A Tower of Babel Exists in Cuba

Alfredo Fernandez

Centro Habana. Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES, Dec 5 — That structure from the Bible in which all of the world’s languages mythologically and eclectically converged actually exists in Havana. Its location is on Lealtad Street, in the Centro Habana neighborhood.

There — on Monday after Monday — one can find a confluence of young artists and scientists of every political persuasion in dialogue on a wide variety of topics, including the future Cuba. All of this takes place under the tutelage of the host, Gabriel Calaforra – a polyglot and a retired professor of Asian art.

“The Monday Club,” as these encounters have been dubbed, has been held on that day every week since 1996 on the top floor of 311 Lealtad Street.

Here, this former professor at ISA (El Instituto Superior de Arte), with tolerance for a wide spectrum of opinions, opens the doors of his house to everyone – from the convinced communist to the confessed annexationist.

In this way, he is teaching people how to enter into dialogue and to question what they believe. But what’s even more admirable is that this occurs without defamatory remarks and adjectives kept to the margin.

One might think that if there’s something that has guaranteed this encounter’s success among young people, it has been the audacity to hold it in a country where a single and non-questionable opinion is imposed on everyone.

But no. What has guaranteed the on-going 15-year existence of the “The Monday Club” has been Professor Calaforra’s instilling in youth the patience to approach differing opinions, respect for the right of others to be wrong, the ability to analyze in an open manner without the need for any verdict. That is the greatest victory of this group of young people around the wise Dr. Calaforra.

Everything seems to indicate that the biblical jabber of the Tower of Babel is not really the case. At least here in Havana there is a place where people who do not always agree can “speak the same language” – and even become friends.

In the end, activities such as “The Monday Club” allow us to turn into reality that sadly forgotten statement by Marti: “The homeland belongs to all.”