In February I travelled to Cuba with the Together project group of the Reformed parish of Solothurn for two weeks of meetings and work with the youth group of the Reformed partner parish of San Nicolás. Touching encounters and lasting impressions still resonate.
Exchange and get together
We're rehearsing the songs for the service on Saturday night. Gradually more and more curious people join in. The singing group quickly grew into a small choir with guitar and piano accompaniment. Cubans mix with Swiss sounds: A feeling of togetherness. The service is exciting and impressive, different than expected. The young people take over a large part of the evening. Both Together groups have prepared songs and recorded a small play on the theme "Being a host". We are touched and impressed by the openness and activity of churchgoers.
On the loading area of a rusty, rickety truck we drive bumpily overland, past a sugar cane factory, small villages and beautiful landscapes. As soon as we arrive, packed with tools, brushes, cables and cement bags, we march to the house of an elderly gentleman. He lacks the strength and a family to help maintain his house. We step in. On our arrival we find a rusty bed, some pans and a lonely toilet bowl in the garden. During the next hours we paint, wipe, wire and improvise. Everything that we find in and around the cottage is recycled. We trample a large sheet metal flat to use it as a seal for the roof. In the late afternoon the house shines in sun yellow with blue doors and windows, solid cement floor and a toilet house for privacy. Parallel to this work we install light in the house of a single mother with a child in a wheelchair. We cycle back and forth between the construction sites. Where people work, you hear Spanish, Swiss German, English and gibberish, always accompanied by Cuban music.
The work of our partner project should become better known, an example for other communities. With our blue oldtimer bus we drive to Caibarién. But the pastor of this church has taken the project completely wrong, calls us Americans and thinks we are there to dance and have some fun. Of the eight houses that we are going to renovate in Caibarién, we see three that require smaller works. We suspect cronies, but still do our best. In Remedios we visit the youth group. There we meet an interested, open pastor who takes his time. He tells us the story of his community and guides us through the city. Four years ago, the church roof collapsed. Since then, the church members have been trying to legally obtain the necessary building materials to rebuild the church. The way to Santa Clara leads us past breathtaking, green, wild nature. Rhythmic music roars from the loudspeakers and stories are told all over the bus. In the evening we drink coffee and Ron Cubana in the park and improve our Salsa steps to good live music, first of all the pastor and his wife.
On the drive across the Cuban Alps towards Trinidad we encounter tourism on Cuba for the first time: souvenir shops, high prices and international restaurants on every corner. The flawless roofs and facades also point to growing tourism. Not without reason: This beautiful little town has a lot of charm and is dressed in countless colours. Nevertheless, the beautiful façade - in contrast to the Cuba we have seen so far - is somewhat repugnant to us. In Havana we also become contemplative: only three crossroads away from the dressed up centre one stands in the midst of destroyed houses and miserable poverty. This contrast is overplayed with tourist attractions such as the historical spectacle at the fortress.
When we come home after work or excursions, the cooking group has already prepared wonderfully smelling food for us. After dinner we enjoy the sunset on the church roof of San Nicolas. We feel free and impartial.
Together Project Group 2018