Cuba Journal: the Remnant, part 1

Cuba Journal
The Remnant, part 1

It’s a remnant. The notion of the remnant figures large in our story. We have a name for it: Shear Yashuv. It is the symbolic name of one of Isaiah’s sons (see Isaiah 7:3).

It’s a name with a promise, the remnant will return, it’s part of the prophetic guarantee by Isaiah. Isaiah gave his children the symbolic names of return; in his time, the message was don’t worry King Ahaz, the southern kingdom of Judah is safe.

Of course it wasn’t safe. Assyria threatened from the north. Still, the names of Isaiah’s children carried the belief that a remnant will be restored. Sometimes that’s all we have, a remnant, but a remnant may flourish again. The Hebrew Bible teaches never to give up on the remnant.

Noah and his family survived the flood, only Lot and his daughters survived the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Elijah thought he was the only one left who had not submitted to idolatry. Get over yourself, God said, there is a remnant of 7,000, and furthermore I’m going to have to replace you with Elisha for talking like that.

I felt that in Cuba: the remnant. The temptation toward pessimism must be strong, but we met no pessimists. We were visiting a community on that part of its arc: a remnant, aging and diminished, its youth gone and continuing to leave. We didn’t meet a people giving up but a community of vitality and stick-to-it-tive-ness. Much like the rest of Cuba. Survivors.

They survived their history and a series of conquerors, they survived the dictators and the Soviets, they survived the departure of the Soviets when during the Special Period (the Special Period in Time of Peace, Spanish: Período especial something lost in the translation for sure) there was mass malnutrition, people were keeping pigs in their apartments, eating cats, living with blackouts.

These and all the other challenges from within and without that has troubled Cuba for the last twenty five years has not conquered hope. Now they are trying to climb out from under the pressure of the embargo, the blockade (el bloqueo) that seems antiquated and cruel now that the island is opening up to the rest of the world, the rest of the world opening to the island.

Raul Castro has instituted a new openness and a series of reforms and everyone in Cuba feels something new in the air and everyone cites the embargo as the largest next impediment to Cuban progress.

I am convinced: time to end the embargo.

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