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18 June

St. Elizabeth of Schoenau
1900: the first Brothers leave for Bom Principio, Brazil

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Marist Bulletin - Number 87


Brother Carlos Martínez Lavín is living in Cienfuegos, Cuba

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Bro. Lluís Serra

Brother Carlos Martínez Lavín, 61 years of age, was born in Mexico City. After completing his studies in pedagogy and history, he obtained his Licentiate in Sociology at the UNAM (Universidad Autónoma de México). He has worked with intense dedication in the fields of school education, pastoral work and formation. For four years he was a missionary in Chiapas, and Provincial of the province of Central Mexico from 1983 to 1989. He is ken on sports, especially mountaineering, frontón (a sort of Spanish squash), and swimming. Currently he is part of the community established at Cienfuegos (Cuba).

Cuba being the only socialist country in the western world, it naturally arouses greater interest and curiosity. Fidel Castro’s government has accepted you in the island, and your presence here is in no way clandestine but rather quite an officially recognized affair. What is the sense of having a Marist community in today’s Cuba?
Cuba at this moment suffers a triple isolation: from the socialist world now that the Berlin wall has fallen; from the capitalist world due to the USA blockade; and a geographical isolation due to its condition as an island. In the face of such a situation, we in religious life, experience a strong call to be “good news” in a moment where people are enduring many deprivations and a certain “geopolitical loneliness.” And, as Marists, we hear a call to be sowers of hope among young people and children.

What atmosphere have you encountered in the diocese?
It is wonderful. Happily we have a bishop (Mons. Emilio Aranguren—an exstudent), who is a great support for all through his human and pastoral sensitivity—not just for us, but for all those apostolically involved here.Beyond that, there is a great sense of brotherhood between all of us partoral workers. There are about 40 of us. We get together formally once a month to study, pray, share, plan and evaluate, and informally we are in constant interation with one another.

How many Brothers are there in the Cienfuegos community, and what activities are they engaged in?
At this moment there are three of us: Efraín (Cuban), Héctor and myself (Mexican). Our work has three major axes. Firstly, parish animation in three communities on the outskirts of Cienfuegos; in this apostolate, of course, we favour the specifically Marist element of catechesis of children and youth. A second axis is collaboration with diocesan secretariates—Héctor is co-ordinator of the Catechetics Department; Efraín offers support mainly to the Department of Youth Ministry while also serving in the Department of Social Ministry in what concerns their formation programmes. The third axis is a “meeting space” which operates in our house of an evening—the youngsters come to play handball, football, basketball, chess and dominoes, to learn a bit of guitar-playing, or to consult books and do their homework.

You’re a sports lover, and now you’re in a country which has always been sports-mad. Do you also use this as a means of education for the young people?
It’s one of the activities I enjoy most. Baseball is the island’s national sport, and it’s the first sport I learnt as a boy. Who would have predicted that 50 years later it would serve me not only as recreation, but also as a means of establishing contact with the young folk. Through sport it’s also possible to teach them to fly to the heavens, a desire which flows in the veins of every young person, and to cultivate in him and with him, ideals and values.

Tell me about the Caribbean beaches!
Cuba is called the “sleeping caiman of the Caribbean”. Cienfuegos—the city in which we live—is approximately in the caiman’s belly. Its beaches, like all those of the Caribbean, are bathed in sunshine and lapped by turquoise-blue waters. Cienfuegos has a very attractive bay. To cross the mouth of this bay is at once a challenge and a very pleasant pastime. The only drawback is that in these months of May and June it’s dangerous to bathe in the sea because there is a small bug (called a ‘carib’) which inflicts an intense skin irritation.

Tell us three things you like about living in Cuba.
To have the possibility being a presence, as Marist religious, to a blockaded socialist country; the character of the Cuban people, so marked by dance and merrymaking; the atmosphere between us pastoral workers, and within our own Marist community.

What lights and shades do you detect in the young people of Cuba?
Amongst the lights, there would be the fact that they are very joyful, communicative and quite without malice. Amongst the shadows would be that, in some of them, responsiblity is not a high priority.

If a young man wanted to embrace the Marist life, would it be possible to open to way for him?
Of course. At this moment in fact we have Yoandri, Tony and Mario: boys in their twenties, who have begun an accompaniment process with a view to discerning whether they have a vocation.There is still quite a way to go, but if things develop favourably, there would first be an aspirancy, then the postulancy followed by novitiate—steps which we imagine could probably be provided within the country.

Socialism is commonly criticised, but perhaps economic neoliberalism in little better in many respects. Don’t you think a new world is possible, as the antiglobalization movements are saying?
Neoliberal capitalism does not seem to offer a promising future. It seems to me we should be placing our bets on a globalization of solidarity from below by means of networks of people of good will who are disposed to organize themselves in the construction of just and participative social structures. In a climate of freedom. Each one would have to begin with his own back-yard, with intermediate groups serving to strengthen the social fabric.

What would Champagnat do in a socialist country like Cuba?
This is the question which is constantly with us, both personally and in our community meetings.It seems to us that he would seek to go to children and youth, that he would get especially close to the humblest and the most needy, that he would be crazy about everything which for them would constitute possibilities of human and spiritual growth. He would seek to be “good news” for them!

Next September, the centenary of Marist presence in Cuba will occur. How do you plan to celebrate this historic event?
Allow me first to say that our exstudents conserve an indelible memory of those who educated them here. We have begun with a few simple ceremonies for the children and youth, in which there has been sharing, sport, dancing, singing, and speaking of Marcellin. With the exstudents we have already had a Thanksgiving Mass and have invited those who wish to be part of a Marist fraternity with the objective of radiating Marist spirituality. And, above all, our Marist centenary coincides with that of the diocese, so we have been promoting enthusiastically, with the other pastoral workers and lay folk, the “Centenary Mission” whose motto is “Walking with Mary to a Meeting with Jesus”. Its aim is to multiply people’s encounters with Jesus Christ and his message. And, if this is the last question, I’d like to finsh by asking the prayers of all readers of the Bulletin, on my own behalf and that of Efraín and Héctor.

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