SPAIN, Soledad Menéndez and César Fernández-Quintanilla •
Life in Cuba today is a nightmare. A daily struggle for survival, with no prospect of change and for many with only one way out: to leave the country. Every day, thousands of Cubans try to escape this situation in different ways, some at the danger of their lives. Many arrive in Madrid. Without papers, without work, without money and often with a broken soul. Here they come into contact with Father Bladimir in very different ways. —
Bladimir Navarro, Schoenstatt diocesan priest, came from Cuba three years ago to do his Master’s in Madrid. He has stayed for the time being, working in a parish on the outskirts of the capital. Together with an excellent team of Cubans already living in Spain, a year ago he founded Cobijo, an association that works to welcome these uprooted people. To date, the project has set up three shelters in towns near Madrid, where 24 people live. Cobijo not only offers them shelter, but also provides them with food, helps them regulate their situation, find work and offers psychological support when needed. For three months, the lives of these people change under the gaze of the Blessed Mother, who is present in all the homes. After this time, usually with a job, they make room for others who have newly arrived. But they remain part of the Cobijo Family, helping others to benefit from what they have received. In this way, home, transformation and mission become a reality in the lives of many Cubans.
New house inaugurated
Just over a month ago, a generous person gave the project a beautiful house with a garden that can accommodate twenty people. The house had been vacant for years and had most recently been “occupied”. It was in a deplorable condition and needed to be completely renovated and cleaned. The residents of the other houses of Cobijo, and the “cobijeros” who had already moved out, helped with this work. Many Cuban and Spanish volunteers also participated.
On March 25, the feast of the Annunciation of the Lord, on a beautiful spring day in Madrid, more than 100 people gathered for the blessing of the house. The service in the garden was accompanied by the moving testimonies of several people who had been accepted into the project and told us about their particular odyssey to get here and what Cobijo means to them.
Then there was the blessing of the wayside shrine of the Blessed Mother that dominates the garden and the entire house. During the celebration that followed, there was a Valencian paella prepared by members of the Family Federation, delicious mojitos, and the wonderful rhythm of Cuban dances, which were soon joined by many Spaniards (although the Cubans were clearly better).
Simply a celebration
“The blessing of the wayside shrine and the inauguration of the house for the Cuban refugees by Father Bladimir made a great impression on us. It was a celebration,” says Paz Leiva, “impressive. Simply a celebration. They did not ask for money, there was no way to donate, but just to celebrate and give thanks. And when you talk to Father Bladimir, you are just thrilled.”
Original: Spanish. Translation: Maria Fischer @schoenstatt.org