Colorful Cuba: A Spiritual Journey
Angela Stroup, RN, MA, CHT
After days of touring Havana, my husband Tom and I and the other travelers on the A.R.E. Tour—including John Van Auken, our tour leader—embarked on a journey to a less affluent community. We saw a different side of Havana's people. Our group of spiritual seekers made the trip ideal on our tour, which was conducted by the outstanding company Conscious Cuba, run by Francis Harrison.
We stayed at a luxurious Havana hotel near a popular gathering place—the Malecón seawall, four miles long. Sites seen included beautiful buildings, balconies, women in costumes, artists, museums, gardens, historical buildings, and revolutionary parks—all were filled with color, beauty, and laughter. We were amazed at the pristine 1950s American cars Cubans have maintained despite a lack of parts, and found Cubans to be warm and welcoming. After I asked a nurse's permission to take her photo, because I was delighted to see her nursing cap, she hugged me and kissed me on the cheek.
We walked the narrow streets of the impoverished neighborhood to The 'Cabildo Quisicuaba' Community Project, an area infrequently visited by tourists. People of all ages filled the streets, some busy on a quest to obtain hard-to-get provisions and others relaxing. Three elderly men sat in front of an old TV watching Cuba's favorite sport, baseball.
We were warmly welcomed by Enrique Gutierrez, the president of the project, a medical doctor and a doctor of anthropology. He told us the project's ambitious goals: to create a healthy social space to promote intelligence and creativity, while being aware of the residents' vulnerabilities. A non-profit and non-proselytizing interfaith effort, it is based on what the doctor describes as the "Cuban Religions of the African Matrix."
The goal is to influence individual and collective life, prioritizing high-risk populations such as the LGBT community, at-risk youth, the elderly, domestic abuse victims, and former prisoners. They teach prevention of HIV, conduct anti-bullying projects, and promote the traditional popular culture, local history, and human values. Creative pursuits are foundational and cultural celebrations are frequent.
His sincere nature and the magnitude of his goals touched me. As we rose to go into the next room to meet the four "mediums," the leaders of the spiritual community, I felt the surprise of tears. In the dimly lit room a group of three men and one woman greeted us. They deeply appreciated our interest. One of the men explained to the group that he is deaf but hears everything we say in his heart. I could not stop my tears.
Our last stop was a small room that is difficult to describe. Imagine every religious symbol, icon, and statue that represents the search for God, meaning, comfort, and guidance, all there, festooned with lights, taffeta, ribbons, and photos of the doctor's revered ancestors. My heart and soul opened. Dr. Enrico touched my hand and our spirits connected. I searched for a reason for my tears and a few days ago Spirit whispered in my ear, "You cried because you recognized me in those who are unselfishly giving love and comfort to others." Seeing the face of God manifesting itself in Cuba was not what I expected. The oneness of all in the love of God knows no boundaries.
Angela Pane Stroup, RN, MA, CHT is an award-winning artist, writer, and public speaker. She is a dancer, jewelry designer and retired medical school professor. In her holistic healing practice―HEAL―she mentors clients using hypnotherapy, past life regressions, art, movement, energy healing, and intuitive readings. She facilitates a variety of workshops on topics such as holistic health, creativity, and “Growing Older and Bolder.” An A.R.E. member and student of the readings, she is currently creating a series of paintings derived from her experiences on the trip to Cuba. Her art website is AngelettaArt.com