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Racism Erases Artistic & Religious Heritage in El Rincon, Cuba

Racism Erases Artistic & Religious Heritage in El Rincon, Cuba
July 24, 2013
By Carlos Fragela

HAVANA TIMES — Cuba’s well-known Saint Lazarus sanctuary, located in the
town of El Rincon, in the locality of Santiago de las Vegas, La Habana,
has been undergoing restoration for several months now.

The church has become known as a place of pilgrimage, where believers
from all over Cuba make vows to the saints they venerate. At this
church, restorers were able to rescue a deteriorated mural painting on
the dome.

Thanks to the work of these restorers, the mural was able to see the
light of day again. But it happens that a person with some degree of
authority issued instructions to remove from this mural the only black
angel that appeared in the composition, made up of 34 cherubs.

What gives anyone the right to make such a radical decision? What will
the Cuban people, made up of different races, say when they hear of this
measure? Is this church which discriminates on the basis of color the
same church that preaches love for one’s neighbor?

The incident is quite sad on two accounts: it reminds us that racism is
still very much alive in Cuba, and demonstrates the lack of ethics of
some restorers, who willingly transform a work of art that does not
belong to them.

One of the basic principles that govern restoration work is respect
towards the physical characteristics of a piece. When any kind of
intervention is required, it is done using the materials employed in the
original. Under no circumstances can one deliberately change the
appearance of the original.

I did different restoration jobs in Havana’s San Francisco de Asis
cathedral for some time. A cupola in this church also has mural painting
where a black angel appears next to a group of blond ones.

It is clear such paintings were the Church’s way of accepting that one
should not exclude anyone because they are different – ultimately, all
of us are different.

Discrimination, in all its forms, has caused much harm and brought no
small amount of unnecessary suffering upon innocent people. Only
ignorance and backwardness make such acts of exclusion possible at this
stage in the development of human knowledge.

How much egotism and lack of sense many human beings continue to show,
while proclaiming themselves superior to animals.

There is an old song that tells the story of a man who painted murals at
churches. A black man, he would never paint an angel his color. The song
seems to forget this painter would not have had the authority to paint
his angels the color he wished, that he merely received instructions to
use light colors.

It remains to be seen whether, one day, Cuba’s much-venerated Regla
Virgin will be removed from its shrine in the church for being black.

Source: “Work of Art at El Rincon Sanctuary Destroyed by Racism” –
http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=96906

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