious organization travels to the island to do God’s work or to experience an island getaway vacation. Omnipotent tourism shrouded in religion.

Paxety wrote about just such an organization and their trip to Cuba yesterday.

Reader Carmen emailed me with a link to a site that promotes another group of do-gooders. The Orthodox Christian Mission Center of St. Augustine, Florida is making a trip to Cuba.

This is an exciting time for the Orthodox Church and the Orthodox Christian Mission Center. As the first in what is planned to be visits to mission locations around the world, a unique trip to the country of Cuba will be held from June 3rd to the 8th 2005. This trip will allow participants to see the Orthodox Church in Cuba first hand, witness other Christian activity and explore many aspects of this Caribbean destination.

One of the more shocking things about the site is the photographs – it makes the island look like a paradise. Go take a look. Nowhere on the site do you see anything like this.

With this being a church trip, most of the activities promoted on the site are church related, but the participants are also promised trips to “Cuba’s beautiful beaches.”

The OCMC’s website for the trip is telling. From the home page alone we can see completely through this regilious disguise. It’s a picture of a beautiful beach in Cuba. Click to enter the site and you see even more evidence of the true mission of the trip: sun and fun in a Caribbean island. More pictures of beaches, more pictures of palm trees and artwork for sale.

The activities link states the following:

Participants on the trip will have the opportunity to attend Divine Liturgy in the recently consecrated Greek Orthodox Church in Havana, meet and interact with the Orthodox faithful in Cuba, and tour religious sites including historic churches and cemeteries. Trip activities will also include outings to the Cuban countryside and Cuba?s beautiful beaches.

The trip will provide an excellent opportunity for individuals to observe first-hand how the Orthodox Church operates in other parts of the world. Father Martin will give presentations on the work the Orthodox Christian Mission Center is currently doing in some of these regions. Other activities for the group include trips to museums, visits to the local flea markets, and tours of Havana. There will be free time for individuals to explore and sightsee the island on their own.

(Emph. mine)

There is no mention of any spiritual support. No mention of any emotional assistance to those on the island who have for the better part of their lives been unable to practice their religion openly and without fear of consequences. No. It’s all about observing like good old fashioned Omnipotent Tourists. Tours of Havana and trips to museums. Visits to local flea markets and whiling away hours on beautiful sandy beaches. Such fun!!!

Let’s all get passed the laws against travel to Cuba by pretending we’re going there on a religious mission!!! It’ll be great!! Listen to a sermon or two and then we’re off on our own!! Beautiful empty tropical beaches!!! Pack the Coppertone, honey!!!

The OCMC’s website’s accomodations page is also incredibly telling and moreover, patronizing:

All accommodations for the group are first class to provide American standards of security and comfort. The group will fly non-stop from Miami International Airport to Cuba?s Jose Marti International Airport and will stay at Cuba?s premier hotel, the Melia Havana. The hotel offers swimming pools and three restaurants, and is located right next to the beach. Daily breakfast buffets in the hotel are included for everyone as well as lunches where each person can choose to dine at different restaurants throughout the city of Havana. Transportation around the city to all sites and functions will be aboard private comfortable coaches, and translators as well as guides will be with the group for every outing.

First class, five star accomodations meeting American standards!!! And with security!!! And swimming pools!!! And three restaurants!!! And it’s right on the beach!!!

Not a single mention of the deplorable conditions that Cubans live under. Not a single mention of the run down buildings and homes that Cubans live in. Not a single mention of the fact that Cubans arent allowed inside that five star hotel. Or that Cubans cant swim in the same beaches. Not a single mention of the fact that while they are having their little buffet breakfasts and lunches Cubans are standing in lines for hours to get their rations.

Nowhere in the OCMC’s Cuba trip website are Cubans actually even mentioned. Nowhere. Not once. They dont even exist. Their plight isnt worthy of a mention and is completely ignored. No mention of castro’s long standing ban on religion, no mention of prisoners of conscience, no mention of the stifling of basic human and civil rights. Nada. Not even a mention of how this group, this mission to Cuba, will actually help the Cuban people and their religious counterparts on the isalnd. Not a single one.

It is a vacation, plain and simple. An incredibly morally abject one. A little rest and recreation on an island in the Caribbean disguised as a religious mission.

Unbelievably disgusting.

Here’s the info found on their contact us page, I hope you all feel free to contact them and let them know exactly how you feel:

Do you have questions regarding this once in a lifetime trip to Cuba? Please contact us at the Orthodox Mission Christian Center:

Phone: (904) 829-5132 or (949) 633-8483
Email: info@ocmctocuba.com

Please make deposit checks payable to ?USA/AAE Scholarship Foundation? and mail to:

OCMC to Cuba
3760 Kilroy Airport Way
Suite 570
Long Beach, CA 90806

You can contact the State Department at cbaweb@state.gov

I may not be the most religious of persons, but I do have morals and I do know right from wrong. I sleep soundly at night knowing that I am true to my convictions and that I do not enjoy myself at the expense of the dignity of other human beings.

35 thoughts on “Mission Omission”

  1. Let’s give them a ring and find out what their State Department license says about the:
    Trips to museums, visits to the local flea markets, and tours of Havana. There will be free time for individuals to explore and sightsee the island on their own.
    SPENDING MONEY IN CUBA IS ILLEGAL regardless of your reason for visiting.

    Bet ya is another Marazul scam and they will see as many churches in Cuba as I am gonna see blue 5 leggeds unicorns in NYC.

  2. Violators like these need to be exposed! The way they request that checks be made out to a Scholarship Foundation suggests that their members probably violate IRS rules also!

  3. Oh my God! The website looks like one of those SEX TOUR websites that exist for Cuba – for men to go to Cuba to fool around with jineteras.

    FYI
    The reason this website is glossing over the real Cuba is because the American Greek Orthodox Church is a prime member of the communist and Castro loving National Council of Churches of Elian infamy.
    A couple of years ago the National Council of Churches made a big to do when the first Orthodox cathedral was opened in Havana. Castro went to the grand opening and the NCC sent its red dress wearing church lady boss to cut the ribbon on the church. This might explain something to why this website looks like an advertisment for Canadian child molesters.
    My question is:
    Why does Cuba need an Orthodox church in Havana? I mean is it for the embassy staffs from Eastern European nations?
    If the National Council of Churches – which the Orthodox church is part of – is involved in a Cuba thing then you know it’s not all Kosher.

  4. Val, Boy you?ve hit my sore spot with this one. Great post.

    I got into what turned out to be a weeks long letter writing argument with several readers of our local Jewish newspaper over just such a travel ad. Jewish groups traveling to Cuba to help their co-religionists are well intentioned and have done wonderful inspiring work, and are to be commended. However, if you read through the Jews of Cuba website with links to the various charitable organizations, their travel recommendations are for state owned resorts that deny access to Cubans. About this lack of access, this is their explanation, no doubt the standard party line:
    Please be advised that Cuba has a very strict rule about keeping most local Cubans from their premise. This is primarily to keep the young women and men from hustling or hassling the clients in lobby areas, bars and poolside. The prostitutes (jiniteras) are also not allowed in the clients rooms.
    Of course! That makes sense; the island is overrun with prostitutes, better stay away from them. Nothing about how the average Cuban might enjoy swimming in the pools or sunning on the beach. It?s sickening. Further reading through the material, you are also informed that life for the average Cuban is very difficult, lack of money, rationing etc. But, the problem is, NO where does it say anything about the commi-fascist dictator that is responsible for all this hardship. One would get the impression that Cuba is a third world country without resources, It makes me sick and I the anger and rage I experienced corresponding with idiots for weeks about this subject and not being able to convince them because, hey, Cuba?s cool you know, so quaint. I swear this makes me so angry I hope to God there is a special place in hell where the bastard will suffer in agony for eternity.

  5. Also, there is a photo of speilberg visiting a synogogue remarking how this visit makes him proud to be a jew and then he turns around and has a kissing contest with the bearded bastard. Oh yes so proud, it’s a violation of all Jewish principles to support in anyway this poor excuse for a human being piece of garbage who has destroyed a once beautiful country. I wonder if he’s going to be so proud when he and the other hollywood commies realize,if they ever do the evil they have wrought. The hypocrisy is astounding.

  6. TIME TO EXPOSE THOSE “MISSIONARIES”!!!
    UNTHINKABLE…..MUST BE RATHER WEALTHY TO PAY SUCH PRICE TO GO VISIT CASTRO’S ISLAND… INTERESTING…I CAN THINK OF OTHER WAYS THE MISSION CENTER COULD SPREAD THAT MONEY AROUND, LIKE IN 3RD WORLD COUNTRIES PERHAPS?
    SOUNDS TO ME LIKE A GOOD TIME IN HAVANA…LITTLE TO DO WITH GOD’S WORK….LET’S VISIT THE FLEA MARKETS AND MUSEUMS…SUNTANING AND EATING AT THE MELIA-HAVANA RESORT… WOW~~ANY ON GOING RELIGIOUS ACTIVITIES? LIKE WHY NOT WORK IN A CUBAN PRISION? OR A HOSPITAL?….LETS SEE WHAT THE STATE DEPT HAS TO SAY ABOUT THIS….I BELIEVE SPENDING DOLLARS IN CUBA IS ILLEGAL…I AM SURE THE “MISSIONARIES” HAVE MADE SPECIAL ARRAGEMENTS WITH THEIR FRIEND CASTRO!!
    SHAMEFUL!!

  7. My blood was boiling on this one!
    True….the OCMC web site on this trip to Cuba looks like a one of those porn ads you see come out of Cuba…of course those poor “missionaries” have no desire to evangelize or support the thousands of Cubans that are suffering from religious or political opression…their true motive is a vacation in Castro’s Island, you can see that by reading their itinerary of activities while in Havana. The Orthodox Mission Center is actively supporting Castro by disguising themselves as “christian missionaries” plain and simple!! they should be boycotted by their bishops and clergy, and anyone else that finds out about this trip!!
    GO GET THEM!!

  8. lol this is so laughable I pee’d my pants. I mean really now. Look at the site’s intro page. They don’t even show the inside of Cuba. lmao, it would be funny if they get disappointed because they’re too dumb to do extensive research. Har Har… If there is a boycott or activism on this I’m all for it.

  9. For those of you who want to participate in stopping this god damn insult to happen.
    here’s the email I sent them and the email address of the State Department which handles these things:
    To: info@ocmctocuba.com
    Cc: cbaweb@state.gov
    Sent: Wednesday, April 20, 2005 10:08 AM
    Subject: Your trip to Cuba

    I am extremely surprised and angry at your advertising of your upcoming trip to Cuba (http://www.ocmctocuba.com/) specially when you make the trip sound a lot more like a tourist gateaway than a religious pilgrimage.
    I would like to know what how you obtained State Department authority to promote this trip with the following marketing tag:

    “Other activities for the group include trips to museums, visits to the local flea markets, and tours of Havana. There will be free time for individuals to explore and sightsee the island on their own.”
    You are apparently un-aware that it is ILLEGAL for any USA citizen to spend ANY US dollars in Cuba SPECIALLY in trivialities like ” Flea Markets”

    Just so this is clear to you and your group , I DO intend to report this trip to the State Department and make them aware of your intentions of violating USA law under the guise of a “religious” trip.

    Our brothers and sisters in Cuba are rotting under the most deplorable conditions but your “religious” group will stay at :
    “Accommodations for the group are first class to provide American standards of security and comfort.”

    I don’t think so Father Martin Ritsi. This is clearly a clever ploy to bypass USA embargo laws and myself and thousands of other Cubans in the USA will NOT let you get away with this charade.

    ————————————————-
    Plase follow up with similar comments and DO CC the state department!

    You can also go to :
    http://contact-us.state.gov/ask_form_cat/ask_form_secretary.html

    and fill out the form . Let us SWAMP Ms. Rice’s desk with our outrage !

  10. Kathleen
    La Comunidad Hebrea (The Hebrew Community) in El Vedado was one of the last bastions of worship THE BEAST dare touch. In fact in my youth the only place where you could see anything remotely similar to free expression in Art Music or literature was at “La Comunidad Hebrea”
    Many were the confrontations amongst the synagogue members and the military, since the events were open to the PUBLIC in general, Castro’s goons would claim it was NOT a religious event. But they persisted and still have! This actually brings a tear to my eyes, remembering the elders protecting us the non-Jewish kids so we could enjoy one hour of FREEDOM!
    My remembrance of the Jewish community in Cuba was that of doing an AMAZING job of confronting THE BEAST as far as helping their community and maintaining the temple. You can still see the Star of David shinning in bright SOLID GOLD across Calle Linea.
    I think that the Jewish faith was a little more willing to skirmish with the apparatich than other religions. That is to say they did not shy away from some mutual violence. In fact they were the only independent weekly newsletter in La Habana when I was a kid.

    I am assuming that when Spielberg was there no one told him how much suffering the Jewish community had to go through to maintain their faith (and THAT synagogue) alive in Castro’s Cuba.
    I also know of a couple of “companies” that have used the guise of a “religious” Jewish pilgrimage to La Habana and in deeper investigating it was just another “Jinetera hunting trip” This ?search? is done by a group based here in NYC who sanction or condemn any activities with Castro amongst the Jewish community.
    MOST of the real help getting to Cuba for the Hebrew Community comes directly from Israel.

  11. KillCastro, wow, thanks for sharing those memories. I am very touched, almost in tears. spielberg, like the rest of the castro’s worshiping left of course doesn’t ask any potentially embarassing questions.

  12. I have sent an e-mail to the State Dept as well. Let’s hope our efforts have some effect.

    If you don’t have time to write your own letter, just copy and past this one. (It’s a bit lengthy, but I wanted to be thorough). The more e-mails they receive the better.

    Dear Sir/Madame:

    Please be advised of the legally suspect trip to Cuba being advertised on the following website:

    http://www.ocmctocuba.com/

    Based on your restrictions described at the end of this e-mail, a review of the group’s website clearly indicates that the participants would participate in transactions “not directly incident” to the purpose of the trip. I urge you to deny, if not yet granted (or revoke, if granted), the relevant license.

    The following is promotional text taken from the websit, under the heading of “Trip Activities”:

    “Participants on the trip will have the opportunity to attend Divine Liturgy in the recently consecrated Greek Orthodox Church in Havana, meet and interact with the Orthodox faithful in Cuba, and tour religious sites including historic churches and cemeteries. Trip activities will also include outings to the Cuban countryside and Cuba?s beautiful beaches. ” (emphasis mine)

    Other promotional text, as well as the overall “pleasure trip” feel of the website give clear indication of the strong tourist-orientation of the planned excursion.

    I appreciate your attention to this matter,

    Name__________

    State Department Guidelines
    ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS/TRAVEL TRANSACTION LIMITATIONS : The Cuban Assets Control Regulations of the U.S. Treasury Department require that persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction be licensed to engage in any transaction related to travel to, from, and within Cuba. Transactions related to tourist travel are not licensable. This restriction includes tourist travel to Cuba from or through a third country such as Mexico or Canada. U.S. law enforcement authorities have increased enforcement of these regulations at U.S. airports and pre-clearance facilities in third countries. Travelers who fail to comply with Department of Treasury regulations will face civil penalties and criminal prosecution upon return to the United States.

    Licenses are granted to the following categories of travelers and they are permitted to spend money for Cuban travel and to engage in other transactions directly incident to the purpose of their travel under a general license, without the need to obtain special permission from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC):

  13. Excellent MexiCon !
    Let us remember the walls of Jericho fell with only the sound of trumpets!
    This vigilant but passive resistant hurts THE BEAST more than a million bombs over La Habana!
    Here he CAN NOT immolate himself as a martyr but just agonize in his own putrid squalid, like the rabid animal he is.

  14. KillCastro,
    In your adventures at the Centro Hebreo, el Patronato, you maybe met some of my friends… a girl called Batia Lapidus and another one called Lena Eskenazi. Let me know. Maybe you met me as well….

  15. Yes there are people who go to Cuba illegally and this needs to stop. The money goes straight to the government and does nothing for the people. However my parents veiwed this trip and they left the island before I was born and they support this trip. I am considering going on this trip along with a few other Cuban-Americans. We will let everyone know how it turns out. Wish us the best. Anything that is not up to par we will report.

  16. WOW!!
    Thank YOU all my fellow Cuban Americans that are not afraid to speak the truth and expose deception and arrogance!
    like I have told all my friends and loved ones, I love AMERICA! this is my adopted country, however, my roots to Cuba are very strong. My parents were persecuted by Castro for the simple reason of applying for Visas to flee Communism! My father was physically tortured and sent to a work camp, my mother was forced to perform abortions in one of Castro’s Poli-Clinicos in Havana!! Thousands of people are deprived in Cuba of what we cherish more than anything here….HUMAN RIGHTS AND FREEDOM OF SPEECH!! This trip sponsored by the Mission Center of the Orthodox Church shows how little they value and respect the laws of this country and their own personal values. They say very little on their brochure about spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ on this “mission”.. So…why not go visit the dissidents in Castro’s prision??!! Go visit the Hospitals in Cuba! Go talk to those people that are denied entrance in the very Hotel where they are going to be sunning in the beach and drinking “mojitos” !! Go talk to the women that have had their husbands and sons executed in Castro’s Paredon! Go live in a real Cuban home without power or running water…then your “mission” could be justified. This so called missionaries are going to Cuba to visit museums, flea markets (what a laugh) eat all you can at the buffet (while thousands of Cuban children are malnourished)tour the city of Havana while transported all aboard private luxury coaches!!
    Please keep writing your letters to http://www.ocmctocuba.com, the state dept, pass this on to all the people you know, keep the ball running, remember EVIL TRIUMPHS WHEN GOOD MEN DO NOTHING!!
    GOD BLESS YOU ALL!!

  17. KillCastro
    Babalu and Kill Castro (what a pair!!) I want to thank YOU for all your moral support. I have already received hundreds of emails concerning this situation after reading your blog Mission Omission and the Mission Center trip to Cuba!! I keep hoping and praying the State Dept gets involved,the more people write to the mission center and voice their opinions the more they feel exposed for what they are LIARS!! They are now saying that shutting off the people in Cuba does not help anyone!!
    GOD BLESS YOU!!

  18. excellent letter, MexiCon! is there any way to get this to the media’s attention? anybody got connections? (the media meaning local miami news broadcasts and possibly the herald… but anything other exposure would be beneficial.)

  19. av – It’s not exactly a media connection as in “my best friend” or something, but you could try contacting the lady who interviewed Val for the Miami Herald. Her name is Jennifer Mooney Piedra, email jmooney AT herald.com

    My 2 cents: with “christians” like the OCMC, Satan needn’t even lift a finger. Disgusting.

  20. CB –
    Lena Eskenazi me suena y mucho , por mas nada que el nombre (Lena) ere de una pelicula popular en ese tiempo ” La recogida del Lupolo” , la recuerdas ?
    Lo mas probable que en algun momento tratando de entrar en el Centro Hebreo hubieramos al menos rozado uno con otro. Especialmente cuando los ?angaras cerraban las puertas principales y teniamos que subir por el balcon que daba a Linea. Ahi era donde todo el mundo hechaba una mano pa’ que el que estba abajo pudiera subir.

    Te doy una anecdota que quizas suene un poco criptica porque tiene que ver con gente en Cuba con las que trabajo en causas anti-comunistas.
    Estaba yo en una comunicaion de Yahoo-Chat con una chica que me daba informacion desde una compa?ia Canadiense, tu sabes , “esto esta asi , esto esta “asao” y ellos estban trabjando en un programa que pudiera transmitir voz a fuera del pais sin pasar por la sensura Castrista (Esto era antes de que VoIP fuera popular). Yo les contrabadeba CPUs , RAM etc. Pues estoy ayudandolos en eso y la chica me dice “Oye tu fuistes a la Secundaria Marta Abreu” y yo me quede de una pieza ! pues no sabia si me estban investigando la familia o que , yo con un poco de miedo admiti que si y entonces ella me dice .
    El nombre tuyo es H…… F…… ?? Ahora si estoy CAGAO , por que todo lo que haciamos era anonimo ! Al ver que ya sabia tanto que no era coicidencia pues lo admiti – y me dice , es que el programador al lado mio esta viendo nuestra charla y me dice que te conoce que fue a la secundaria contigo ! Me quede pasma’o pues ahora no se si el tipo era pro or contra y si era pro castro mi familia estba jodida.
    Resulta que el se?or era 2 a?os menores que yo (asi que yo ni idea quien fuera) pero que el se acuerda de mi grupito metiendonse en todo tipo de lios con la directora por cuestiones de moda , pelo . musica o por que a veces era tanto el enbronamiento que se nos salia un ME CAGO EN LA MADRE DE FIDEL! y esto le hacia mucha gracia al chico ! Hubo un momento MUY comico cuando lo de Camarioca – Donde uno de mi grupo se para en el patio y canta a todo pecho ( a la Musica de LUCILLE de Chuck Berry) “LUCIA POR CAMARIOCA CON MI TIA! Bueno pues esa fue del carajo y nuestro grupito de 5 fuimos escoltados por milicianos por interrogacion.

    Asi que en La Habana mi amigo creo que mas tarde o mas temprano TODOS que somos contemporaneos coincidimos en algun lugar para celebrar algo juvenil detras de las espaldas del gobierno.

    Se me ocurre algo? La frase “La turba de Frank Tony” te suena ? Si esto te suena entonces de SEGURO nos conocemos.

  21. Carmen:
    We have to thank YOU for your vigilance and devotion to our beloved land. I think most of us have lived a lot longer in the USA that we ever did in Cuba, but Cuba is part of every fiber of our being.
    EVERY day that passes and EVERY gray hair that comes out makes my CUBANISMO stronger
    One of the GREAT things that happened (to ME at least) after visiting Cuba having sworn NEVER to go back until the tyrant was gone (and I did to fulfill my mother’s dying wishes to go to EL RINCON) was to see FIRST hand the atrocities. I had lived for 30 years in my USA cocoon. Yes anti-Castrist but not active at all.
    Seeing the apartheid, the 13 year old jineteras with 70 year old Europeans, having an 11 year old girl offer herself to me for $5.00. The shit holes they call “Hospitals” it was just TOO MUCH!
    Being harassed by milicianos looking for a kick back and the TOPPER, when my family was not allowed in the bungalow I had rented at El Commodoro because .. They were “Cuban” that just brought EVERY anti-Castro passion to a boil.
    I remember standing at the reception area of the Comodoro when they said ?They can NOT go pass the door , because they are Cuban.. And I just did a very Scorpio like ” WELL FUCK YOU AND I WILL DO EVERYTHING IN MY POWER TO END THIS TRAVESTY! That was it, I went back to Cuba 3 more times, made some underground contacts, brought some much needed communication stuff ( PC stuff primarily ) met my now wife and married her. My last request for a visa was denied so I GUESS they know who I am, which in a wicked sort of way makes me VERY proud!
    So again I THANK YOU and hope with all my heart that one day the Babulu-ians will meet at some twilight lit spot in Cuba and have us the BEST CUBA LIBRE EVER!

  22. one day the Babulu-ians will meet at some twilight lit spot in Cuba and have us the BEST CUBA LIBRE EVER!

    From your lips to Gods ears, KC. I live for the day.

  23. Hey KillCastro,
    We probably met each other at some point.
    La Turba de Frank Tony… Maybe it has something to do with Playita de 16, or el Karachi?
    Rings a bell, but you’re probably older than my sweet 46.
    I have fuzzy memories of the mid seventies… But I was part of the gruop of rockers that met at Colon Cemetery and that spend some nights in the crypts and so on and so forth. I met Carlos Varela that way….
    I learn photography in the cemetery. Took thousands of pics… It was interesting… We spend the night listening to the Baker Street, from Little Rock, Arkansas. Blue Oyster Cult, ZZTop, Black Sabbath, all of that in a small chapel RIGHT AT SIGHT OF RAUL CASTRO’S APARTMENT. A BIG THRILL!!!!! The trick was to hide before they closed the Gates… I mean, kind of a Goth tale.
    And one night we ventured into the Chinese Cemetery, right accross the street from cagastro junior. We spend the night looking at the dishes the Old Chinese Families left for their deceased spirits’…. And looking at a lot of small pictures in frames all over the place.
    In those wanderings, we discovered a little mentioned cemetery right about there: The Protestant Cemetery… A lot of independence war patriots were there.
    Let me know and write to my e-mail address to see if we meet in the city one of these days!

  24. Yeap CB I got 4 years on you, born in 1956
    “La Turba de Frank Tony” was a group of upper middle class kids from El Vedado who never made the first wave in emigration but whose relatives did, so they were like the TREND setters in La Habana. They were always in trouble with the government,
    Most of the events at “La Comunidad Hebrea” were set by them. Somehow they had this little ?combo? (that used to sound like shit) but did have 2 electric guitars and what used to pass for a drum set! LOL.
    They had the longest hair, the tightest clothing, the latest records and they WHERE the ultimate representation of YOUTH in La Habana. At some point they started moving west towards Miramar and then we bucked heads (Cause ?MI turba” thought we were HOT SHIT in MIRAMAR)
    But eventually we became buddies and actually in NY I DID become a close friend of Frank Tony (and that was his real name Frank Tony Gonzalez) and played in bands in NYC through the very late 60s and early 70s, he had actually been signed to a record deal and with his first $$$ bought a Mercedes. The sad part was that he died in that Mercedes of a terrible crash. At that point I gave up music. he had become my closest friend.
    I remember we wrote a song we called ?Tristezas Habaneras? or ?Habana Blues? and he wanted to name the album he was recording ?Habana Blues?
    I still have an actualized version of the song as my Cell phone ringer and every time it rings it reminds me of both Frank Tony and MI HABANA 🙂 It is here if you want to hear it (http://www.killcastro.com/mi_habana.mp3)

    Like I said before, I think that MY generation those who became teens in early Castrolandia had it the worse because ours was a day to day struggle to BREATH anything that represented youth! I remember seeing my first Album cover of the Beatles (Something New) and it was as if I saw MARTIANS I stood there mesmerized for what it seems hours, now GO FIND A PLACE TO PLAY IT! THAT was the greatest Challenge.
    I think Varela is about your age, so of course you experienced his growth as an artist. We had NO Cuban playing any kind of R&R that was public. I wish we had been called ROQUEROS by the Castrist troops; that would?ve been a welcomed moniker. We were LUMPENS, ESCORIA y MARICONES and it was open season on beaten the shit out of anyone who los hijos de puta milicianos thought was wearing trousers too tight.
    I have read about the GOTH & PUNK movements in La Habana and I thought how brave that was but I just couldn?t imagine how you were able to get away with LOOKING the part!
    At any rate , I think at some point THE BEAST realized that the worse thing he could do was to fight a youth movement that only wants to hear a type of music.
    I tell you the Lennon statue FLOORED ME! How many insults and beatings did I get for carrying that image under my arm!

  25. Val:

    I too have been to Cuba as a missionary. I spent time sleeping on the floor of a church in Alemendares section of Havana and at a retreat center in the Matanzas province. While the majority of time was spent with our Cuban couterparts in the church, we also were able to visit the resorts of Veradera and the tourist only areas of Old Havana. From that I took not an enjoyment of beaches, but a better understand and disdainment of Castro’s regime. We swam with locals on the coast near the Embassy section and the beach was nothing like Veradera. I truly understand what Castro is about now. The dichotomy is sickening.

    I am returning to Cuba in the same vain in only 6 short weeks. I hope I can bring back photos and stories to share with you and your readers.

    My journal from my trip last year is found on my site..right near your link.

  26. KillCastro,
    I was not a goth or punk kid, just plain rocker. I think that the moniker was applied by the sympathizing population, rather than the cagastro goons. I was part of a bunch who couldn’t make it out soon enough, in the first waves.
    So we kept on living the dream in the most undreamable place: cagastroland.
    Looking the part: Long hair and an attitude.
    Kind of easy.
    Bad part: Being sent to Angola to be reeducated and killed, like some people I knew.
    Carlos Varela was underground for most part of his career. Just playing with garage bands wherever he could… Then he broke the ceiling and went off in a big bang, the success was so big that the government had to accept it or they would have to start building more jails, if that’s possible. After Carlos, a bunch of other bands went public and in the early nineties repression increased again. That’s the anecdote related in Azucar Amarga.
    I wrote a few days ago about my stunt renaming Parque Lenin as Parque Lennon in 1980 and how it got me in the hottest possible water at that time. Still, in the eighties or nineties, it was considered diversionismo ideologico, whatever it means, to like rock was the best way of getting ostracized…. Or getting in jail, or getting thrown out of school or getting sent to the army or whatever.
    There’s one thing though. The regime has lost some steam. It’s not that it’s less repressive. It’s as repressive as always and sometimes even more. It’s more desorganized when the time to exert the repression comes… Nobody cares anymore, “repressors” nor repressed. Now it’s a big chaos…. as far as I know, because I haven’t been back since I left.

  27. This blog is addicting!! the response to this subject has been overwhelming!! the emails keep on coming and Fr Martin Ritsi the director of the OCMC in St Augustine finally responded by “mascarading” the trip to Cuba with “explanations and much “flowered speech” to cover up the fact that his trip has NOTHING to do with serving the people in any spiritual way, shape or form!! I have to wait to answer and hold my emotions back…he really insulted my intelligence with his response.
    Thank YOU KC for your kind comments… like you…I was also a budding teenager in the streets of el Vedado (Calle Linea y N)eating at El Conejito, when our Russian neighbors invited us kids to join them!! I still feel the sadness of seeing my father’s face when they took him away to the work camp….and my mother crying hysterical! Even though I have spent most of my life in this country Cuba is my HOME LAND!! and I refuse to be silent to injustice!! NO MORE!
    I hope that from your mouth to God’s ears…we will meet one day in our ole dear Havana perhaps looking over El Malecon and knowing that we are finally home, free and no longer longing for “the other side” of “el charco”
    Thank YOU for all your help and support on this delicate issue, it involves the church, some of the clergy the truth is that lies are lies no matter how diluted they are served.
    Carmen

  28. Carmen:
    I BET you the trip is going to be investigated by the State Department and the “tone” of its mission will soon change in the web site.

    When I demanded from the FBI in Miami as to how permitted Radio-Miami to blatantly advertise sponsorship from a Cuban company (Cubanacan) (none of your business was the FBI reply) BUT within days the whole Radio-Miami site did a 180 . WE WIN!
    It must be one HELL of an awakening to get a call from the USA government questioning your motives, however innocent they may be.
    Guaranteed that at this moment Fr Martin Ritsi FBI file is being updated – he is (even if he gets to go to Cuba) no longer an invisible and anonymous entity.
    His trip will be extremely well watched and I bet you his return will be scrutinized with a magnifying glass. There’s going to be NO Cuban cigars coming back on that trip.
    And THAT in itself is highly satisfying, just to let THEM know that WE know and that we are UNWILLING to allow them the impunity of their actions.
    He is SWEATING now, and PROFUSELY – that makes me feel SO MUCH BETTER! 😉

  29. When my friends told me about this web site and the comments, I decided to go on my friends PC right there and then and take a look.. I got just a little curious,thought perhaps there were overeacting…boy was I wrong!! I saw Fr Martins email with all his “excuses” and “explanations” about the spiritual aspect and purpose of this Illegal trip to Cuba when in reality the Mission Center is just promoting fund raiser-fun trip to Cuba using the Mission Center’s finances and applying for visas using the “chruch”! UNREAL!!
    GUYS….Keep it going….I am sending my thoughts to http://www.ocmctocuba.com
    About time someone took the time and effort to expose these wolves hiding in sheeps clothing!!
    GOOD JOB!!

  30. This “mission trip” was brought to my attention by Carmen’s son, one of my best friends. I’m not Cuban, but I am Orthodox. I know of many legitiment misson trips the OCMC has been on, but reading about this made me hang my head in shame. Not being Cuban myself, but being as close as I am to Carmen’s family I can’t help but take this personally. I know what her family went through and to think that Christian American’s can do this without a guilty conscience hurts me. Seeing how passionate all of you are about your heritage is moving and I will do what I can to alert the Orthodox community of this vacation masquerading as a mission trip.

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