Here is a talk delivered by Carlos Saladrigas of the Cuban Study Group at a Havana seminary shortly after Benedict’s visit. It was hosted by the publication Espacio Laical, creator of the public forum in Cuba that draws an audience of more diverse points of view than any other.
He discusses a transformation taking place among Cubans outside Cuba, one that coincides with his own – from a child sent away from Cuba and his family in the infamous Peter Pan program, rarely looking back, to an adult preoccupied with his homeland now; from an opponent of Cuban-American pilgrimages to see Pope John Paul II in Havana in 1998, to one who traveled eagerly to see Benedict there last month.
Building on Benedict’s homily messages to beware of those who claim to hold the absolute truth, he chided political figures in Cuba and in Miami who do just that. He called them “hysterical.”
He rejected the idea that Cuba is poor. Entrepreneur that he is, he talked about the wealth of human capital that he sees. If he were 25 today, he said, there is no way he would leave Cuba, given the changes beginning there now.
He made no grand prescriptions except to call on Cubans there and here to work for a “new, free, sovereign, inclusive” Cuba in a spirit of tolerance and faith. And perhaps with some sober optimism.
This, of course, bothered many in Miami.
For starters, he put himself on the side of those who want to build bridges rather than walls between our two countries.
Worse, he and many others are asserting that good works are being done in Cuba, and it is possible for people outside to assist.
Anywhere else, that idea is a noble impulse. In the 305 area code, it’s a terrible threat to el exilio’s concept of staying here, insisting from afar that the regime fall, and working mainly through the government in Washington to accomplish that end.
But the idea is taking hold and it is changing Miami, not so much at the ballot box, but family by family as each new connection and each new little bridge gets built.