ON SEPTEMBER 11, MatadorU lead faculty, Julie Schwietert, sent an email to the team. It contained the above photo, taken in Havana by her stepson. About it, she said:
From what I understand, the photo is a procession of people who are carrying the Caridad de Cobre statue (Cuba’s patron saint), praying for the people inside.
She also included an article from the Havana Times. It was reporting that a group of over 60 people were holed up in a Pentecostal church with their pastor, Braulio Herrera Tito, who was dismissed from his post in May 2010. It was speculated by BBC Mundo that “dozens of Cuban believers are held up…waiting for a tsunami that according to their minister will cause mass destruction in these coming days.” Police have barricaded access to the area and traffic has been diverted.
The next day, in a report by CBS News, a “top Cuban church official” (no name was given) claimed that the situation in Havana is “as dangerous as Waco.” It went on to specify that of the 60 in the church, four are pregnant women and 19 are children. Yesterday an update from the Washington Post said that the gathering is simply a spiritual retreat which started August 21.
William Herrera, the son of the pastor, said that the group has aims to liberate Cuba from its sins.
God told us to pray morning, noon and night…we want a new Cuba free of sin. But this should not be misinterpreted — we do not have anything to do with politics.
A medical team has gone inside to check on everyone and it’s reported that all are in good health. William has also dismissed the claims that the group is awaiting the end of the world, saying that those who started those rumours are “trying to ruin this moment.”
I searched around Twitter to try to get some updates of the situation, but couldn’t find much. Matador contributor and Havana resident Conner Gorry couldn’t give any more information either, other than there hasn’t been much international press.
What concerns me are the 19 children locked up in the church. Although government officials say that the entire group is there voluntarily, I wonder how many of those kids, given the choice, would actually be there.