From April 23 to 26, 2008, approximately 50 representatives of seven countries, in addition to 200 Cubans, met at the Hotel Habana Riviera, Havana, to take part in the 2nd Cuban Spiritist Workshop (Taller Espírita de Cuba). This event had the support of the International Spiritist Council (CEI), through its Caribbean and Central American Center, and also from the Cuban Government, which covered lodging for some of the foreign participants. It was the second such workshop; the first happened four years ago. It was organized by the spiritist group Sociedad Amor y Caridad Universal de Havana, chaired by Antonio Agramonte, and its theme was World Peace is born of Goodness. The participants decided to found the Spiritist Medical Association of Cuba (AME-Cuba), currently the largest collective member of AME-International.
Guest speakers included Nestor Masotti, secretary-general of the International Spiritist Council (CEI) and president of the Brazilian Spiritist Federation (FEB); Charles Kempf, CEI representative in France and member of CEI Europe, and Brazilian medium Divaldo Pereira Franco, who presented the opening and closing remarks. Two other leaders of the international spiritist movement, both of whom have previous experience with Cuba, were in attendance: Edwin Bravo, from Guatemala and CEI representative for the Caribbean and Central America, and Manuel de la Cruz, who is Cuban but lives in Miami and who is the president of the José de la Luz Spiritist Center. Brazilian physicians Claudio Campos Borges and Sergio Thiesen, and Engineer Ney Prieto Peres also gave presentations. Other countries represented in the event were: Colombia, El Salvador, France, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Puerto Rico, and the United States.
Ms. Caridad Diego Bello, Minister for Religion, and her assistants Eloisa Valdes e Sonia Garcia, represented the Cuban Government in the opening ceremony and showed great interest in the remarks of Divaldo Franco. At the end of this presentation, Minister Diego Bello welcomed the participants and provided detailed data on the recent expansion of Spiritism in Cuba.
Dr. Marlene Nobre, president of the Brazilian Spiritist Medical Association (AME- Brazil) and of the International Spiritist Medical Association (AME-Int) spoke about these two organizations. Her comments about the Cuban workshop are included below.
Folha Espírita – The first Spiritist Workshop was held four years ago and now we have a second. What can you tell us about them?
Marlene Nobre – Of course, these two events reflect a big change: the rebirth of religion in the country.
FE – Why did the Cuban Government give support to such an event?
Marlene – For the same reason that caused them to legalize religion in the country, i. e., by following up on events such as these, the government can monitor the rebirth and the evolution of religion, as well as the interaction with other countries.
FE – What is your perception of the country after the retirement of its leader, Fidel Castro?
Marlene – I really did not have the opportunity to get a global view of the country’s political scene, since we were more interested in its religious aspects. However, we learned from the Cuban authorities that the population receives free health and educational services. We were able to observe that the Cuban people learned how to value and cultivate a great sense of nationalism. But, there is no doubt that, for the people to benefit more from the country’s resources, it is necessary to accelerate economic development that generate more jobs and more diversified work opportunities. I couldn’t make a comparison, but it looks like there is a more open environment since Fidel stepped down.
FE – What about the local Spiritist movement?
Marlene – The development of the Spiritist movement began before Fidel Castro stepped down and has increased with time. In fact, the rebirth of Spiritism in Cuba is something extraordinary. In the opening ceremony of the II Workshop, Ms. Caridad Diego Bello, Minister for Religions, informed us that there are 400 spiritist centers registered in Cuba and 200 more being registered. We can see that the religious opening is made with government support which has provided favorable conditions for the legalization of religions. This has been an effective and irreversible process. As a consequence, we were able to confirm the presence of brothers from towns outside Havana who had received free passes to travel and participate in the workshop.
FE – Are all those centers legitimate spiritist groups?
Marlene – Minister Caridad explained that there are three types of spiritist centers being legalized: a) the “rope” ones, whose participants hold hands during the religious meetings; b) “trincadistas”, which do not consider Spiritism a religion, and c) those that follow the teachings of José de la Luz and Allan Kardec. It was a big surprise for us to learn that Cuba is the second most spiritist country in the world. Just consider the numbers: even if only about 100 or 70 out of the 600 centers do follow Kardec’s teachings, it is a very large number in comparison with other countries.
FE – Who was José de la Luz?
Marlene – I really do not know much about José de la Luz’ works, since I have not read about him because I do not have any material available on him. However, Antonio Agramonte told me that José de la Luz was the spiritual mentor of medium Cláudio Agramonte, one of the pioneers of the Spiritist movement in Cuba, who produced many books through automatic writing. People that know these books attest that they really are spiritist teachings.
FE – Has Cuba anything special in relation to Spiritism?
Marlene – As I mentioned earlier, the legalization of religions in Cuba allowed the rebirth of a movement that has been quite important in the country since the nineteenth century and that will continue to bear fruit.
FE – Did any Brazilian publishing company participate in the event?
Marlene – Folha Espírita Editora (FE) was present offering two books: El Clamor de la Vida (Life’s Clamor) and El Alma de la Materia, (The Soul of Matter), both written by me. About 100 books, sold for a nominal price, disappeared quickly from the shelves. Dr. Claudio Campos Borges, from Ceres, State of Goiás, brought some books published by Editora Auta de Souza with Kardec’s basic teachings. I believe these were the two publishers present. Probably other Brazilian participants that could have taken some books to distribute at the workshop were afraid they would not be allowed to do so.
FE – Are Cubans eager to read spiritist books?
Marlene – Yes, and as suggested by Minister Caridad, we could possibly send a container full of spiritist books to satisfy the demand of our Cuban brothers for spiritist teachings. Of course, this will help the legalization of more spiritist centers according to the true principles recommended by Allan Kardec. The Minister did not limit the number of books nor showed any preference about a particular kind of book. Books of all publishers are welcome. And this opportunity is valid for all religions; each one of them is monitored by the Minister’s assistants.
FE – Would you say that AME-Cuba has something different from the other international spiritist medical associations?
Marlene – AME-Cuba was founded on April 25, as a subsidiary of AME-International, under the leadership of Dr. Servando Agramonte. Its board of directors is made up of five physicians, elected immediately after it had been established. A large number of colleagues joined the association, which instantly made AME-Cuba the affiliate of AME-International with the most members. This was a wonderful surprise for us.
FE – Was there anything in Cuba that you would like to share with our readers?
Marlene – In my opinion, everything that happened in Cuba was unexpected and very encouraging. Theater, songs, and a Cuban choir marked the closing ceremony, which also included a speech by Divaldo Franco, brilliant as always. The fact that the closing ceremony was held at Cuban Episcopalian Church was highly suggestive – it opened the doors for an ample exchange of ideas. The whole event was freely organized and efficiently carried out by spiritists of the 2nd Workshop. This is a good indication that religious movements are being strengthened in Cuba. It is, no doubt, a good incentive for us to practice ecumenism here, in our own country.
“I was moved upon realizing that our Cuban brothers are anxious to read more spiritist books. They really crave these books.”
“For all the attention and good treatment we received from the Cuban Government, after our conference, we thanked God and prayed for benefit of Fidel Castro’s health.”
|Spiritism in Cuba: