Perkins School of Theology in Cuba

Dr. Carlos F. Cardoza-Orlandi, Professor of Global Christianities and Mission Studies at Perkins School of Theology, is leading the Spring 2014 faculty immersion trip to Cuba March 7-16. Nine participants will examine the history of Cuba, its religious and cultural sources, and will visit Christian communities including the Seminario Evangélico de Teología de Matanzas.

Participation of Perkins faculty members in this immersion experience is made possible by The Center for the Study of Latino/a Christianity and Religions at Perkins School of Theology. The Center is funded by a grant from The Luce Foundation. Dr. Tim McLemore, Associate Director of Public Affairs, Perkins School of Theology, is traveling with the faculty immersion group and writes from Matanzas, Cuba.

Reflections: Our purpose as travelers

Immersion Leader: Dr. Carlos Cardoza-Orland One of the essential elements contributing to the transformative character of this immersion was the leadership of Dr. Carlos Cardoza-Orlandi, Professor of Global Christianities and Mission Studies at Perkins School of Theology. The scope of his knowledge about a constellation of issues related to Cuba, augmented by his own heritage and personal experiences as a native Puerto Riqueño, was invaluable. More importantly, his authentic personhood, so clearly visible in his transparent love and appreciation for the people of Cuba, invited us and opened us to the opportunity of entering into the experience in ways that words fail to fully express. Table Talk at Matanzas Seminary More or less midway through our [...]

2014-03-21T15:06:41+00:00 March 21st, 2014|Perkins School of Theology in Cuba|

Our journey home

I thought the adventure was supposed to be in Cuba. Although reflections on my last night in Cuba kept me awake until after 1:30 a.m., my energy was not diminished when I awoke at 6:30 a.m. My friends across the street again agree to heat water for my morning maté, starting the day off on a pleasant note. I did most of my packing last night, and thus have ample time to write a little on the blog and enjoy an unusually large breakfast in view of our day’s schedule and the likelihood of having to forego lunch. We meet in the lobby of Saint John at 10:45 a.m., which gives us some margin before our scheduled 2:30 p.m. departure [...]

2014-03-20T16:58:35+00:00 March 16th, 2014|Perkins School of Theology in Cuba|

Beyond boundaries, a larger world view

Bahama Mockingbird with breakfast bug Tomorrow we head back to the U.S., which means this is our last full day in Cuba (and I do mean full day!). Notwithstanding the many activities in our schedule, I have from time to time been enjoying short forays around the campus at Matanzas – and earlier, in Havana, too – to indulge my love of birding. Absent the help of a printed field guide for birds in Cuba, I am delighted to discover that many of the birds here are recognizable and quite similar to North American species with which I am familiar. Each day in Matanzas I have enjoyed the song and antics of a Bahama Mockingbird – a “life [...]

2014-03-20T16:58:22+00:00 March 15th, 2014|Perkins School of Theology in Cuba|

Our warm welcome in Cuba

Early morning laborers harvest produce at Matanzas seminary A sunrise walk back to the beautiful ocean overlook in front of the Matanzas seminary chapel reveals a number of laborers at work with the morning’s harvest. The seminary produces a substantial portion of the food we eat each day, with sufficient extra to provide much-needed fresh produce for sale to the local community at below-market prices. At the same time, it provides valuable employment for local workers. Today’s journey will prove to be a high point on this immersion experience. It is a drive of several hours to visit Cristo Rey (Christ the King) Episcopal Church, a house church in the rural area of Cuatro Esquinas. While enjoying the [...]

2014-03-20T16:57:53+00:00 March 14th, 2014|Perkins School of Theology in Cuba|

Through grief to joy

A rusting hook used to chain prisoners set before the firing squad. There have been one or two occasions in our short stay to date that have moved me to the point of tears. One has been our visit to the Museo Ruta del Esclavo – an old fortress and prison, now a museum, that was at the heart of the slave trade for several centuries. One overwhelming moment was a look at the wall where executions took place. The remains of an iron bar – to which doomed prisoners were chained in their final seconds of life – rusts above a huge rugged gouge (several feet deep in some areas) where bullets through the years have worn [...]

2014-03-20T17:25:54+00:00 March 13th, 2014|Perkins School of Theology in Cuba|

Walk and reflection

The day starts with a generous breakfast in the seminary’s large dining hall. Even with all the activity of the past days, a trend is apparent among many of us – the ample and tasty meals are definitely, shall we say, preventing any concerns about undue weight loss! Wanda, director of the Kairós Center in Matanzas, in an animated conversation with Perkins Professor Rebekah Miles A brief worship service in the seminary’s beautiful chapel readies us for a trip to the Kairós Center. (The seminary's architectural character reflects the fact that this special place is a gift from their Episcopalian partners.) The Kairós Center describes itself as a “Christian center that cultivates and promotes liturgy that integrates art and [...]

2014-03-20T11:35:40+00:00 March 12th, 2014|Perkins School of Theology in Cuba|

Meaningful dialogue on diversity

A blending of cultures with hopes of much-needed salary supplementation Checked out of the Saint John hotel, packed and ready to go to Matanzas this evening. A few hours in “Old Havana” (Habana Vieja) provides an interesting and educational perspective on the Spanish colonial heritage of Cuba. An old monastery has been converted to a restaurant, complete with servers and all other personnel dressing as friars – men and women alike. It is charming in an incongruous and kitschy sort of way. Some, understandably I think, find the costumes and the commercial co-opting of what was for centuries a place of religious devotion to be mildly offensive. I am mindful of how much a small amount of money [...]

2014-03-20T09:41:42+00:00 March 11th, 2014|Perkins School of Theology in Cuba|

José Martí, Martin Luther King Jr., and religion in Cuba

The José Marti memorial and the Plaza de la Revolución in Havana. Our group is off today to Plaza de la Revolución to see the memorial and museum honoring José Martí. He was considered by Fidel Castro to be the intellectual author of the revolution, and the story of his 42 brief years of life (mid- to late-1800s) is riveting. First imprisoned by the Spanish in Cuba for revolutionary ideas at age 16, he was deported to Spain after six months. There he earned a university degree, excelling in several fields. His poetry – along with 89 quotations inscribed throughout the museum walls – is inspiring. The breadth of his accomplishments is breathtaking, and he is remarkable by [...]

2014-03-20T17:29:57+00:00 March 10th, 2014|Perkins School of Theology in Cuba|

Kindness, connections, a new rhythm

Sunrise over La Habana. I awaken to sunrise over elegant old hotels and ramshackle apartment high-rises in Havana, Cuba. The golden light paints sky and sea before pouring through the window of my room on the 12th floor of Saint John’s. It is beautiful, and the excitement of being here makes it easy to disregard any fatigue from the long day yesterday. I am told that most hotels in Cuba now have 110 volt electrical systems. Saint John’s – an older but comfortable hotel – only has 220 volts. This means hitting the street first thing in the morning in search of an electrical outlet compatible with my little water heater. Happily, I am successful on my first [...]

2014-03-14T12:35:54+00:00 March 9th, 2014|Perkins School of Theology in Cuba|

Journey to La Habana

Part I I am determined to go on the immersion experience with or without my luggage (which was “MIA” upon my arrival yesterday from Dallas via St. Louis to the airport known as MIA — Miami, although the airline indicates that it will arrive this morning before we depart for Havana). If I have to travel light, I can make do. I have learned that there are state-run stores (often with limited stock) as well as the beginnings of some private enterprise in Cuba – both state-licensed ventures and informal individual businesses that are tolerated by the government. Beyond that, shopping in Cuba – how many stores will be available, what items they may or may not stock – remains [...]

2014-03-14T12:34:48+00:00 March 8th, 2014|Perkins School of Theology in Cuba|
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