Monday, February 20, 2012

The Broken Island

I visited Cuba for the first time in 2009, and it was an amazing trip. It was exciting, terrifying, saddening and hopeful all at the same time.  I look back on that trip as one of the pivotal points in my life.  I wrote a little about it, not being able to put too much into words that would accurately express what I felt in that first Cuba experience.

In 2011, I took my second trip.  Things are a bit clearer after that trip.  In 2011, my experience was real; the romanticism was stripped away.  The first trip was a vacation of sorts; a magical week of seeing the world I may have been born in under different circumstances.  The second trip was going to be the completion of the first; a time to finish the experience of Santiago de las Vegas, La Habana, and all those places my family passed on to me via memory and nostalgia.

In the second trip, I was intentional going in.  I was intent on telling more people about Jesus; this was after all, a missions trip.  I was intent on giving of my time to listen, to love and to be with those people I came into contact with.  And in the end, I was able to do all this, but it was difficult.  It was difficult because Cuba is a hard place physically, mentally and spiritually.  It was also difficult as it exposed things about me; those ugly things that dwell inside us we would rather not look at.

I snapped this photo my first night in La Habana.  This is El Capitolio, the Capitol Building.  For years this building sat in darkness, as the leaders sought to conceal and erase the grandeur of the city's past.  Now the tourist dollars demand lighting.  The consumer cries out for a view of this once great city, and the irony is missed by the ideologue tourists walking it's streets.  The statue designed in the 1920's by Italian sculptor Angelo Zanelli casts it's shadow majestically on the marble wall.  For a moment it takes your breath away; especially at night when you can't see the destruction just across the street from El Capitolio, where underwear from Miami hangs from the balconies of decaying buildings once used as offices and residences for men of commerce and law.

Havana is a city living in the shadow of it's great past.  And as I walked down it's majestic old streets, I realized why it's leaders let it decay the way they did; why they hid it for so long in the darkness as if hoping people would simply ignore this city, once and still considered one of the most beautiful in the world.  As long as the city casts it's shadow, it reminds everyone that somewhere in time, a huge mistake was made.  Something beautiful was lost.  A city was broken, and the people broken along with it.

Over the next few posts I will create a journal of my 2011 Cuba experience.  I want to be honest as I write, so I will most assuredly piss off a lot of people.  I'm okay with that.  It has been my experience lately that honesty is progress.  It helps us progress past our own collective bullshit.

I'm not looking to be overly poetic.  I have no idealism left for this place either; it is simply broken.  I do, however, have hope.  There is a story to tell here, and a lot of good stories start at a broken place.  So I hope this is a good story.  The story hasn't ended, so this is a work in progress.  In writing this down I also hope to find, in the end, redemption.

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