Tuesday, November 27, 2018

July Carnival Trip to Santiago and Guantanamo (with option of Baracoa and Holguin)

July Trip to Santiago de Cuba
and Guantanamo

(Optional Extension to Baracoa and Holguin)

Enjoy the Caribbean’s Biggest Carnival    

Engage with Cuban and US History

Photo by Kelly, Compass and Camera travel blog
Read her post about Carnaval

Saturday, July 20   
6:27 p.m. flight on American Airlines from Miami to Santiago (hotel or bed and breakfast)

Sunday, July 21  The Spanish Legacy    
Basilica del Cobre (Cuba’s patron saint) and Morro fortress; orientation presentation at Museum of Carnival; attend opening night of Carnival

Monday, July 22  The Independence Wars and US Intervention   
Maceo Memorial honoring a leader of the mambisi independence struggle; learn about US supporters like Clara Barton of US Red Cross and Dynamite Johnny O'Brien; memorial at San Juan Hill to Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders;  museum of the Cuban-Spanish-American war for the local side of the story; swim at the beach with a Spanish wreck; dinner at seaside seafood restaurant; carnival fair in a neighborhood

Tuesday, July 23  The Revolution   
Biran, the large plantation owned by the father of Fidel and Raul Castro; Moncada Barracks museum (site of the failed first stage of the Cuban revolution); gravesites of independence leader Jose Marti and Fidel Castro; dinner at Terrazas La Caridad, a paladar that also roasts its own coffee; enjoy music and dancing or carnival

Wednesday, July 24  Cultural Focus   
Dance class at Artex; Asociasion Cubana de Artesanos Artistas and Casa de Diego Velazquez; light lunch on roof of Casa Granda; ceramics museum near ICAP;  presentation at Centro Cultural Africano on slavery and its current impact; performance by Café Caliente; roast pig dinner at Centro; enjoy music and dancing or carnival

Thursday, July 25  Guantanamo                                                            
The origin of Cuba’s traditional music, including Tumba Francesa and the Museum of Changui; lunch in paladar el Karey; Zoolagico de Piedra; evening of music and dance at cultural center of Artex
Friday, July 26   Caimanera
The Cuban town adjacent to the US base*; meet community leaders and artists; lunch at Caimenera; discuss local culture and the history of the Guantanamo base during lunch meeting with UNEAC and professors from University of Guantanamo; return to hotel or casa particular in Santiago; enjoy music and dancing

Saturday, July 27   
La Gran Piedra natural reserve and botanical garden; personally explore the city; attend final night of Carnival

Sunday, July 28
Drive in morning to Holguin, 9:10 a.m. Jet Blue flight to Fort Lauderdale; or personal day in Santiago and fly to Miami 8:45 p.m.

In Santiago, choose to stay at the newly renovated Imperial Hotel or at a casa particular (bed and breakfast).

We are offering two price and lifestyle options, a very good conveniently located hotel, probably the Imperial, or a casa particular (bed and breakfast). 

The registration deadline is June 15, 2019.  Please complete this form as soon as possible:  https://tinyurl.com/SantReg  A $150 contribution confirms participation.   Some participants will begin their trip with independent time in Havana and join us on July 19th to drive to Santiago with an overnight in Camaguey.

Cubismo video from Carnaval

* Learn the Cuban perspective on the base from the video "All Guantanamo is Ours"


Addition of Holguin and Baracoa    (subject to interest)

Sunday, July 28  Holguin
Drive to Holguin; visit the three plazas of Holguin and the cross on the hill overlooking the city; night of music and dance with Cuban friends

Monday, July 29  Holguin
Indigenous gravesite museum and the replica of a Taino village; company town of United Fruit and the church in Banes; site where Dynamite Johnny O’Brien landed with arms and soldiers for the mambisis; landing site of Columbus; enjoy the beach with Cuban friends; night of music and dance with Cuban friends

Tuesday, July 30  Baracoa
Drive to Baracoa; museum and beach of Cajobabo where Jose Marti and Maximo Gomez landed in 1895; lunch in paladar of Jose; meet President of UNEAC and/or historian of Baracoa Alejandro Harmant; pre-Colubus archeological museum Cuevas de Paraiso; swim at Duaba river; dinner in paladar Marco Polo or La Colonia; sociocultural project Atabey (painting, music, sculpture); Casa de la Trova

Wednesday, July 31  Baracoa
Sendero del Cacao; Rancho Toa; boat to Tibaracon del Toa;  swim or hike; lunch at Rancho Toa Almuerzo Campestre; coconut farm and production center; dinner with university professors; music and dance at Terraza Artex, discoteca el Ranchon or discoteca El Parque

Thursday, August 1
Drive to Holguin airport; morning flight to Ft. Lauderdale on Jet Blue or evening flight to Miami on American Airlines; or travel independently by bus to Camaguey, Santa Clara, Sancti Spiritus, Trinidad, Cienfuegos, Bay of Pigs, Matanzas, Havana, and/or Pinar del Rio 

From Wikipedia:

The Americans decided to invade Cuba and to start in Oriente, where the Cubans had almost absolute control. They cooperated by establishing a beachhead and protecting the U.S. landing in Daiquiri. The first U.S. objective was to capture the city of Santiago de Cuba in order to destroy Linares' army and Cervera's fleet. To reach Santiago, the Americans had to pass through concentrated Spanish defences in the San Juan Hills and a small town in El Caney. Between June 22 and 24, 1898, the Americans landed under General William R. Shafter at Daiquirí and Siboney, east of Santiago, and established a base.
The port of Santiago became the main target of naval operations. The U.S. fleet attacking Santiago needed shelter from the summer hurricane season, thus nearby Guantánamo Bay, with its excellent harbor, was chosen for this purpose and attacked on June 6 (1898 invasion of Guantánamo Bay). The Battle of Santiago de Cuba on July 3, 1898 was the largest naval engagement during the Spanish–American War, resulting in the destruction of the Spanish Caribbean Squadron (Flota de Ultramar).
Resistance in Santiago consolidated around Fort Canosa,[18] All the while, major battles between Spaniards and Americans took place at Las Guasimas on June 24, El Caney and San Juan Hill on July 1, 1898, outside of Santiago.[19] after which the American advance ground to a halt. Spanish troops successfully defended Fort Canosa, allowing them to stabilize their line and bar the entry to Santiago. The Americans and Cubans forcibly began a bloody, strangling siege of the city[20] which eventually surrendered on July 16, after the defeat of the Spanish Caribbean Squadron. Thus, Oriente was under control of Americans, but U.S. General Nelson A. Miles would not allow Cuban troops to enter Santiago, claiming that he wanted to prevent clashes between Cubans and Spaniards. Thus, Cuban General Calixto García, head of the Mambi forces in the Eastern department, ordered his troops to hold their respective areas. He resigned over being excluded from entering Santiago, writing a letter of protest to General Shafter.[14]

Program revised 1/19/19 and subject to change.  

John McAuliff, Fund for Reconciliation and Development   director@ffrd.org    917-859-9025

Tuesday, November 20, 2018



Plaque at the Church of the Transfiguration

Father Felix Varela became the advocate for the Irish immigrants in New York from the 1830s to 1850s.  He was exiled to New York from Cuba because of his passionate support of independence, abolition of slavery and equal education for women.  His first teacher, an Irish priest, introduced him to Gaelic. 
Excerpts from a Google search:

Varela fled to New York, the first Cuban exile. There he eventually became Vicar General of the New York Diocese. His special apostolate was to New York's recently arrived Irish immigrants, who were as detested and persecuted in the 19th century as Hispanics are today in this country. Varela built the first Catholic schools for them (open to both sexes, for the first time); the first mutual aid society; the first orphanages; and the first parish to cater to their spiritual and material needs, in the notorious Five Corners section were most of them lived. The Irish clamored for Varela to be their bishop, but Spain vetoed his selection because Varela continued to agitate for Cuba's independence from New York, creating, through his patriotic writings, a distinctive Cuban consciousness and nationality. Martí himself journeyed to Varela's grave, then in St. Augustine, FL, to pay homage to "the man who taught us to think" and consecrate his work of liberation to him. 

Varela y Morales, Félix (1788–1853)

Félix Varela y Morales (b. 20 November 1788; d. 25 February 1853), Cuban priest, thinker, and patriot. Orphaned at an early age, Varela was still a child when he moved to Saint Augustine, Florida. (The area had been returned to Spain by Britain in 1783 under the Treaty of Paris.) There he was consigned to the care of his maternal grandfather, the commander of the city's Spanish garrison. He became the pupil of Fr. Michael O'Reilly, then the vicar of East Florida, who eventually became his role model. It was Fr. O'Reilly who influenced his decision to enter the priesthood rather than become a soldier, as his family traditions called for. "I wish to be a soldier of Jesus Christ," Varela said at the time. "I do not wish to kill men, but to save their souls."...

Varela published his pro-independence articles in the newspaper El Habanero, which he founded in the United States. At the time, there were many Cubans who were in favor of Spanish rule, and some of them advocated the annexation of the island to Colombia or Mexico, just as others would support annexation to the United States a few years later. Varela argued against all of these paths. He morally justified rebellion against the oppressive colonial government, saying that it was "inspired by nature and upheld by the sacred laws of self-preservation." As for the idea of Cuba becoming the province of a neighboring state, he wrote: "I am the first to oppose the union of the island to any government. I should wish to see her as much of a political island as she is such in geographical terms."


In 1837, Varela was named Vicar General of the Diocese of New York, which then covered all of New York State and the northern half of New Jersey. In this post, he played a major role in the way the American Church dealt with the tremendous influx of Irish refugees, which was just beginning at the time. His desire to assist those in need coupled with his gift for languages allowed him to master the Irish language in order to communicate more efficiently with many of the recent Irish arrivals. 

While in the United States, Fr. Varela published newspapers and many articles on subjects such as human rights, religious tolerance, education and the need for the Spanish and English speaking communities to live in peace.  In 1827, he founded the Church of the Immigrant in the impoverished Five Points district of Manhattan.  Today, known as the Church of the Transfiguration, the parish continues to serve many immigrants.  Fr. Varela became renowned in New York for his charitable works, his ministry to the ill during a cholera epidemic, his ecumenical spirit and respect for non-Catholics, his great devotion to the Mystical Body of Christ, and the missions he preached each year in anticipation of the Feast of Corpus Christi.

In 1837, Fr. Varela was named Vicar General of the Diocese of New York, which at that time included the entire state of New York and northern New Jersey, as well.  Proficient in languages, Fr. Varela learned the Irish language and was instrumental in helping the Irish acclimate to their new country at the beginning of the great migration of the Irish to the United States.


Protected from Spanish assasination by Irish parishioners

The Spanish Governor in Havana, Francisco Vives, decided to apply Varela’s death sentence in New York, dispatching one of his thugs, el tuerto (one-eyed) Morejón of the Havana police to assassinate him. By that time Varela had built a loyal following among his Irish parishioners, who were no friends of colonialists, and they foiled the plot by warning Varela and intimidating the would-be assassin. A one-eyed Spanish-speaking stranger wandering around an Irish neighborhood in lower Manhattan would have been noticed. In any case, Morejón returned to Havana, presumably without earning the 30,00o pesos Vives had offered him. 


Varela’s association with Friends of Ireland in 1843 in support of publication of Thomas Mooney's lectures on Irish history


Varela talks about his support of Irish immigrants in 1800’s New York in “Choosing Peace”:

“I work hard to help Irish families build schools for their children, and I tend cholera patients, and I defend Irish American boys and girls against insults from mobs who hate them just because their parents are immigrants.” 

Essay by Cardinal Egan  My Special Saint


Two observations from Hernán Guaracao, a major on line publisher for the Latino community in Philadelphia, originally from Colombia.  He brings Varela into the present.

"But his greatest achievement in life was not this advocacy for the independence of his homeland, written out in that journalistic enterprise he launched in Old City Philadelphia, but what he did in the following 30 years in New York City, where he moved to lead a life of charity in defense of the poorest of the poor, the undereducated immigrants coming to America in the first half of the 19th century, mostly from an island called Ireland."
“No single Latino left a greater imprint on 19th century American culture than Varela,” writes  former Philadelphia Daily News writer and New York Daily News columnist, Juan Gonzalez in his book “Harvest of Empire.” 


Does anybody remember the “Kensington Riots,” when the Catholic Irish confronted the backlash of resistance to their presence they found in Philadelphia in the 19th Century, either because they were poor, or they were undereducated, or they were simply “different”, on top of being catholic, exactly like a good number of Latinos are today?

The life of Father Felix Varela y Morales, when properly publicized and well understood, can be a major point of reference to the current dilemmas of immigration into the United States.

And it can be a call, from the shrine of the memory of a man one step away from being declared a saint by the Catholic church, for the moral responsibility many leaders with power and influence, some of Irish descent, must feel today.

In the profound immigration crisis of today, Varela life’s example can be just an inspiration for action in view of the millions that have come and are now trapped by obsolete laws that keep many on the run, or stigmatized because of the negative images propagated by a society of immigrants that have been harsh with their own kind.

Additional URLs for Cuban, Irish and Irish American links    https://tinyurl.com/IrishCubalinks



    SPRING 2022

    Illustrations by Vinny Bove.

    By Michael S. Cain


    FOR A DISTINGUISHED NATIVE OF THE CARIBBEAN, it was a rude welcome to America. Fr. Félix Varela, a renowned Cuban philosopher, educator, writer, and statesman, arrived in New York Harbor on December 15, 1823, disembarking from the cargo ship Draper C. Thorndike and stepping into a full-blown blizzard. Unfamiliar with the perils of walking in a northern winter, on his first steps in the country where he would live the next three decades, he slipped and fell on an icy walkway.

    It was an unaccustomed low point in the life of the 35-year-old priest. A few weeks earlier, he had been representing Cuba, then a Spanish colony, as a delegate to the nascent legislative assembly at Cádiz, Spain. In a swift turn of events, the deposed Spanish king had been restored to power and ordered the execution of all who had advocated democracy. Facing certain death if he remained in Europe or returned to his beloved Cuba, Varela escaped at night to Gibraltar, where he boarded the Thorndike, bound for New York.

    Suddenly an exile, the thin priest in his thin cloak stood up from the icy harborside pavement and found his footing in the streets of a new city. Over the next quarter of a century, he would become a humble but prominent force in the Catholic community there, serving the faithful of New York with a selfless devotion that matched the patriotic fervor he felt for his homeland.



    Félix Varela would never again set foot in Cuba, but he also never stopped working on behalf of its people, pointing the way for them toward a freedom that would not come in his lifetime. Two centuries later, he is still revered by Cubans and Cuban-Americans of all political persuasions. The cause for his canonization, initiated in the 1980s, is principally overseen by the Archdiocese of Havana. But it is his life after 1823 – his years as a New York priest – that mark Varela unmistakably as a man of God.

    FÉLIX VARELA Y MORALES WAS BORN into a military family in Havana, Cuba, in 1788. Orphaned at the age of 3, he was raised by his paternal grandparents in St. Augustine, Florida, where his grandfather was commander of the Spanish garrison. An intelligent, curious child, slight in stature, young Félix took eagerly to his studies in Latin, religion, and history. 

    When Varela was 14, his grandfather told him it was time to turn from academic pursuits and enroll in military training. The boy politely refused. “I want to be a soldier of Jesus Christ,” he said. When the commander became angry, Félix responded, “I don’t wish to kill men. I want to save their souls.” Though he was not destined to be a warrior, young Varela did not lack for courage.

    Instead of a military academy, his grandfather sent Varela to the Seminary of San Carlos in Havana. There the young man was quickly recognized as a rising star. He became a priest, a professor, and by his mid-twenties, one of the colony’s foremost philosophers and thinkers.

    As a professor and speaker, Varela showed no fear in exploring and expanding the potentially dangerous ideas of the era he lived in: the abolition of slavery, the overthrow of absolute monarchies and colonial empires. He became known as a speaker who explained ideas so clearly and persuasively that even those who disagreed with him sat up and listened. As a writer, teacher, and delegate to the Spanish Cortes, the priest stood up for what he believed in.

    AFTER HIS LANDING IN AMERICA, it took Varela more than a year to get his credentials verified to serve as a priest in the Diocese of New York. By February 1825, he had begun serving as a parochial vicar at St. Peter’s Church on Barclay Street in Manhattan. He had learned to speak English, and had begun to settle into his duties: saying Mass, hearing confessions, performing baptisms, visiting the sick. In the evenings, the priest also found time to write and edit El Habanero, a magazine for Cuban readers. And the rulers of Spain and Cuba still wanted him dead.

    In March 1825, an assassin landed in New York City, dispatched by associates of Francisco Vives, the colonial governor of Cuba. His instructions: to kill Fr. Félix Varela.

    The priest received a letter of warning. His friends in the Cuban expatriate community were able to learn the assassin’s identity, but not his whereabouts. They entreated Varela to go into hiding, but he refused. Instead, he went about his business apparently unperturbed. He was not going to let threats turn him from his new mission of helping to build the Catholic Church in America, ministering to the needs of its people.

    One day, walking the streets of his parish, the priest encountered the man who had been sent to murder him. In a spirit of compassionate forgiveness, he approached the would-be assassin and counseled him against committing a grave sin. The man listened. Then he returned to Cuba, his mission unfulfilled, while Varela carried on his own with hardly a pause.

    BEFORE THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION, under British rule, Catholicism was banned in New York. Five decades later, as Varela began his priesthood there, a strong anti-Catholic sentiment still prevailed among many in the Protestant majority. Catholics had to be careful. They could be assaulted in the streets. On one occasion, hundreds of Catholics had to form a human shield around St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Mulberry Street (now known as the Basilica of Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral) to stop a Protestant mob from ransacking and burning it.  

    There were two Catholic churches in New York City in 1825: St. Patrick’s Cathedral and St. Peter’s Church on Barclay Street. The diocese opened a third, St. Mary’s, in a former Presbyterian church building on Sheriff Street, in 1826; and the following year, Varela, using his own funds and money raised from the community, purchased a fourth: an old Episcopal church in Ann Street called Christ Church. Varela became pastor of a new Catholic parish there. Its population was generally very poor, and most of the money to operate it came from Varela’s supporters in Cuba and New York.



    The skills and the passion for justice that Félix Varela had developed in the first 35 years of his life turned out to be just what the Catholic Church in New York needed. His command of the principals of governing served the Church well when parish board members made unruly demands; his problem-solving skills helped keep parishes financially solvent; and his command of language enabled him to build strong community bonds. His talents at oratory captivated congregations during his homilies and, at public forums, unmasked the distortions of demagogues fomenting anti-Catholic sentiment.

    Soon he was writing articles in English and co-publishing the New York Weekly Register and Catholic Diary, which was widely read among the immigrant Irish. He wrote an English-language catechism for religious education and opened free Catholic schools for girls and boys next door to Christ Church, where he oversaw instruction and taught many classes himself. The schoolchildren there could hardly have imagined they were being taught by one of the most celebrated professors in the Americas.

    In 1829, Bishop Jean Dubois named two vicars general for the Diocese of New York: Fr. John Power, the pastor of St. Peter’s, and Fr. Félix Varela. Varela would serve in the role until 1850. Under their management, the Catholic Church in New York grew rapidly. Six new parishes were created in the diocese (which at the time encompassed the entirety of what is now New York state, plus part of northern New Jersey). With the help of the Sisters of Charity, schools and orphanages were created – often with a considerable portion of the funds obtained through the efforts of the Cuban priest. Upon receiving one particularly generous donation, Varela funded an asylum for widows and their children, which would be run by the Sisters of Charity; the site of the asylum would eventually become St. Vincent’s Hospital.

    With its founding philosophy of religious tolerance, the United States attracted many Catholic immigrants, especially from Ireland, where the faith was being suppressed. This added fuel to the virulent anti-Catholic movement in New York and elsewhere, and Félix Varela proved to be one of the church’s most effective forces to counterbalance it. In 1830 and 1831, in addition to appearing on debate stages, he published a periodical called The Protestant’s Annotator and Abridger, in which he patiently dissected each scurrilous charge of a popular anti-Catholic periodical called The Protestant. While other Catholic leaders responded angrily to the insults of the Church’s detractors, Varela was a peacemaker. “In an era of blinding religious animosities,” wrote biographers Joseph and Helen M. McCadden, “Varela was the pioneer ecumenist, able to conduct dialogue without violence, astonishing his opponents by his learning, his patient exposition.”

    WHILE VARELA'S WRITINGS AND SPEAKING engagements afforded him a public platform from which to proclaim his faith, the work that he did in New York quietly and without calling attention to himself was an even more remarkable sign of his devotion to the mission of Jesus on Earth. The Cuban priest embodied the notion of selflessness. His service to the poor and marginalized was immediate, direct, and deeply personal. Among Irish immigrants, many of whom came off the boats in desperate need, Varela was known as a tireless champion and supporter. 

    During the cholera epidemic of 1832, according to one contemporary, Varela “virtually lived in the hospitals.” He went to greet immigrant ships, going to the aid of the penniless and often sick passengers as they disembarked. Because of his loving approach to people of all denominations, even those who looked down on Catholics, he was able to gain access to institutions that other priests were barred from, including New York City Hospital, which was managed by Protestants (but full of Catholic patients).

    Eventually, stories of his benevolence made him famous despite his avoidance of the spotlight. On one occasion, Varela was approached by a poor woman while eating his lunch. He excused himself for a moment, washed the spoon he was using, and handed it over to her. “Money have I none,” he is reported to have said. “But take this silver spoon, the last from my homeland – it will fetch enough to feed your family.” The woman was subsequently arrested on suspicion of having stolen the spoon, and when Varela went to the police to vouch for her, the incident was reported in the press.

    Other accounts of his selflessness also spread through the city. There was the wintry day on Chambers Street when a poor, shivering woman with a baby in her arms was approached by an unidentified man who quietly removed his own cloak and draped it over her, then slipped away coatless. Onlookers followed the mysterious benefactor and recognized Varela letting himself into his residence on Reade Street.

    In Félix Varela: Torch Bearer from Cuba, the McCaddens describe his housekeeper’s “constant battle to keep him supplied with essentials. Whatever was nearest to hand – his watch, his silver, the dishes from his table, the household linens and blankets, his own garments – he gave to those in need.” When people came seeking help, “he often supplied the receivers of alms through a side window or rear door.”

    BY THE LATE 1840s, Varela’s health was failing. He had never fully adapted to the climate of New York, and his respiratory ailments became increasingly serious. Between 1847 and 1849, he experienced debilitating bouts of asthma and “consumption,” going south to recover and then returning north with renewed vigor, resuming his daily rounds of “sick calls, confessions . . . confraternities &c.,” in the words of one of the priests in his parish. In 1850, however, he left New York for the last time, relocating to St. Augustine, Florida, where he had lived as a boy.

    By now the Cuban was widely renowned among American Catholics. He made a deep impression in Savannah, Georgia, as Fr. Jeremiah O’Connell recalled in an 1878 article: “In Savannah . . . his memory is held in deep veneration by the faithful and all who made his acquaintance. How he lived was a wonder to his friends, for he gave everything he had to the poor.”

    After three years serving the people of St. Augustine, Fr. Félix Varela died in February 1853, surrounded by parishioners who sought his blessing or simply wanted to be in his presence. Among the congregation, he was already considered a saint for his kindness and good works.



    “Varela loved all men, and Varela has been loved by all,” observed Cuban scholar José Maria Casal a month after Varela’s death, in a speech to dedicate a St. Augustine chapel built in the priest’s memory. “Cubans owe Varela not only love, but profound veneration.”

    Many non-Cubans felt – and feel – the same way. At the Church of the Transfiguration on Mott Street in Manhattan, a parish Varela founded in 1838 after Christ Church suffered irreparable structural damage, he is still proudly claimed as the original force behind a parish known to this day for diversity and service to the poor.

    The Archdiocese of New York proudly endorsed the cause for Varela’s canonization when it was launched in 1983, and New York Catholics rejoiced in 2012, when the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints declared him venerable. “Venerable Félix Varela was a hero of Cuban independence and also a great New Yorker – the kind of man who just couldn’t help being generous and kind,” says Cardinal Timothy Dolan. “He served the Church as priest, pastor, and vicar general, attended the sick, welcomed immigrants, and gave of his own belongings to help the needy: a pure servant of Christ.”

    The streets of lower Manhattan that he walked almost two centuries ago would be unrecognizable to Varela today – though if he searched among the tall buildings and busy streets he would find two parishes that claim him as founder. His light still shines there, and throughout the world. †

    A statue of Venerable Félix Varela at Transfiguration Church.
  • https://archwaysmag.org/venerable-felix-varela