Fidel Castro and the WT
A US-based religion that both fascist Germany and communist Russia suppressed and incarcerated...
...no f**king way was Cuba ever gonna give them a free pass.
Trying to legally tweak Castro's nose was as propaganda-strategic as anything else they've ever done.
Your comment is very accurate, there was no middle ground with Castro. He dismantled everything including the Catholic Church that was the major force in the country, it was suicidal for the WT to pick a fight with him; the results were about 30 years of harsh persecution.
Brilliant information and discussion!
And why are we not surprised how the JW's were treated thanks to the WTBT$
During the first two years of the Castro Government people were living a honeymoon. The WT was operating with the same false sense of security and did nothing with regards to what was going to happen, with the experience that they had in communist countries it was to be expected that a better strategy was going to be put in place.
Probably during 1961 we had the last national convention at the Rancho Boyeros Fairgrounds, it was a complete success with an attendance of over 18,000; once again they did something very provocative and that was to bring Don Adams as the guest speaker and his talks were translated in Spanish.
One of the signs of upcoming problems was related to "voluntary work", it started at factories and workplaces as something innocent; that was to work 15 minutes free daily as a contribution to the Revolution. Naturally the brothers resisted this and it became a sore spot, specially since the 15 minutes were increased to 30 minutes, then to 60 and eventually to spending Saturdays in the the field doing voluntary work. The fact that the JWs refused to do this was a black mark for them.
Little by little freedom was being lost and the only alternative was to leave the country which a lot of friends were doing.
Great insights! Keep them coming
The next test for the friends was about something totally unexpected, which was the departure from the country. This was something that was always considered a personal matter and the decisions and trips from the first ones that left, mostly the elite were accepted without much criticism. Now all of a sudden, friends in the congregations started questioning the loyalty and faith of those that were planning to leave; for some this was a lack of confidence in Jehovah and for the ones with service privileges it was considered an abandonment of the flock.
Thing got so bad, that the Branch decided to meddle in this matter. By this time the Branch Overseer Brother Del Rio who was a nice man, maybe in his high 30s, professing to be anointed and in reality too holy and naive to be a real benefit to the flock. The real power behind him were some of his assistants, one of them in particular a DO by the name of Santiago Cueto became a thorn for all those planning to leave the country, the standard conclusion for this talks was “remember that the Devil knows how to speak English too”.
I will get back to Cueto in a second but I must tell what happened with the Branch intervention, they decided that any brother who had presented his papers to leave the country was unfit for privileges and all those in this category were immediately removed. These resulted in the drainage of the little brain power that was left, presenting to leave the country and leaving were two different things and it was a process that could take years to be completed. These brothers were penalized just to placate the gossip and envy of those that didn’t have a chance to leave.
I must tell you that eventually all of these individuals that were criticizing the departures came to the States including Brother del Rio and all of his helpers. Santiago Cueto was a different deal, he had a very high opinion of himself and on one occasion when he was routinely detained by the police, he decided to impress the authorities with his knowledge and verbiage; he was identified as a “big fish” and got special treatment. His home was raided and they got a whole bunch of records that were not supposed to be there, he created a serious danger for the brothers.
The Government was harsh with him, he was sentenced to ten years in prison; no reduction for good behavior was given to him and he completed his sentence, shortly after that he departed for the “home of the English speaking Satan” and the last time that I hear from him he was in Florida partaking from the emblems, I don’t know if he still alive; for me he was a modern Uzziah.
Good for now.
Since Castro was so harsh on religion, how did the ratio of JWs become so high?
Your point about the growth is an interesting one. The conditions today are quite different from the past, the WT has plenty of freedom to conduct their business under strict official supervision; a lot different that the harsh past persecution.
However the growth has been constant, before the Castro takeover there were about 11,000 publishers with a rate of increase of about 10% annually, about 1994 when the WT had the negotiations with the government that number was 77,000. That shows a steady increase, even with the huge migration out of the country.
I know that in the early years, there was a void in the country as far as religion, culture, social activities and many other things and that many people came to the witnesses looking for refuge and comfort. Many prominent people in Cuban society became witnesses, included were former politicians, military, wealthy people, actors, commercial pilots, professionals and a vast array of “lost” individuals. But it seems that the religion is somehow attractive to the masses, your graphic shows close to a 96,000 presently.
From what I hear from my family, today the JWs work is something different to common life and like a form of occupying your time.
On some trivial notes:
“Hasta la vista” is a Mexican expression not, to my memory as a Cuban, a Cuban one.
I was told by my Cuban mother that JWs used to always wear white when preaching.
There is an old Cuban joke about an illiterate Cuban saying: "Yo soy un testiculo de Jehova". The word for Witness in Spanish is "Testigo" which rhymes with "Testiculo". You got to know Spanish to appreciate that one.
I am going to insertsomething here because it might be an item in the mind of some of the readers.
That is how did thefriends managed to carry over their spiritual obligations?
I will focus on thehard times; the degree of persecution was related to your location. In thecapital and other larger cities it was less, smaller towns were the worse andsometimes dislikes for other reasons will spill over into the governmentalcontrol.
For meetings thenorm was to have them in private homes on a different day and time every week.The attendance was never more than 10 including the family, there was onemeeting weekly and everything was considered on that day; the material was condensedand new ones were not invited until they have proven themselves to be reliable.
Preaching was notdone in an organized manner, attire was street like sometimes even workclothes; the last thing that the friends wanted to do was to bring attention tothemselves. A lot of the preaching was done with reliable people that werefriendly to our work, if you were going to take a chance and go house to house,this was more like block to block. This will be one house here and another onthe next block or two to three blocks apart.
As a protection itwas recommended to take with you some work tools, in the event that you werestopped your first line of defense was that you were looking of some work as arepairman. Service was always in pairs and while one was preaching, the otherone was surveying the neighborhood looking for anything suspicious.
The danger wasbigger for males than females and in reality all of these things were nervewrecking experiences, at that time we did it without too much concern likesomething that had to be done.