Christmas in Cuba and a History of Catholic Persecution
Celebrating the birth of Jesus went from forbidden to prohibitive; but 123 political prisoners will spend Christmas with no freedom in Cuba
Spanish – At least 123 Cubans are spending Christmas in prison as political prisoners and prisoners of conscience. In their honor, the Cuban Observatory for Human Rights launched a campaign called 60 Christmases with political prisoners in Cuba. Since 1959, with the beginning of the revolution, the ideological persecution has not stopped.
The Communist Party has been in power in Cuba for over half a century. In this period, Cuba has become the country with the highest number of political prisoners in the hemisphere who are also serving the most extended terms. More than 500,000 people have passed through Cuba’s dungeons. Their sentences range from one day to 30 years.
The peculiar thing is that after a person has spent over six months in prison, the state has the power to expropriate their house. Thus a prisoner is deprived of his or her freedom as well as property.
And the ones who are primarily affected are the ones who celebrate Christmas: Christians
Thanks to Pope John Paul II, Cubans can celebrate Christmas
It was not until 1991, with the fall of the Soviet Union, which economically supported Cuba, that Catholics were allowed to become part of the Communist Party to improve relations with the Vatican.
The Communist Party is the only political party that can operate in Cuba; thus, party membership is crucial to participate in political matters. Therefore, Catholics were denied political participation for decades.
It was not until 1998 that a Pope, John Paul II, visited the island. Consequently, Christmas was restored as a national holiday, and Cuba lifted several restrictions on parishioners.
Religious persecution in Cuba
The Cuban regime is faithful to the father of socialism, Karl Marx’s statement: “religion is the opium of the masses.” To date, there are barricades around churches in Cuba. Protestors go to these churches before protests seeking spiritual protection because the state has left them vulnerable.
And this has been the case since the beginning of the revolution. The network of OCDH observers operating on the island counted 96 cases of abuse against women and 87 against men in December 2018.
Dozens of people were arrested outside churches to prevent them from entering the place of worship. Parishioners were also detained inside their homes to stop them from attending mass.
Those mainly affected by these measures are the Ladies in White, women who are mothers, sisters, daughters, and wives of political prisoners demanding their freedom.
Every Sunday, they are arrested, beaten, and even tortured, like Lady Yilenis Aguilera, Lady in White, who suffered a miscarriage by the communist regime because she was beaten for attending mass.
Catholics would rather die than recognize the leader of the revolution as a human God
The persecution has been so severe that in Che Guevara’s time, Catholics preferred to die rather than acknowledge the leader of the revolution as a humanized God.
Cuban Catholics were shot in the head at La Cabaña, the old Spanish fortress that served as a hideout for revolutionaries in the months when they resorted to guerrilla tactics to overthrow the socialist dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista for raising the slogan “Long live Christ the King!” that became popular in Mexico when the socialist government banned the Catholic faith and hanged priests inside churches, triggering the Cristero War.
According to Che Guevara, due process was a bourgeois device. That is why communist justice did not wait for an individual trial but exercised collective punishment.
Once in power, the revolutionaries created the UMAP (Military Units to Aid Production), where they sought to “rectify” both homosexuality and Christianity because they deemed both lifestyles to be counterproductive to the armed struggle. So these men, both Catholic and Jehovah’s Witnesses, had to make up for their “shortcomings” by performing forced labor in the fields.
“Work will make you men” was Che Guevara’s motto, claiming that gay persons were not very manly. The same was true for Catholics since religion has historically been a female trait. So much so that the feminine symbol, since ancient Greece, represents women as the custodians of morality and beauty, using a mirror and a cross; it took on a more Catholic/Christian form in the middle ages.
Now Christmas is not forbidden; it is prohibitive. If a parishioner protests against the regime, he or she is likely to be stopped from attending mass and may end up in prison.